Your Curriculum Vitae is an essential element of any job application as it outlines your skills, education and work experience to potential employers. Although your CV should be structured within a certain framework, its contents will be unique to every individual.
The best way to think of a CV is as a marketing tool. When you apply for a job, you need to persuade the company to hire you above dozens if not hundreds of candidates.
The only way to achieve this is to create a CV that is not only tailored to the role in question but also showcases your abilities and experience in a way that makes you intriguing to the hiring organisation.
We will show you the right way to craft a winning CV including information on structure, tips and mistakes to avoid.
Although you have certain leeway, most CVs will follow a fairly established structure which is outlined below.
This includes your full name, address, email address and mobile phone number. You don’t necessarily have to include your full address; your general area is often sufficient if you don’t live in a big city.
A lot of people leave this out of their CV which is a big mistake. This section acts as an introduction to your background and is an immediate opportunity to ‘sell’ yourself. You can use this section to include the most salient facts about yourself related to the job description.
Include 1-2 sentences to summarise your experience and skills and add an achievement if relevant. If space becomes an issue, transfer personal profile information to the Skills section of the CV.
There is no need to waste a huge amount of space on this section. Include your college and secondary school education and only go into detail with achievements that relate to the job opening. Obviously, it is a good idea to briefly include information about your Accounting degree when applying for an Accounting job!
Be sure to add any professional qualifications as these can help you stand out in your field. Include your educational details in reverse chronological order with the most recent details first on the page.
In most cases, there is no need to include more than three previous positions. Again, these should be added in reverse chronological order.
When describing these roles, try to emphasise the ways in which you assisted your employer. Hiring managers are tired of reading work histories which outline dull tasks that don’t tell them anything about the applicant.
If you worked as a barman, for example, you could include details about how you handled customer complaints and were trusted to count the cash, check the receipts and store the money away at night.
You must include specific data if you can when discussing achievements at work. “Helped the company increase its revenue” isn’t good enough; it needs to be something like “implemented new sales strategy which helped the company increase its year-on-year revenue by 20%.”
Add 5-6 skills and show examples of how you used these skills in the workplace to help your previous employers. Your best bet is to thoroughly read the job description and think about how to make your existing skills ‘fit’. There are three main kinds of skills:
• Transferable: Skills gained in one setting that can be used in a variety of other workplace settings. Sought after transferable skills include Management Experience, Commercial Skills, the Ability to meet Deadlines and Computer Skills.
• Job-Related: These skills relate to a specific role or trade and examples include Mechanical Engineering skills, Accountancy qualifications and Nursing skills.
• Adaptive: These skills are generally related to your personality and aren’t so easy to quantify. Examples include Adaptability, Teamworking, Positivity and Creativity.
Incidentally, the skills employers seek most include:
• Problem Solving
• Commercial Awareness (Business Acumen)
• The Ability to work under Pressure
Hobbies & Interests
Try to include information that links back to the job opening. Hiring managers don’t really care if you enjoy Saturday matinees. Try to include hobbies and interests that relate to a team setting. If all your interests involve going solo, employers may not believe you possess the team working skills they require.
Unless the job opening specifically requests it, you don’t necessarily need to add references. Certainly, don’t write ‘references available upon request’. If you do include references, make sure you have two individuals who will ‘vouch’ for you. Add their names, email addresses and phone numbers and contact them before sending your CV to make sure they are still willing to act as references and that their contact details are correct.
If you’re applying for an opening you saw on www.nijobs.com, or any other online platform, it is imperative that you use keywords. As well as getting you past a company’s software scans, including keywords relevant to the job opening immediately tells the hiring manager that you’re a potential fit. You’ll find the right keywords in the job description and then you can include them in your Skills, Work Experience and Personal Profile sections. Just make sure they sound natural and not spammy!
Use ‘Action’ Words
Add some ‘punch’ to your CV by including words such as ‘organised’, ‘planned’ and ‘developed’ as this makes your application more readable. It is also a good idea to include bullet points as they are easier to skim than blocks of text.
Show Your Value
When describing your work experience, focus on things such as providing high-quality service to customers, solving problems and leading a team. Don’t waste space by discussing the ‘routine’ tasks in the job unless you’re applying for casual short-term work.
Make it Easy to Read
Keep your CV down to 2 x A4 pages. You can comfortably fit everything you need into this space. Most hiring managers won’t even look at a CV beyond that length. Add bullet points to make the application more readable and choose your font wisely! Times New Roman, Verdana, Lucida Sans and a handful of others in size 10 or 11 is the best choice.
What to Avoid
A single careless mistake might be all that’s needed to torpedo your application. Here are a few errors to avoid.
Mistakes in Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation
There is no excuse for this and you can’t rely on Spell-check! Ask a friend to proofread it for you and check it yourself. Even a minor mistake can see your application thrown on the rejection pile.
There is very little chance of getting away with lies in the modern era as employers are more diligent than ever. When you lie, you showcase your dishonesty and your application will be ripped up. Incidentally, there is such a thing as ‘degree fraud’; this means purposely changing your degree grade on your CV. In certain cases, this could lead to a spell in prison!
Including Irrelevant Information
Details such as your age, date of birth, place of birth, ethnicity or sexual orientation should be left out. Including these details gives an employer the chance to consciously or subconsciously reject your application. The same goes for including a photo; just don’t do it!
Explaining Work Gaps
You can briefly allude to the reasons why there are gaps in your CV in your Cover Letter and be ready to explain if and when you get an interview.
When it comes to your Personal Profile, Skills and even Work Experience sections, you must tailor your CV for every single job application. Look at the job description and only include information that shows you’re the right person for that particular opening. Don’t be afraid to get rid of experiences or skills that are practically irrelevant; you can always use them later for a more appropriate job opening.
You can’t simply say you “have leadership experience” without providing examples of when you helped an employer by leading a team. Don’t make any statements unless you can back them up with cold, hard data.
If you’re sending out CVs and wondering why you’re not getting called in for interviews, perhaps you’re making the mistakes mentioned above or else you’re not following the best practices of CV writing.
A CV is a marketing document but you have to show why you’re the best person for the job rather than just outlining how amazing you are in general.
Remember, recruiters and hiring managers will have their hands full with applications and are just waiting for a reason to reject a CV. Follow the CV tips outlined above so you don’t give them that option!
In summation, your CV must show that you have the requisite skills and experience for the job and communicate your value quickly and effectively.