Submitting your CV to a potential employer is your one shot at making a good first impression and there’s no denying that it can be difficult to sell yourself on paper. If you’re creating a CV for your first professional role (or at least your first in a specific industry), it can be difficult even knowing where to begin.
Use our eight top tips for creating the perfect CV and you will be well on the way to securing the job interview you need.
Know who you’re sending it to
Thinking carefully about the company you’re applying to will help you take the appropriate tone in your CV. Sometimes, people believe that making their CV quirky (by using humour or pictures, for example) will help them stand out and make them more memorable. The reality is, there are very few jobs you can apply for and actually get away with such a technique. It’s important to remember that your CV is a professional document, so we recommend only doing something outside of the norm if the employer has specified they’re looking for something a bit unusual.
List most recent experience/qualifications first
It may sound obvious, but it’s not uncommon for people to list their experience and qualifications in chronological order, starting with the first job they had or their secondary school qualifications. A prospective employer will be most interested in where you’re currently working and what you studied at university, rather than where you worked as a teenager and what your GCSE grades were. However, don’t dismiss earlier achievements entirely, as they may still be relevant to the role you’re applying for.
Be clear and concise
In order to make your CV easily digestible, it’s a good idea not to have large paragraphs of text. Instead, stick to short paragraphs and even bullet pointed lists, using these to draw attention to your key responsibilities and achievements. This technique makes your CV a lot easier on the eye, and the person reviewing it a lot happier to read it. Only allowing yourself to use short paragraphs and lists will automatically ensure that your CV is clear and concise.
Stick to two A4 pages or less
As suggested above, anyone reviewing CVs will likely have a lot of them to get through and will therefore appreciate it if they aren’t too lengthy. Always make sure that your CV doesn’t exceed two sides of A4 paper. If you find yourself with too many things to include, try to remove things which perhaps aren’t so relevant. As long as you’re being clear and concise, sticking to two pages shouldn’t be difficult. If you find yourself struggling, you can always use a slightly smaller font to help make sure everything fits within two pages.
Look closely at the job description
If you’re unsure of the most important or relevant things to include in your CV (or covering letter, for that matter) then having a close look at the job description and role requirements should point you in the right direction. Think carefully about what the employer is looking for and then find ways to link that to the experience you have acquired so far. If you have any examples of when you’ve utilised a specific skill they’re looking for, try to summarise this in a single sentence. Although you can usually find a way to make your experience sound relevant, never lie or exaggerate in your CV - it’s not worth the risk.
Never forget to read back through your CV once you’ve finished it. If you’re tailoring your CV for each job you apply to, it’s likely that you’ll be copying and pasting some sections, with more than one document open at once. This makes it even more important to give everything a final check before submission; typos and other mistakes look unprofessional and may even result in you not being invited for an interview. Our eyes can often be tricked into seeing what we think we’ve written rather than what’s actually on the page, so if you can get someone else to proofread it for you, that could be even more effective.
Include your interests
OK, so interests aren’t always relevant to a job application. If you enjoy going to the cinema or eating out, these are probably not things the employer needs to know about. However, if you enjoy playing team sports, for example, this is something that can be mentioned in your CV as it can prove that you have communication and leadership skills and even good self-motivation. Volunteering and charity work is another thing employers like to see, so don’t forget to include that if it’s applicable.
Briefly address any gaps
If there are any substantial gaps in your CV, it might be best that you address these rather than letting the potential employer make a guess as to what you were doing with your time. Briefly explaining these gaps will stop the person reviewing it jumping to conclusions and casting it aside. This can easily be avoided by writing something as simple as the dates, accompanied by the words ‘searching for employment’ or ‘travelling’.
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