Test A CV is essentially a first impression. Employers cannot possibly meet every candidate so your CV is effectively the first round of interviews. No matter how knowledgeable or charming you might be in real life, if that doesn’t come to life on paper, you may find you miss out. A well-written CV should therefore showcase your key skills, strengths and achievements to potential employers in a clear and succinct way.
There are three style options when writing a CV: chronological, functional or a mix of both. The chronological style is the most widely used and should demonstrate increasing job responsibility and consistent progress over the course of your career so far. However, if you’re switching from one field to another, a functional CV might be a better alternative, as it shifts the focus from previous job positions and employment dates to transferable skills. But be aware that potential employers can be wary of functional CVs, as it is difficult to follow an employment record.
The five second rule
Unless you are applying for a very senior position, chances are that your CV is one of the hundreds that the company has received. In such a situation, it is likely that the person going through the CVs will look for a few important criteria and keywords, rather than reading the whole document. You therefore need to make sure that have the most relevant information upfront and don’t include anything unnecessary that may distract the reader.
Your most recent work experience should generally be at the top. Feel free to highlight certain things that you want to pop out in bold. When formatting your CV, try to ensure that it is equally effective when reviews for five seconds as well as for five minutes.
The right length
The best length for a CV is two A4 size pages, which should highlight all previous positions and responsibilities. If you are just out of college, a single page may be enough, but try to avoid any empty space at the bottom. For example, if you have 1.5 pages worth of information, edit to a cover a single page or two full pages.
Longer CVs might also be acceptable and are sometimes necessary but exceeding three pages is generally not recommended. The length is sometimes affected by the way the content of the CV is organised. Bullet points and numbering are advised as opposed to using whole blocks of text, to make it easier to read. It’s also recommended that CVs are written in the ‘third person’ form, as it’s more formal and professional.
- Full name
- Address and Contact details
- Employment history including company name, job title, employment dates, main duties and responsibilities and noteworthy achievements (focusing on the most recent roles only)
- Professional qualifications (including those that are ongoing with anticipated completion dates)
- Education (New graduates should list key academic achievements)
- Brief personal profile
- Other relevant information e.g. language skills, IT skills
Some people also include their age or date of birth but that is very culture-specific. For international roles, your nationality and residency status may also be relevant.
When e-mailing the CV ensure the attached file is saved as your full name (and not ‘CV’) to prevent loss by the potential employer. The CV should be in black on white in a professional looking font like Arial or Times New Roman (11 or 12 point font size). Formatting such as bold or italics should be used for major headings.
Tailoring the CV
CVs should be tailored for each job application, matching the profile to the job description. Some people maintain two or three different versions of their CVs, each highlighting different skills or projects for different kinds of roles.
Reviewing the CV
Proof read thoroughly for grammatical, spelling or typographical errors. It’s usually a good idea to run your CV past some colleagues or friends who may spot mistakes more easily.
For Further advice please see 7 Tips for Composing a Well-Written CV.
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