Writing your CV

Everyone has one, but is it any good? In this article I’ll discuss how to build and put together a strong CV.

First thing’s first, the Essentials

Some things are essential to a CV. If you’re missing these, there’s a serious problem.

  • Name: this should be your name (first & last) at the top, after all this document is all about you.
  • Contact details: phone number and email address. We need to be able to get in touch with you.
  • Education: your academic credentials, not masses of detail. Just the qualifications, year obtained and grade, e.g. 2007 – 8 GCSEs (A*-C grades)

Your personal profile

You don’t have to include a personal profile, but I’d recommend it. After all, a list of jobs can only tell you so much about a person, companies are looking to employ people, not robots. So tell us a little about you…

  • Always write in 3rd person impersonal tense. For example, “A confident Business Studies graduate with experience working in a busy finance team for a large media group etc.”
  • Use adjectives. Think about how your current or previous employers would describe your character and strengths.
  • Tell us about where you’re looking to go with your career. Is it your aspiration to become a manager? Are you looking to study for a professional qualification? Do you want to go into a specific area?

Job roles

Job roles, probably the most vital part of your CV.

  • Title. Tell us dates, role title and company.
  • Chronological order, most recent role at the top. This tells us the story of your career and means we can identify at a glance where you are/have been most recently and what role you’ve been doing.
  • Details. Put the duties of the role in bullet point format with the most predominant duties at the top. Make them succinct, but if something needs more explanation, do elaborate.
  • Achievements. If you were in a role where you generated revenue or minimised costs, tell us! Those quantifiable details strengthen your CV and make prospective employers more confident that you could add value to their business in a similar way.

Extra bits

Depending on the kind of roles you’ve been in/are applying for, there may be other relevant skills that are worth featuring on your CV

  • Computer softwares: Accounting packages etc.
  • Programming languages: SQL, Java, C++ etc.
  • Proficiency with Excel: formula, sumif, vlookups, pivot tables, VBA, macros etc.
  • Languages. If you speak another language, this could be a huge advantage for an international company.
  • Hobbies and interests. Use this to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Don’t be generic and write music, reading, socialising etc., tell us the unusual or less common things you enjoy! Do you volunteer? Did you run the marathon? Do you play an instrument? Do you perform stand up comedy? These are the things that intrigue people to pick up the phone and call you.

Finishing touches

  • Formatting. Make sure your CV looks organised, the font is a reasonable size and legible.
  • Spell check. I cannot emphasise the importance of this point enough. You’re trying to put across your professionalism and conscientious attitude, that’s not possible with sloppy spelling.
  • Spelling is one thing, the other is using the wrong word that sounds similar/the same as the one you mean. For example, “temp roll” instead of “temp role” or “except” instead of “accept”.
  • PDF or Doc. This is somewhat of a grey area, however, due to the fact that most recruiters, internal or agency, will use some sort of job board or similar and search using key words, if your CV is unreadable by the database, you risk being missed in these searches. Stick to a Word Doc to be safe.

Common misconceptions

  • 2 page limit. There’s a myth that CVs shouldn’t extend beyond 2 A4 pages, but your CV should be as long as it needs to be to cover all the relevant information. Don’t get me wrong, a 10 page CV is too far, but if you trickle over into 3 pages, or even 4, it’s not a huge deal.
  • Lying on your CV can get you through the door. Think about this, even if you’re amazing in person and they love you, once you get found out for lying (which more often than not, people do) it reflects badly on you, not for your ability, but for your integrity, which is far worse.
  • You should but your date of birth and country of origin on your CV. I’m not sure if this used to be a thing or if people just want to include as much information as possible. These details can open you up to discrimination or possible identity fraud. Best to leave them out.
  • A photograph. Your CV is not a dating profile, recruiters and employers would rather you used the space to tell us more about you and your skills than what you look like. A photograph on your CV comes across as unprofessional and is generally a deterrent to those viewing it.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of DOs and DON’Ts, just some of the things that crop up when I find myself looking over CVs.

Do you have something that you think works especially well for you on your CV?

What CV is the worst CV blunder you’ve ever come across?