Catherine's Career Corner
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December 12th, 2008
12 Tips for Writing a Winning CV

Mere thinking about writing a CV intimidates everyone. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know which type, where to start, what to include and the best layout. It can seem like an impossible task. To help you with writing yours, here are 20 tips to help you tackle the task, and also help you to write a winning CV.

1. Determine your job market or job search aim prior to writing your CV. Once you have determined what your job objective is, you can now start to structure the content of your CV around that objective. Think of your objective as the main ‘target’ to focus your CV on. If you write your CV without having a clear, concise and unambiguous objective in mind, it will likely come across as unfocused to a potential employer that will read it. Take the time before you start your CV to form an unambiguous objective.


2. Remember, your CV is a piece of paper that will sell you and your skills. Be sure to make it talk on your behalf within 25seconds of reading it. Think of your CV as your own personal advert, your own marketing tool. See yourself as a product, potential employers as your customers, and your CV as a brochure that is talking all about you. Blow your own trumpet through it but don’t sound cocky. Think about what you can offer, your features and benefits, your unique skills? Make sure to convey this information clearly in your CV.


3. You need an interview call-back, be sure to use your CV to obtain an interview. You don’t need to go into detail about every accomplishment, mention the relevant ones. Let your CV generate enough interest in you to have an employer contact you for an interview. Use the interview to provide a more detailed explanation of your experience, accomplishments and to land a job offer.


4. CVs are read quickly. Use bulleted sentences. In the body of your CV, use bullets with short sentences rather than lengthy paragraphs. Bulleted sentence format makes it easier for someone to quickly scan your CV and still absorb it.


5. Use power or action words – see our Nov post on the list of such words. Action words will make your CV pop out to the employer. Add life to your CV by using bulleted sentences that begin with action words like orchestrated, developed, monitored, and implemented.


6. Play ‘match’ game. Review want adverts for positions that interest you. Use the key words listed in these ads and match them to the bullets in your CV.

7. Ensure to put your strengths on the first page. Since CVs are typically reviewed in 25 seconds, take the time to determine which bullets most strongly support your job search objective. Put those strong points first where they are more fitting to be read quickly.

8. Showcase the positives. Leave out irrelevant points. If you feel your date of graduation from university or college will subject you to age discrimination, leave the date off your CV. If you do some duties in your current job that don’t support your job search objective, leave them off your CV. Focus on the relevant duties that do support your objective. Leave off irrelevant personal information like your nationality, sex, DOB, height and weight.

9. Write your CV to read easily. Leave any unnecessary white space. Use a font size no smaller than 10 point. Limit the length of your CV to 2 pages. CVs are reviewed quickly so help the reader to scan your CV efficiently and effectively.

10. A pair of another person’s eyes is a must. Have someone else review your CV. Since you are so close to your situation, it can be difficult for you to hit all your high points and clearly convey all your accomplishments. Encourage them to be blunt, ask questions, suggest, prune or add. Their questions can help you to discover items you inadvertently left off your CV. Their questions can also point to items on your CV that are confusing to the reader. Clarify your CV based on this input.

11. Show who you know. If you have reported to someone important such as a managing director or department manager, say so in your CV. Having reported to someone important causes the reader to infer that you are also important.

12. After you have done all of the above, then, submit your CV to potential employers. Have the courage to submit your CV. Think of it as a practice game where your odds of winning increase with every CV you submit. You really do increase your odds with every CV you submit. Use a three-tiered approach. Apply for two jobs that appear to be beneath you. Perhaps they will turn out to be more than they appeared to be once you interview for them. Apply for two jobs that seem to be just at your level. You will get interviews for some of those jobs. See how each job stacks up. Apply for two jobs that seem like a stretch. Trust me, that is how you grow. You have to be prepared to take risks. Never rule yourself out. Trust the process and trust yourself.

Good luck!

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Catherine Adenle
Founder, Catherine's Career Corner. The career site empowering and inspiring ambitious candidates of all ages and professions to thrive and work smarter on their careers. Gladly helping all career-minded people worldwide to explore their career, manage change and understand how new technologies are changing and enhancing the future of work.
Catherine Adenle
Catherine Adenle

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