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Top Tips for writing a CV.

Try and think of your CV as a sales brochure.

A well composed and structured CV should not only facilitate you getting a foot in the door by making potential employers sit up and take notice, but should also pique a hiring managers interest sufficiently to ensure that your CV is added to the shortlist, rather than being thrown straight in the bin.

Putting together a successful CV is simple once you know how. Here are some simple but effective steps to make your CV stand out from the competition.

1. Get the basics right

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV but there are some golden rules that you should try and cover off.

These include:
  • Your full name & personal contact details including address, contact numbers, email and LinkedIn profile.
  • Covering letter or personal profile
  • Education, qualifications & relevant skills to the job in question.
  • Work history & record of “Key Achievements” (in reverse chronological order) that have delivered tangible benefits to your employer.
  • Professional development and training courses taken
  • Be honest and factual - relevant, quantifiable content is key!
  • Check your spelling and grammar (multiple times).
  • Include references & personal interests/hobbies.

2. Presentation counts

  • Keep the layout as simple as possible: Make it easy to navigate around your CV and to pick up all the relevant information.

  • Keep it concise: A good CV is clear, concise and makes every point necessary without being overly verbose (waffling). Keep things short and to the point, using your CV as a chance to tick all the right boxes from the job spec. Prospective employers are inundated with CVs so it's unlikely they'll read each one cover-to-cover. Most will make a judgment about a CV within seconds, so try and stick to a maximum of two pages of A4 paper.

  • Make it easy to understand: The employer should be able to disseminate CV information easily, so make sure that everything is laid out in a clear manner, using clear headings so that the reader can easily identify points of interest.

  • Avoid fancy fonts & images: Bright pink CVs with huge stylised font types will get your CV noticed – just not necessarily in a good way.

  • Get the font size right: If your text is too small it can make the CV crowded and hard to read, too big and it looks like you don’t have much to say for yourself. The perfect font size is generally 10 or 11 for body text, 14 for subheadings and 22 for main page header (including your name).

  • Be consistent: Whatever fonts and style settings you decide to use on your CV, be sure to keep it consistent throughout.

  • Use visual aids: Bullet points, line breaks, bold formatting, columns & tabs are all simple tools you can employ on your CV to make more visual impact.

3. Understand the job description

The clues are usually to be found in the job specification, so always take the time to carefully read the description from start to finish. Take notes and create bullet points, highlighting the requirements you can satisfy as well as the areas you can't. With areas where you may be lacking, fill in the blanks by adapting the transferable skills that you do have.

4. Tailor the CV and covering letter to the role

Remember that there is no such thing as a generic CV anymore, so don't be lazy and hope that a general CV will work, because it won't! When you've established what the job entails and how you can match each requirement, create a CV specifically for that role and then try and create a tailored CV for every job you apply for moving forward. You don't have to re-write the whole thing, just adapt the details so they're relevant.

5. Technical skills & expertise

Under the skills section of your CV don't forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. A bullet point list of the technical skills you possess and have been trained in will allow a prospective employer to immediately assess whether you have the suitable skills to match the vacancy. Also consider including soft skills such as communication; I.T. literacy; the experience of working in a team, problem-solving aptitude and even foreign language proficiency.

6. Making the most of experience

Use assertive and positive language under the work history and experience sections, such as "achieved", "improved" or "influenced". Try to relate skills you have learned to the job role you're applying for.

For example: "The work experience involved working in a team," or "This position involved training, ideas and leadership, as I was responsible for a team of people". Really get to grips with the valuable skills and experience you have gained from past work positions and how it benefited your employers.

7. Making the most of interests

Describe any examples of positions of responsibility, working in a team or anything that shows you can use your own initiative. For example, if you ran your university's newspaper or if you started a weekend league football team that became a success.

Include anything that shows how diverse, interested and skilled you are. Don't include passive interests like watching TV or solitary hobbies that can be perceived as you lacking in people skills. Always make yourself sound really interesting.

8. Avoid over-lapping dates or gaps in work history

Glaring chronological omissions or overlapping employment dates are a sure fire way of ringing alarm bells with the hiring manager. Travelling for a period of time or taking a few months off is absolutely fine but it must be clearly documented and fall seamlessly into the overall context of your CV.

9. Inclusion of references

References should ideally be from a senior professional who has employed you in the past and can vouch for your skills and experience. Recent graduates or individuals starting their 1st job are advised to submit a teacher or tutor as a referee. Try to include two if you can.

10. Get your CV viewed.

Two pairs of eyes are typically better than one. If you think your CV is complete, have a friend, family member or colleague review it to ensure that spelling and grammar are correct and that the CV does you justice.

11. Keep your CV & LinkedIn profile updated

It's crucial to review your CV on a regular basis and add any new skills or experience that may be missing. For example, if you've just done some volunteering or worked on a new project, make sure they're on there – potential employers are always impressed with candidates who go the extra mile to boost their own skills and experience.

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