CV Writing Guide

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Your CV is often the first impression that an employer you get of you. So, it is important that it’s the best possible reflection of you. In this CV Writing Guide, we will everything you need to ensure your CV secures an interview.

You have a matter of seconds to engage with the reader and captivate them to continue reading. All too often a CV is discarded to the bottom of the pile because they didn’t put the relevant information in the face of the reader.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a set way to write a CV as your experience is unique and the roles that you apply to will vary. However, they all follow a similar structure, all you need to do is tailor it to each role.

In this CV Writing Guide, we will cover these key areas:

  1. What Should I Include In My CV?
  2. Formatting Tips To Consider When Writing A CV
  3. Making Your CV Stand Out To Employers
  4. What Not To Include When Writing A CV

Before you start…

Before writing your CV, take the time to research into your desired role and career, to make sure that it is right for you. This is an important part of the Career Planning Process and by taking this step, you take the guesswork out of creating your CV.

As part of the career planning process, you’ll view a range of job adverts that you should dissect to make a list of the most sought after skills that employers are looking for. With this information, you will be able to better tailor your CV to the role you apply to.

What Should I Include In My CV?

The first part of our cv writing guide is what you should include in your CV. This is flexible because of your unique experiences and skills. However, all employers will expect to see the following:

  1. Personal Details
  2. Personal Statement/Professional Summary
  3. Work Experience
  4. Key Skills
  5. Education and Qualifications
  6. Additional information
    1. Hobbies/Interests
    2. References

1. Start With Your Personal Details

The first part of your CV should be your personal details. Don’t waste space by titling it “CV” or “Curriculum Vitea”, instead treat your name and job title as the title.

It is imperative to include your contact details within this section, your email address and phone number/s will be sufficient. In terms of your address, you can state your town and county – the full address simply wastes space.

2. Stand Out With Your Personal Statement

After your details, you will want to write your personal statement or professional summary. This is an essential section, as it’s your first opportunity to stand out from the crowd. It should be a concise paragraph that includes:

  1. A little bit about you, focusing on your personality.
  2. What you can offer the employer, for example, key experiences, achievements or skills you have.
  3. What your career goals are or why you are currently looking for a new opportunity.

A CV Tip To Help You Write Your Personal Statement

This section is the area that you should focus on tailoring when writing your CV for a role. Use the job advert to help identify the relevant skills that you need to show.

3. Follow With Your Work Experience

Your work experience should always start with your most recent role, then work backwards. Within this section, you can also outline any internships and work experience you’ve gained, which is important when you have little professional experience.

With each role include your job title, the employer, the dates that you were employed and a statement that summarises the role. You’ll also need to list the relevant responsibilities that you held as well as any achievements bolstering them with figures and real-life examples.

If you have a wealth of work experience you can reduce the detail of irrelevant positions, and even remove positions that are very old.

Below is an example of how you can write your work-experience:


Company Name – Job Title

Dates of employment

[Outline your role at this employer with a couple of sentences]

Key Responsibilities

  1. Use bullet points in this section to break up paragraphs.

Key Achievements

  1. Back this section up with figures, projects that you have completed and any relevant achievements you obtained.

A CV Tip For Writing Your Work Experience Section

Try to not include reasons as to why you have left previous roles, as the reader may interpret this negatively. But, we advise that you briefly explain any long-term gaps in your work history. For example, ‘Out of work to travel’. If the hiring manager wants more information they will ask during interview. 

4. Showcase Your Key Skills

With the timeframe to engage the reader so narrow, we suggest that you place your key skills after your relevant work experience.

In this section, you want to detail 4-6 relevant skills that are not only unique to you but are tailored to the job description. You should expand on them with examples of how you demonstrated the skill within the workplace.

5. Education and Qualifications

The next section of your CV should be your education and qualifications. Like with your work experience section, this should be in reverse chronological order. Include the place of education name and the dates you attended, along with the qualifications and grades you obtained.

This section could look like this if you have recently left education:

Place of Education – Dates attended

  1. Qualification – Grade
    1. Module or achievement.

If you are well into your career or have a number of qualifications under your belt then you can lay out this section like this:

Qualification, grade – Place of Education – Dates Attended

A CV Tip On How You Can Add More Experience

If you have recently graduated and do not have a lot of industry experience, you can use your education section to highlight relevant experience with the modules, assignments or projects that you undertook.

