10 Tips for Writing an Effective CV
Writing a CV is not the easiest task in the world. You need to make sure that your CV is tailored to the position and that your skills are presented in a clear and understandable way so that recruiters don’t discard it at first glance. What else do you need to pay attention to? We’ve put 10 tips to help you create an effective way.
1. Create a master CV
Most would agree that each CV needs to be tailored to each job application. However, this can take time and effort. Furthermore, information could get lost in the process as you add and remove points to suit each application. That’s why it’s sensible to create a master CV as a first step.
This is essentially a comprehensive document that lists your entire work history, education and skills. From this CV, you can select relevant elements to create a tailored CV.
Whether you’re looking for a job or not, update your master CV every time you obtain a new qualification, receive a promotion or anything significant happens in your career. That way, when it’s time to look for a new job, you won’t have to remember what you did when.
2. Tailor your CV as closely as possible to the position
It may be tempting to send the same generic CV for each job application, but that approach probably won’t land you any interviews. Employers want to see that you’ve understood the requirements of the job and that you’ve thought about where skills and experience fit in.
While it may be more time-consuming, it pays to read through the job description carefully, to pick out key skills, qualifications and personal traits.
Also, look up the company’s website to get a good idea of the person they’re looking for.
You can then show how your skills and experience match the requirements of the position. For instance, if the job calls for writing skills, you can mention that you used to write dissertations at university.
Your personal statement or profile, in particular, is an opportunity to highlight relevant skills and your suitability as a candidate.
3. Don’t make your CV longer than 2 A4 pages
Even if you have a lot of work experience, knowledge and skills, avoid making your CV longer than 2 A4 pages. As you’ll be tailoring your CV to each job, you only need to mention the most recent and relevant positions from your career history. You can also omit work experience from more than fifteen years ago, because this information is often no longer so relevant.
Furthermore, you could bundle certain positions or periods on your CV. If you’re still running out of space, you have the option to decrease the size of the font, but to no smaller than 10 points for sans-serif fonts (Arial, Calibri, Helvetica, Tahoma, Trebuchet and Verdana) and no smaller than 10-11 for serif fonts (Cambria, Georgia, Garamond and Times New Roman).
4. Make sure that vital sections of your CV are included
The following sections shouldn’t be missing from your CV:
- Personal details: first and last name, full address, place of residence, telephone number, e-mail address
- Personal profile (not really required, but can boost your CV)
- Work experience
Nice-to-have sections include:
- Personal details: date of birth, place of birth, driver's license, gender, nationality, marital status, links to social media accounts, your blog or website (s)
- Courses/professional development
- Memberships and affiliations
- Hobbies and interests
5. Focus on achievements, not responsibilities
When writing about the different roles you’ve held, focus on your achievements, rather than listing all your responsibilities.
Achievements show employers how well you performed in a job and the impact you made. For example, instead of saying you planned an event, describe how you organised an event for 200 people and raised £2,000.
The best way to think about your achievements is: task + skill + outcome/result
6. Prioritise the most important information
Employers and recruiters sometimes receive hundreds of CVs for a single job application and are therefore only likely to spend seconds skimming through your CV.
To make it easy for them to decide whether your CV will end up on the yes or no pile, place the most important information at the top. So, if you’re a recent graduate, it’ll be your education and if you’re a seasoned professional, it’ll be your work experience.
You can also select one of three CV formats to highlight your skills and work experience:
- Reverse chronological: best for those with a linear career history
- Functional or skills-based: suitable if you have gaps in your CV or you lack relevant work experience
- Hybrid: ideal for highlighting your career history and your skills
7. Be honest
It may be tempting to exaggerate your skills, qualifications and experience on your CV; however, lying is never a good idea, as there’s always the risk that you’ll be found out – even years after you’ve been hired.
It’s especially unwise to overstate your language skills. If you speak a language less well than you claim or you’re not able to apply your skills in a professional environment, you’ll soon end up with egg on your face when a recruiter tests your language skills at the pre-screening or interview stage.
It’s also inadvisable to lie about your qualifications on your CV. Often, all it takes is a phone call for recruiters and employers to check whether you've really obtained the certifications you say you’ve received. In some cases, inflating your university grades or changing previous job titles is even punishable by law.
8. Check spelling and grammar
This goes without saying, but your CV should be free of spelling and grammatical errors. That’s why it’s essential to check and double-check your CV.
While spell checkers are mostly reliable, they’re not infallible. Therefore, it’s necessary to check your CV for yourself or better still, ask a trusted friend, colleague or family member.
9. Have your CV checked by someone else
Two eyes are better than one. That’s why it’s best to have your CV checked by someone else. They can not only check whether there are spelling errors, but also whether the CV reads well.
10. Pay attention to the format and layout of your CV
A CV that looks neat and organised demonstrates attention to detail and makes it easy for recruiters to quickly find the information they need. A cluttered and messy layout, on the other hand, gives the impression that you’re also messy and disorganised.
Make your CV look good by including clear headings (preferably in bold), making use of white space and writing in bullet points.
If you’re not comfortable with formatting documents, consider using a CV builder such as Jobseeker. CV builders offer various templates, meaning that you don’t have to spend hours on the layout and design.