10 Steps To Writing A Successful CVMarch 29th 2022
Writing a CV, especially when you’re a graduate or school leaver, can be incredibly daunting: you’re beginning your career journey and don’t want to start on the wrong foot. They are challenging documents that have to be both concise and full of detail simultaneously. There is, for want of a better word, an art to writing a good CV.
Luckily, there are heaps of advice online, from school career departments and from recruiters, that can help you prepare your very first CV...including us!
Note: although we have aimed the below advice at younger workers who are leaving school or university, it’s still jam-packed with advice for any professional at any stage of their career.
Let’s talk about CV structure. Here is what we define as the “structure” of a CV. Although industry by industry, there are different expectations in regards to a CV and the information it contains (for example, a Retail Customer Service Manager will have a very different look and feel to their CV than that of a Stock Broker), the below order is your base CV - include the below and build from there.
However, the devil is in the detail, so we thought we’d list our top 10 steps to writing a successful CV.
1. Get the basics right!
Everything you do on your CV steps from discipline to detail - remember, your employer is using a CV to build a first impression of you as a potential employee, which means every error could spell disaster for your application. So you want to avoid any basic errors, or you will be perceived as someone who is not detail-focused.
The basics mean just that - spelling, grammar, your name, your address, everything!
Remember - your CV is a window into your passions, your experience, your career, and your goals for the future. Triple-check every word. If it helps, get someone you trust to review it to look for any errors.
2. Choose a neutral font
We suggest writing a resume in a neutral font - that is, one of the 3 main fonts on any word processor - Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial.
We urge you to not write a CV in Comic Sans or any more “characterful” lettering. Your resume has to be professional, after all, and choosing a flowery font can be seen as a distraction.
3. Picture or no picture?
There is no hard and fast rule about not including a picture on a CV, but for the sake of fairness and reducing bias, we suggest not including one.
You want your experience, character, and passions to shine on your CV. The fairest way for an employer to make a value judgement on your applicability to do a role is to only consider your career/education to date objectively.
However, if you want to include a picture, make sure it’s a thumbnail-sized photo (no bigger!), professionally framed and dressed, placed next to your name and other details such as phone number and address.
4. 2 pages are enough
The debate on “how long should a CV be?” has raged for decades and won’t stop raging any time soon.
But the most popular consensus is 2 pages. No more.
5. How much should I write about myself?
We urge you to include a section about you!
This doesn’t mean writing an essay. But your CV is more than a dry list of your accomplishments. You are allowed to, and expected to, talk about who you are away from work.
What do you like? What drives you? What do you work for?
We suggest not making this section any more than 200 words, but no less than 100, placed at the beginning of the CV.
6. Make your experience chronological
Although this seems like a minor consideration, it’s one of the most important formatting decisions you could make.
You want your prospective employer to read all about what you are right now and trace a line back through your career, experiences, and education to your formative youth.
This is the most orderly way to display your career credentials and is absolutely industry standard.
7. Do I include my qualifications?
Yes, absolutely. We suggest listing your definitive qualifications (such as work experience, voluntary placements, industry licences, awards, and industry qualifications) in a separate section to your career experience.
This not only highlights your extra-curricular achievements, but it’s a simple list for any employer to quickly get to the real meat of your career to date - this is what you’re good at!
8. What happens if I haven’t had any experience?
We want to break this down into two sections: how to write a CV when you are looking for your first job and how to write a CV when you’re looking for a new job in an industry you’ve never worked in.
Your first CV: don’t worry! You can’t be expected to know your chosen industry inside and out; this is your first job, after all. Your CV simply has to reflect your education or work experience journey to date and really hone in on your passions and wants from your first job. Instead of a “career” section, replace it with a larger “about me” section, full of detail on what you want from your job, what you value in a workplace, and how much you want to work at the company! Finally, include a variety of references in an easy-to-access reference section, so any prospective employee can easily get to know what you’re like as a student.
For those seeking a new opportunity in a new industry: the purpose of your CV is now to reference the cross-referenceable skills, experiences, and qualifications that match your new desired job. This will take a bit of research and some patience, but your resume has to resonate with decision-makers in your new industry. The key thing to remember is to make sure you’re clearly communicating why you want to move sectors, and again seek good references to bolster your agility, passion for work, and skillsets.
9. Include references!
This is so very, very important. Whether it’s references from a teacher, an old employer, a work experience senior, a sports coach, or a mentor, they are proof you are who you say you are.
It’s also encouraging to have fellow professionals speak highly of you. Most of the time, references will be bosses or senior professionals who have employed you or taught you - their words have weight! Seek them out and include their details so they can be contacted by any particular employer so they can fight your corner.
Oh, and don’t forget to seek permission to include a reference on your CV!
10. Include your phone number and email (and double-check them!)
Again, it sounds basic, but you won’t believe how many people forget to include contact details or, worse yet, get them wrong.
Do you want to be the person who was overlooked for the perfect job because you didn’t include a phone number or misspelt your email address? We didn’t think so!
Your resume is a professional “window” into your personality. Remember - they are by no means the be-all and end-all of your career journey, nor even of applying for a particular job. They are simply helpful tools to inform and inspire.
Hopefully, the above list will give you the confidence to make your CV shine!
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