Writing a winning CV
Your resume is your ticket to the interview. It is the tool that recruiters will use to distinguish your application from every other, and the basis on which you will secure a place on any recruiter’s shortlist. It should be succinct, concise, and relevant to the role you are applying for, as well as clear, well laid out and easy to read. Getting all this right may seem like a tall order. But the following steps will help you make sure that you communicate what you need to, in a way that will ensure that your resume reflects you and your skills accurately and positively.
Your resume should be much more than just a list of information, it is a reflection of you, your ability to present information, and how you have prioritised your skills and experience. On average, a reviewer will spend 60 seconds assessing your CV, so it needs to look good, even at an initial glance. The following should help you make sure that your presentation gets you a step closer to interview:
- Keep the CV to a maximum of 2 or 3 pages. The purpose of a resume is to give sufficient information, and make a strong enough impression to get you shortlisted for an interview. It should merely entice the reader to invite you to the next stage to talk in greater depth.
- Your CV should be a word document, not embedded in the body of an email. Not only does this look lazy but if you are dealing with recruitment agencies, many will not be able to register your CV on their database in this format.
- Font size should be no smaller than 11 or 12, depending on space restrictions as it makes the resume difficult to read. Avoid using fancy or elaborate fonts and colours as these distract from the information you are trying to present. Use standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Garamond or Courier. Try not to vary your font too greatly either, with a maximum of 2 header types. Headers should remain consistent throughout the document
- Tabs and spacing should also be applied consistently and used to the same effect as variation and a lack of thought makes your resume look disjointed and messy.
- Always spell-check and if in doubt ask someone to check the grammar, bad spelling creates a very poor impression and differentiates you in a negative way.
- Do not password protect the CV – it wastes the reviewer’s time. CV’s should also be presented in Word format as opposed to Acrobat, most particularly if you are using recruitment consultancies.
- Personal details are usually presented to the fore of a CV, although not always.
- Your name should be immediately visible on the CV.
- Contact details should be kept brief including your email and telephone number. Your postal and residential address should also be included email@example.com
- Sometimes it is worth putting a 2 or 3 line paragraph at the start of the resume summarising your key skill sets as you see them, and your objectives for securing your next career move. Do not go over the top with this and make sure that it is a real reflection of you.
- After your personal details, there is often debate as to whether your ‘Experience’ or ‘Qualifications’ should be detailed next. As a rule of thumb, which ever you have more of should take precedence. For example, if you have recently graduated, your qualifications will be more pertinent, so this should come first, however, the more experienced you become, the greater relevance this information will have and this should then take priority.
- Similarly, as your career progresses, do not include educational details that are not relevant to the position e.g. junior school qualifications and subjects taken, where other later qualifications are more relevant such as degrees and MBAs.
- Presentation – highlight what is most important: Degree specialisation/result/ university attended. Think carefully about what, as an employer, you would want to know.
- Experience should be detailed in reverse chronological order, i.e. starting with the most recent first. You should include the dates during which you have held your previous and current positions.
- As your career progresses and you are struggling to keep your CV concise given the breadth of work experience, be sure to prioritise your most recent roles, detailing earlier experience more concisely, particularly if it is not relevant to the role you are applying for.
- At all times, you should be considering what elements of your experience to date will be most attractive to a potential employer. Have you worked for companies with a particularly strong reputation? Have you held positions of significant responsibility? Have you attended a very good University or obtained a qualification likely to distinguish you from your peers? Whichever is most likely to set you apart from the field should be emphasised most strongly.
- When outlining the responsibilities you held with each position you should identify the most significant, as well as any major initiatives you effected outside of your core remit. Ensure that it is clear and concise - bullet points are an effective tool in this part of your CV.
- Hobbies and other interests should be detailed at the end of the resume.
- It is advisable not to show your references on your CV, but to include a line that says 'References will be provided on request'. This way you are communicating that references are available, however, they remain confidential until you have reached a point in the recruitment process that requires this additional kind of information.
Avoid these unless you are specifically requested to provide one.
Remember, the objective of the CV is to get you short listed for an interview. To make sure that you get this far, you need to prove that you not only are the right candidate, but that you have taken time and care over your application. Your CV should be tailored for every role that you apply for, if the position that you are applying for, has specific requirements, you may need to emphasise certain skills sets, attributes, responsibilities or qualifications. Do not be afraid of emphasising aspects of your experience that will be of greatest interest to a future employer.