How do I write a good CV?
Well, how can we answer this question quickly? The short answer is – we can’t. Your CV, or résumé, is the backbone of any job application and should be given the attention to detail it deserves. By not giving your CV anything but 100 percent of your attention, you are damaging your chances of getting a job from the outset. Career Camel understands the importance of this vital asset so we have created an excellent CV builder to help you organise your achievements. Below we have included some basic tips to help you get started.
Presentation and layout
It sounds fairly obvious, but make sure you keep your CV looking simple and clean, with enough white space for it to be easily read. Use a simple font (definitely not Comic Sans!) – something like Arial or Verdana – and keep it at 10-12pt. Be careful of using more than two different typefaces (bold, italic, underlining etc) as this can make your CV look messy, and as a general rule keep it to no more than two pages long, though some industries want only one page and other industries allow more pages, so make sure you check this.
Try and use bullet points as much as possible throughout your CV as they allow you to highlight key points and keep the page looking neat. Try to avoid using “I” and instead use action verbs like “managed”, “created”, “improved”, etc. Proofread your document for errors at the very least three times before submitting it anywhere, and make sure you get your family and friends to check it for you too – it’s harder to spot mistakes in your own work. Remember that with competition for certain jobs so high, just one tiny spelling error or missing full stop might make a company push your application aside, regardless of how great the content of your CV is.
Starting from the top
Don’t write “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae” (yuck) at the top – employers know what it is! Just launch straight in with your contact details. An email address you check regularly and a mobile phone number will be enough, as well as a link to your LinkedIn and professional Twitter profile, where appropriate. Things you should not include are your date of birth, home address or a photo. Although most employers shred CVs, some are just thrown straight in the bin, and if you provide too much information about yourself and someone finds it, you may find yourself a victim of identity fraud. Moreover an employer would not want to be accused of employing somebody based on their age or appearance, so it’s best just to avoid it altogether.
If you’re from outside the UK, include your nationality and working visa details, so employers know how long you’ll be living in the UK.
If you haven’t had the chance to write a cover letter for the position (cover up next), you might want to write a couple of lines explaining your USP (unique sales proposition) as to why you should be employed and what you hope to achieve with the position.
Summary of skills
Including a skills summary on your CV will help you tailor to the job or industry you’re applying to, and communicate important details for when the employer only has a few seconds to scan over it. Skills which are quantifiable might give you the edge, for example, by writing what software packages you’ve had experience with. Also don’t copy straight from the job description or advert – they’ll spot that a mile off.
Make sure you work backwards from your most recent job, and also include any relevant volunteering or work experience placements. Never leave any gaps as this will be suspicious to an employer; make sure you explain what you did in-between, such as travelling, and if you can add the benefits that it provided you with. Of course if you’re a graduate and have never had a full-time job, include part-time and holiday work, internships, experiences and relevant skills you’ve gained on your course. The most recent position should be listed first.
Education and qualifications
Again this sounds obvious, but use your common sense! If you have a degree, your GCSEs probably won’t matter, so just leave them out. Also always make sure you include your degree classification on your CV, even if it’s below a 2:1. If you did get a 2:2 just state it from the beginning – don’t try to hide it by pretending you got a 2:1, they’ll eventually ask and find out the truth anyway. You don’t want to look like a liar, or that you’re ashamed of your degree! Make sure you include any relevant training courses or qualifications, too.
It’s great to include a section for hobbies and interests, if you would like. Keep it brief and even though it doesn’t have to be, the more relevant the better. If you’re lacking in work experience too, your interests might give your CV a boost. For example, if the company you’re applying to has a corporate football team, you might want to mention that you enjoy playing football because it demonstrates you’ll fit in well with their culture. If you have a pretty unique interest you might like to include it to help you stand out a bit – providing it’s nothing too contentious like religion or politics, which may put off employers.
Finally, don’t worry about providing references on your CV. Have some ready in case the need arises, and say “references are available on request” at the bottom of the page.
Follow the tips above from Career Camel and you’ll be just fine. Of course this advice is fairly general to fit any kind of career, so make sure you get advice from people in the industry themselves and get feedback on your CV from friends, relatives and professionals too to help tailor your document a little more. Good luck!