You could be the most qualified candidate by far but fail to get the job because your CV doesn’t meet the expectations of the hiring manager.
Equally, you could beat better qualified candidates to the punch because you produced a sparkling CV.
If you can create a well written, professional looking CV that is tailored to the role you’re applying for, your chances of landing an interview will increase markedly.
Keep reading to discover the 10 do’s and 10 don’ts of CV writing that can make or break your application.
1 – Keep it to 2 Pages
We’re afraid there are very few exceptions to this rule. Perhaps if you are an executive with 30 years experience you can go to three pages but it should be two for everyone else. There are a few different types of CV format but they all follow a formula. It should be relatively easy to stick to two pages; especially if you eliminate waffle!
2 – Tailor your CV to the Role
Hiring managers are typically very experienced and can spot a generic CV in a heartbeat even though they skim applications. Rather than trying to shoehorn in all your skills and achievements, focus on a select few that perfectly match the role you’re applying for. This allows you to expand on these attributes and show how you will be a good addition to the team.
3 – Choose the Right CV Type
We all have different work experiences and backgrounds so the traditional Chronological CV is not for everyone. There are actually two commonly used CV types:
• Chronological: This is by far the most widely used format and outlines your work experience and education. It is the best option if you plan to stay in the same industry and have no gaps in your work history.
• Functional: Also known as ‘Skills-Based’, this CV puts the spotlight on your achievements and skills rather than on experience and education. It is a good option if you have a gap in your work history, are planning to change careers or are just starting out in the workplace.
4 – Follow the Correct Format
Typically, this means beginning with your name, address and contact details. Then you would include a Personal Statement, Education, Work History, Skills, Achievements and Hobbies. However, this is not necessarily set in stone. You need to maximise the impact of your application which may mean changing the layout. For instance, you might wish to highlight your experience which means placing Work History above Education.
5 – Choose the Right Font
Times New Roman is one of the most commonly used fonts but you may find that Cambria or Calibri are better options for digital applications. The ideal font size is 11; remember, the hiring manager will be scanning your CV so it needs to be nice and easy to read.
6 – Keep it Neat & Tidy
As well as getting someone to proofread your CV to check for spelling and grammatical errors, ensure there is plenty of white space included. If a hiring manager sees a squashed up CV, he won’t even read it! Each section should be clearly outlined and it is also a good idea to use high quality white or cream paper if sending a CV by mail.
7 – Support Claims with Specifics
Merely saying that you “helped reduce overheads” does nothing for your chances of getting an interview. Employers want specifics so include data to support your claims. A good example would be “I helped reduce the company’s annual overheads from £20,000 a year to £14,000 within 12 months of taking up the role.”
8 – Include ‘Power’ Words
Add words such as ‘achieved’, ‘supervised’, ‘launched’ and ‘co-ordinated’ when describing your work achievements.
9 – Add Details of Professional Qualifications
If you completed a course and received a qualification relevant to the job opening, be sure to include it. This added bit of expertise could be the difference between getting an interview and being left disappointed. However, you shouldn’t include details of minor courses that offer qualifications which have no bearing on the job.
10 – Include a Personal Statement
A significant number of people neglect to include this at the start of their CV which is a big mistake. A personal statement can help identify your strengths and immediately show that you have the right skills for the job.
1 – Tell a Lie
Including even so-called ‘white’ lies is a huge error. Hiring managers are more diligent than ever before when performing background checks. If you are deemed to be a suitable candidate, a thorough check is likely and your deception will probably be uncovered. Even if you get the job, there’s a strong possibility that the lie will eventually come back to haunt you. Worst of all, it is unlikely that the lie is the reason you got the interview or job in the first place!
2 – Including Irrelevant Personal Information
You don’t need to include your nationality and you definitely don’t need to mention your age. Although employers aren’t legally allowed to dismiss your application based solely on how old you are, you’ll never know if that’s the reason they rejected you. Other needless data includes ethnicity, sexual orientation, health status and marital status. Finally, never include a photo with your CV; unless you’re applying for a modelling contract!
3 – Forget to Include a Cover Letter
You should attach a cover letter to your CV whether it is specified or not. It is the perfect way to reinforce your application as it allows you to expand on some of the things mentioned in your CV. However, it should NOT merely be a CV in paragraph form.
4 – Include Unnecessary References
There is no need to include references or even say ‘references provided upon request’ unless the job opening specifies it. You only have a limited amount of space to deal with so why waste it on things you don’t even need?
5 – Type or Handwrite Your CV
This should really go without saying! It makes your application look old-fashioned and outdated; plus the hiring manager may not be able to read your handwriting!
6 – Adding Fluff
Worried that your CV won’t even reach two pages? First of all, you should be able to expand on your relevant skills, education and experience and when this is achieved, you will probably be close to the limit. If not, don’t include fluff such as a long list of schools you attended or hobbies you enjoy. If it doesn’t help you get the job, leave it out!
7 – Explain Gaps in Work History
First of all, there won’t be enough space! In fact, you shouldn’t even try to explain work history gaps in your cover letter. The time and place for such explanations is during the interview.
8 – Add Negative Information
This means no mention of divorces, failed exams, driving license points and failed business start-up attempts. Additionally, don’t complain about a previous employer or even give reasons why you left. You’ll be up against stiff competition for the role, don’t give the hiring manager any reason to discard your application.
9 – Include Jargon Unless Necessary
Adding technical terms and acronyms to a CV is seldom a good idea. While it can show off your expertise, you have to remember that then hiring manager is probably not an expert in the field and will have no clue what you’re talking about.
10 – Mention Money
Once again, all mentions of salaries and benefits can wait until the interview stage and only when the recruiter asks you the question.