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How to Write the Perfect CV

By Laura Blake

Posted: 17th July 2014 15:34

You know you’re brilliant – but your CV is the proof, and if it doesn’t scream ‘hire me,’ then what employer is going to agree?

Check Your Facts

Make sure your contact details are kept up to date and correct.   Goes without saying – but get these wrong and an employer has no chance of getting through to you.   Don’t make the already difficult application process into an impossible task!

Make dates as accurate as possible, and make sure that the year is right for important bits and pieces like past jobs or education.  Accidentally putting 2013 instead of 2014 might make it look like your jobs overlapped in an impossible way, or that you had a big gap when in fact you were working the whole time – and you might even look like you’re deliberately making up the details.

Quality not Quantity

If you’ve found an advert for your dream position, the chances are that other potential applicants have seen it too - perhaps hundreds of them.  Think of the poor soul in charge of ploughing through all those CV’s, and be realistic – anything over a maximum of two pages is likely to be dismissed without even being looked at. 

Keep your sentences short and concise, and be sure of yourself; this will fill potential employers with confidence in your abilities as well. 

Think: ‘Excellent grasp of written English’ rather than ‘I believe that I have good writing skills and a strong grasp of written English.’

Proof-read, double check, and ask every available friend or relative to read what you’ve written as well.  There is absolutely nothing that will get you dismissed faster than spelling or grammatical errors in your CV.  If you’re willing to send out an application full of mistakes, it suggests a sloppy and slapdash approach to work – yep, instant reject.  Oh, and if you’re English - don’t use the Americanised spellings.  No matter how good your CV is, you’ll make the recruiter cringe.

Incorrect usage of words is much harder to check for as they won’t be picked up by your spellchecker.  Watch out for these common mistakes that’ll instantly diminish the credibility of your CV.

Tailor Your Info

There is nothing more likely to get your CV thrown onto the rejection pile than if it’s obviously a generic version that you’ve sent out to every job you’ve applied for.  If you want employers to take you seriously as a candidate then you need to demonstrate that you’re serious about working for them too!  That means tailoring your CV to each and every application.  Sounds too much like hard work?  Well, it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s how to make each section of your CV irresistible to your future employer!

Personal Statement

This section should be a short, snappy summary that basically tells an employer why they should hire you. 

It’s amazing how many applicants don’t actually demonstrate that they’re interested in working for the company they’re applying to.  There’s nothing more unappealing than a lack of enthusiasm before you’ve even landed the job.  Do your research, and prove that you actually want to work there!

Your personal statement should contain specific skills and abilities that the employer mentions in the advert, as well as what you feel you could bring to the role, and what you wish to gain from working in the position.  Try to avoid generic CV buzz words like ‘good team player,’ ‘motivated’ or ‘good communicator’ – link these skills to times that you demonstrated them throughout your CV instead.

Education

Start with most recent qualifications you hold, as well as any which will help you with the job you’re applying for.  For example if you’re applying for a role which requires a creative flair, and you’ve got GCSE’s or A-Levels in art and design, you could mention these specifically.

If the job asks for a particular certificate or training, and you’ve got it – make sure you include it!  You don’t want to ruin your chances and make yourself an unsuitable applicant just because you forgot some essential details.

Work History

Cut out information that is irrelevant to the job you’re applying for.  If you’re applying to work in a design firm, the chances are that they don’t need to know you did a paper round when you were twelve.  Although, make sure you’re not leaving gaps in your CV – that bar job you did between college and university accounts for a year that might otherwise make employers wonder what you were getting up to.

Include the key experience you gained in your past roles, particularly those which demonstrate the skills asked for.  Try to avoid listing responsibilities; instead, prove your achievements!  Even if all of your previous jobs seem unrelated to the position you’re applying for, look for the transferrable skills you gained.

Interests

This is a tough one – some employers love to know what you get up to outside of work, whereas others see it as unnecessary waffle.  Do some research into the company and try and get a feel for their approach to work and personal style. 

If you do choose to include an interests section, then your activities should make you seem well-rounded with lots of transferrable skills.  For example, if you put “captain of my local football team,” employers see that you work well with others, and have good leadership abilities.

Don’t just put ‘drinking’ or ‘hanging out with friends’ – even if it’s true – it’s better to leave this section out that to put something that will diminish your chances!

Finally...

Don’t lie on your CV.  You want to edit your experience so it is as relevant as possible, but if you start to oversell the details, you’re going to be setting yourself up for failure.

You don’t need to include references on your CV, unless you are specifically asked to in the application.  Make sure you have some on hand should you make it to the next stage, as not providing referees when asked will look a bit suspect. 

The layout and design of your CV should be simple, unfussy, and make the relevant information as clear as possible for the reader.  Stand out from the crowd with a creative use of design and colour, as long as it doesn’t detract from the content!

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