6. Hobbies/Interests

Your hobbies/interests could be considered an ‘add-on’. However, this section can be a boost to highlight your personality. As you can highlight your individuality and explain how you could fit with the company culture.

However, you will want to avoid just stating generic hobbies or interests. As it will not add value to your CV or show that you are unique. Like with your work experience and education section, you will need to expand on your hobbies. For example:

Instead of listing ‘reading’ as one of your hobbies, you could say:

“In my spare time, I like to read. Right now, I’m reading ‘self-help book’ as I want to develop my way of thinking and ensure I make the most of each day.”

7. References

This section is no longer standardised like it was in previous years. Now, we suggest that you write ‘References Available On Request’ at the end of your CV. You can remove it altogether if you’ve run out of space.

Formatting Tips To Consider When Writing A CV

The next part of our CV writing guide is formatting. Which is very important, as it makes your cv clearer to read and you’re able to effectively highlight your suitability for the role. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set way to format a CV but whatever you do, it must be consistent.

Here are key areas that you should focus on when writing a CV:

CV Length

Like with your covering letter or resume, it is necessary to keep your CV concise. Ideally, you should keep your CV to two sides of A4. However, as each person’s experience is unique the length can vary a little. So, don’t worry if it’s 1 – 3 pages long.

If your CV is short it might be worth you writing a resume instead. Which is a typically a one-page document that is heavily tailored and very eye-catching as it uses graphics. It is perfect for standing out from the competition – other applicants.

The Font of your Paragraphs and Headings (Type and Size)

With all employers recruiting digitally now, it’s important that you write your CV in a font that is easy to read. For both the technology that employers use and the person to read. Choose something professional and clear like Arial or Calibri, in a decent font size (10 – 12 works well for main paragraphs with headings being bigger).

A CV Tip For What Font To Use

Use the Bold function to highlight keywords, experiences or targets. This is especially important if you have large bodies a text (which is sometimes unavoidable) and when you are tailoring your CV to each role that your applying to.  

Create a Clear Layout

Employers may receive hundreds of applications to the roles they advertise. As a result, they may not have a lot of time to read through your CV. Which is why it is imperative to have a clear layout that is easy to navigate.

One CV tip that will help you to create a clear layout is utilise white space. Gaps are important to break up information and help the hiring manager to read your CV. So long as you have included all the relevant details that you need, you shouldn’t worry if your CV looks bare.

Making Your CV Stand Out To Employers

After your personal summary, the most effective way to make your CV stand out is by showing the IMPACT your role had on the business.

You can do this by combining a responsibility that you had with the results/actions that you achieved. For example, in your work experience section instead of just writing:

“Built Email Lists”

You need to expand on how this affected the business;

“Attracted relevant subscribers to grow our email list and generate additional leads for the sales team to use in their pipeline”

It may be difficult to do this for every responsibility on your CV. But, by expanding as many as you can you will clearly highlight how you were able to make a positive impact on the business. Which will not only set you above other applicants but demonstrate your suitability.

Something that will stand out to employers (and not in a positive way) is typos and grammar inconsistencies. Especially if your skills and abilities are similar to other applicants. With this in mind, you need to take your time when writing your CV to avoid mistakes. So you should thoroughly proof-read your CV before sending it across.

What Not To Include When Writing A CV

The final part of our cv writing guide is talking about the details that you shouldn’t include when writing a CV. Some of the more common ones:

Age, Date Of Birth and Marital Status

The main reason that you shouldn’t include this when writing a CV is to remove the chance for unconscious bias from the hiring manager. There are a number of ‘Protected Characteristics’ that you cannot be discriminated against by law.

Salary

By stating your current salary you are giving the hiring manager an opportunity to suggest a lower salary before interview. Which is more likely to happen when the role that you’re applying for has a higher salary than your current role.

Always leave salary discussions for your interview!

CV Clichés

When writing a CV there are some phrases and words that you should actively try to avoid. Phrases like:

  1. I work well as part of a team, but work just as well independently
  2. I’m a perfectionist
  3. I’m a great multi-tasker

Overtime these phrases have become a recruitment cliché that no longer add value on your CV.

In Summary

Your CV will be the first impression that you give an employer. So you need to make sure that it is concise, highlights the relevant information about you whilst showcases your individuality. If you follow this cv writing guide, you’ll be sure to secure an interview!

If you are looking for additional support when writing your CV or would like a CV review, contact our team today! You should also visit our Resource Centre to download our CV template and infographic on this blog.

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