Tips for Writing a Great CV

January has been and gone and maybe a few New Years Resolutions have done the same already too. Dry January anyone? Still making the gym 3 times a week…? If you’ve kept to your resolutions so far well done and keep going! Maybe you resolved to have a new career or job role? You put your CV out there but as yet have had little or no success? If this is the case, then maybe your CV just isn’t doing you justice? In which case my top 10 tips may just help you to refine it so you get your foot in the door a little more successfully…. In no particular order…

First Page Counts!

The first page of your CV can make or break it, assuming it will fill more than one. If your academic results were from 20 years ago then don’t put these here but focus on your current role. However, if you are in your first few years of entering work, then academics count more that a summer job in the local coffee shop. Also, don’t waste space with a skills list if they can’t be qualified “Good under pressure”, “Leader”, “Team Player” will not cut the mustard, whereas “Experienced Agile worker for 5 years,” “Published expert in UX,” “10 years Project Management experience,” will differentiate you and give the reader valuable insight quickly.

Do Explain your Recent Company and Role!

To you it may be obvious that WibbleCo is the leading Digital Marketing Agent in the North West but don’t expect this to be obvious to the person reading your CV! Always give a brief explanation of the industry and function of your prior companies. It only needs to be a sentence, two max, and then relate your role to the business, again giving a couple of sentences to explain what your role was focussed on achieving. Once this is done you can bullet point your major achievements, awards, projects etc. But limit these to 4 – 5 and after your last 10-15 years’ experience your roles need only be one-line summaries, unless this is a senior role which requires further demonstration of career experience.

Don’t forget to Spellcheck!

This sounds obvious but there is more to it than relying on Word. Read through the CV – make sure it makes sense and the correct use of words is chosen – don’t mix up their/there/they’re or were/where/ we’re for example! And BEWARE words in full capital letters – Word processing documents often ignore these for spell checking and it doesn’t look good to spell your job title incorrectly! It happens more than you think…

Don’t be overly creative!

OK, if you’re applying for a creative role then maybe a little colour and some carefully chosen graphics can help but that aside your CV doesn’t want to be overly decorated! The focus should really be the content and whilst presentation is important, a professional looking document which is easy to read and follow will trump those with rare fonts and plentiful graphics. Don’t mix fonts and only have 2-3 changes in font size – and go for standard ones such as Arial and Calibri. Be consistent – don’t change from one font to another between paragraphs and bullets! Also bear in mind that CV sifting tools/aggregators will often struggle with graphics etc so if this is the way you go make sure it is a pdf and not a word processing document.

Don’t add your photo!

You may well be proud of a picture taken professionally (or otherwise) but adding it to a CV in most cases is just not necessary. You want to be judged on your experience and skills not how you look on camera.

Choosing whether 1st or 3rd Person…

Some prefer 3rd person and see it as more professional (He/She/They…). Other use the 1st person (I…). the most important thing is to pick one and stick to it – never mix 1st and 3rd person. Additionally, don’t overuse them. Starting every sentence with “He”/”She” or “I” will quickly sound repetitive and dull. More often that not they can be omitted completely – “Achieved project deadlines 100% of the time” vs “I achieved…” is perfectly acceptable. Consider omitting completely from a CV since it is pretty obvious you were the person “doing” things on your own CV!

Do add your Education and Qualifications

Make sure you list of qualifications and educational achievements is accurate and up to date. If you are worried about them indicating your age then remove dates for your school/university ones. However, don’t include awards which are not relevant to your career success – being awarded star coffee maker isn’t going to make an impression unless you’re applying to be a barista!

Avoid wordy personal summaries

Keep these short and to the point. Avoid subjective personal assessments such as “I am the hardest working individual” and stick to things that motivate you, what you want to achieve and your values.

Don’t add your Date of Birth

It isn’t needed and serves no purpose. For the same reasons don’t include marital status and religious preferences. This is a CV demonstrating your ability not your personal life.

Keep it Up to Date!

If you’ve uploaded your CV to a job site don’t forget to update it with any changes in your career! Once you add a new role don’t forget that you may have to change the current tense used on your prior role to the past tense. It never looks good that you are “currently working on the biggest project of your career” on the job you finished 2 years ago.