Catherine's Career Corner
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February 23rd, 2009
Is Your CV Letting You Down? See These 10 Key Tips for Producing a Better CV

If you have applied for more than 5 jobs that you think you should have received interview appointments for and you haven’t for any of them, maybe it is time to take another look at your ‘core’ CV.

First, you have to think of your CV as your stage – it must effectively showcase your experience, skills and qualities in ten to fifteen seconds.

The following 10 key tips should help you produce a CV that does just that.

1. Keep it short, clear and understandable

Before you start, choose the right structure for your CV. The most important information, such as your key skills and recent experience, needs to be near the top, where it can be seen straightaway. Sections you usually need to include are your Profile – although not absolutely important, Achievements, Experience, Special Skills (languages / computers), Education, Training, and (if you wish) Interests. Your CV should normally be two pages in length (unless you are a contractor or the recruiter asks for a longer CV). If you haven’t caught the recruiter’s interest by page two then they probably won’t read any further pages anyway.

2. Make it look good and interesting, but no jokes!

Clear, attractive presentation is also important if your CV is to stand out. Ensure that it’s uncluttered, with key points easy to spot. Use bullet points and keep the sentences relatively short. Plenty of ‘white space’ around the borders and between each section keeps the document easier on the eye.

3. Most recent first

Put your employment history in chronological order, date order, starting with the most recent first. Avoid leaving any gaps, so if you’ve had time out for some reason, do mention this. Don’t go into detail about positions you held over 10 years ago. Include details of holiday or temporary work only if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.

4. Include many facts

List your job duties beneath each position. List your achievements, responsibilities and results. Talk about results or evidences – what difference did your presence make? Use numbers for achievements wherever possible, e.g. “Boosted sales by 20% in first year”. And always write in a slightly formal manner and never use the word “I” – e.g. “Supervised the team” rather than “I supervised the team”. Use the past tense for previous jobs and the present tense for your current job.

5. Not too many lists

Include specific skills, such as languages, administrative or computing skills, in a separate section in your CV. Don’t re-list them for every job you’ve used them in. This is particularly so for IT work – lists of tools and packages make dull reading and won’t make you stand out from other people with the same abilities.

6. Breath some life into it

Remember the employer wants a sense of the kind of person you are, as well as what you can do. Are you conscientious, flexible or motivated? Do you rise to a challenge? With each point you write, ask yourself “What does this say about me?”

7. Be accurate

Always check for errors. Run a spelling and grammar check and ask someone else to read it for you. Read it aloud to yourself. The employer isn’t going to believe you’re a good communicator if your CV is full of mistakes.

8. Get a feel for the job that you are applying for, tweak it to fit

You don’t have to use the same CV every time. You can have two or three versions, each for a different kind of job. Or you can tailor your core CV to suit the job you’re applying for. It isn’t a case of one size fits all.

9. Send a covering letter

Unless the advert tells you not to, always send a covering letter. This should highlight the two or three areas of experience from your CV that are most relevant to the advertised job. Never send your CV out on its own, support it with a covering letter.

10. Be truthful

Although you obviously want to present yourself well, don’t go too far and embellish the truth. It can easily backfire on you.

Good luck!!!

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Want to know more about how to make a good impression on your CV? Then, read some of these articles:

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3 Types of CVs, their Advantages and Disadvantages
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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.

One thought on “Is Your CV Letting You Down? See These 10 Key Tips for Producing a Better CV

  1. Catherine – good blog post. I agree with the points you have listed here. I would also suggest that candidates put any education or certifications they have at the front of their resume. Education and certifications are becoming increasingly more and more important so they should be highlighted quickly. Since the person evalutating will ultimately want to see your experience, putting your education first means it has to be read!


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