10 Jan 2016
Writing a good CV can be one of the biggest obstacles you will face when seeking a new job. We've outlined our top tips to get your CV to the top of any employer's shortlist....... Read more below:
Your CV is your primary selling tool and it is unique to you, your skills and your experience. A well presented CV can secure you an interview by catching the eye of an employer. It can also help you focus on the key points that you need to expand upon during an interview and it will remind the interviewer about you once the interview is over.
Presentation & Formatting
The presentation and formatting of a CV is incredibly important.
- Always print your CV
in black ink on good quality white paper.
- Do NOT include a photo
unless specifically requested.
- Use a common typeface
and lay your CV out neatly – all headings the same font and size.
- Use bullet points
, be concise and avoid lengthy essays.
- Ensure that your contact details can be clearly found
at the top of your CV.
Include a brief personal profile at the top of your CV, highlighting your professional achievements (and include any experience that the potential employer has requested).
- Your CV should not be longer than 2-3 pages
. If you are at a very senior level, then 4-5 pages should be the maximum length.
Spelling & Grammar
Always check for typos and grammatical errors – these could indicate carelessness and disorganisation on your part. It could also be unforgiveable in the eyes of a potential employer. A good tip is to read the sentence backwards to ensure it makes sense.
- Never just rely on your computer’s spell checker
– you may be using the correct spelling of the word but it could be wrong in context, eg: “their” for “there” or “martial status” instead of “marital status”.
- Always ask someone who has a keen eye for grammar and spelling
to look over your CV - common errors would include “Its” when it should be “It’s”. Always capitalise “I” when you are describing something that you are or do eg: “I am an IT professional”.
Some of the bigger organisations use “optical recognition technology” which scans your CV for required skills and qualifications. So your CV must contain relevant basic key phrases.
Gaps & Incorrect Dates
Employers do not like to see unexplained time gaps or incorrect dates. These raise questions in their minds which if you are lucky, they may ask you to explain in interview but more often than not, they will dismiss the CV before short-listing for interview.
- Check your CV over
for correct dates and write a timeline check beside each job so that you are instantly aware of any gaps and can correct them.
- Always ensure that you have not duplicated dates or overlapped
- If you have been travelling
, explain that in your CV, eg. 2001 – 2002 “Year spent travelling in Australia”. This shows that you have life experience and also explains the gap in your CV.
- If you took time off to study
, explain that in your academic record and again briefly in the chronological structure of your CV.
The most common question Brightwater consultants are asked is about the structure of a CV and what should be included. We would always recommend the following:
- Personal details / contact details
- This should be first in any CV and clearly visible. Remember to keep all email addresses professional and leave any nicknames to a personal email address. Also remember to adjust your voicemail accordingly if you are not able to answer every call on your mobile.
HOT TIP! Attach all information If you have said that you are attaching references, ensure that you attach them. Likewise, if the company has requested copies of your qualifications, then make sure that you send them in with your CV. This shows attention to detail and won’t have the interviewer scrambling for information which hasn’t been attached.
- Personal profile
- This may be expanded into a short paragraph highlighting your key skills, keeping any role requirements in mind. You can also include a brief summary of your professional profile, stating the area in which you specialise and your key strengths. Be as general or as specific as you like – you may want to tailor your profile to the job being applied for (e.g. “Senior FMCG sales executive with experience in launching new drinks brands to the market etc. ”) or you may want to leave it generic e.g. “A self-motivated business graduate with 20 years’ sales experience.” At Brightwater, we would always recommend the tailored version.
- Academic achievements
- Put this in reverse chronological order with your most recent qualifications first. Always make sure that these are kept up-to-date. List your professional memberships.
- Career history
- This will be in the main body of your CV and should be presented in reverse chronological order with your most recent employer first.You should always put a brief overview of the company first, describing what the company do, what size it is and the company structure so that potential employers get a sense of where you fit into the organisation. Then put your job title and your responsibilities, listing the most important and relevant of those first.
HOT TIP! List your day-to-day duties, keep a portfolio of job specifications that you see advertised and match your duties up, using the same terminology where possible. Just make sure that you understand all the terminology you are using in case you get asked about it in interview.
- Extra achievements
- If you have been nominated for an award or you have won an award, mention it in your CV. However do ensure that it is relevant. Any mention of awards or achievements show employers that you are ambitious and self-motivated.
- Do not actually include the reference itself, merely the referee’s name, their professional title, the company and a contact number. Make sure that you contact them beforehand for their permission. If you are uncomfortable doing this, simply state that “references are available upon request”.
Interests & Hobbies
Hobbies and interests should be nearly the last item on your CV. There is no real necessity to include them but employers do like to see a well-rounded individual and hobbies help create that perception.
- Do not fall back on old reliables
such as “reading” or “cinema”.
- Never lie
to make yourself appear more interesting – the employer may know more about your hobby than you do, and that could come out in the interview.
Tailored CV vs Generalist CV
A single generalist CV is unlikely to be sufficient in today’s competitive market. Just as you are an individual, so too is the organisation to which you are applying. You need to think carefully about your audience and create your CV around their requirements.
- Applying for a specific job
- Ensure that the skills required match up to your skills and highlight them in your CV e.g. If you are a registered nurse looking to change your career to sales and you are applying to a pharmaceutical company, highlight your experience in dealing with the types of products that they are specialising in eg. diabetics/oncology.
- Applying to a specific organisation
- Do your research to find out what type of employee they are looking for by using LinkedIn and looking at the profiles of existing employees. Find out if the company is expanding or creating a new niche market. You can then highlight any relevant experience or qualifications in your CV.
- Adding value
- Be clear where you have added value in your previous roles – this is of vital importance to any employer.
- Relevant terminology
- Use relevant language and keywords in your CV but be careful not to overdo it.
Know your CV inside out. Be prepared to discuss every point however small, and expand upon it in interview. Make sure to read over it just before going into an interview to refresh your memory. Don’t assume that just because a point seems irrelevant, that it’s not of interest to the interviewer.
For further advice on your CV & Cover Letter, talk to your Brightwater Consultant by contacting our office on:
Belfast | +44 28 90 325 325 | belfast@brightwaterNI.com