CV Writing Advice & Techniques

CV Writing Advice & Techniques

Curriculum Vitae literally translated means the story of your life. A CV will not secure you a job but it is responsible for getting you the interview. The CV is the only point of the recruitment process that you control and although it’s the first contact you have to showcase your skills and experience, a CV can continue to work in your favour after it has obtained you the interview. It can help to focus the interviewer’s mind on your good points and your achievements during the interview and continue to work in your favour when the interviewer re-reads it before making decisions with regard to second interviews and job offers.

What information should a CV contain?

The basic set of information is as follows:-

  • Your name.
  • Your address.
  • Contact number.
  • Your email address (if possible).
  • Profile – including your key skills and strengths and why you would be suited to the position. The profile section is where you can sell yourself!
  • Your employment history, current or most recent position first.
  • Your education history, most recent first.

What information should be left out?

  • Any negatives, or any sort of failure eg. exams, marriages, business etc.
  • Photos – unless you are a model, actor, actress, air cabin crew or something of this nature you do not normally include photos of yourself.
  • Reasons for leaving each job.
  • Salary expectation – this could be used to reject your application. If an advertisement or application specifically requests this information then include it within your covering letter.
  • Leave out age, include date of birth instead. Also leave out weight, height, health or any other personal information that is irrelevant to your application.
  • Patterns or fancy borders – these can detract from your presentation.
  • Title pages, binders and folders are usually unnecessary and can put people off.
  • Do not use poor quality photocopies of your CV – it could be interpreted that you have been sending off many CV’s and are not concerned who you work for.
  • Do not use coloured paper as your CV may be faxed, photocopied and scanned several times and therefore defeat any attempts at trying to be different.

Why are CV’s rejected?

First impressions are important. If your CV does not attract the reader’s attention in the first 20-30 seconds then your chances of obtaining an interview are greatly reduced. An employer may have a hundred or more CV’s to look through and probably only a couple of hours in which to make their selection. Put your work experience at the start of your CV, not the personal or educational details, (unless you have only just left education). An employer is looking for one thing, and that is, should they invite you for an interview? For this reason a short summary of your capabilities and/or a list of your major achievements can often be a good idea, but be careful that you do not oversell yourself. The visual layout of your CV is very important. Even though the wording you use may be correct, if people cannot find the information they want quickly they will move on to someone else’s CV. You should use plenty of “white” space in your CV and appropriate headings and section breaks. Use good quality A4 paper, preferably 100gram for both your CV and covering letter.

Length of CV

It is usually best to try and keep your CV to two pages of A4, unless someone specifically asks you for a longer CV. If you cannot keep your CV to this length then you probably have not understood an employer’s requirements. Employers do not want to know your whole life history – just enough to decide whether they should interview you or not.

Organising the information on your CV

If your CV is not well organised then the reader will find it hard to follow and will not be able to build up a picture of you quickly. Remember the reader will not spend very long looking at your CV – so if they cannot find what they want they will not bother to read any further.

Overwritten – long paragraphs and sentences

This makes it difficult to read quickly – try and keep your sentences short and punchy and use bullet points to break the text under section headings.

Too little information

You need to shout about your achievements! Please remember that your CV is your sales document to an employer. If it does not tell an employer why they should employ you then it has failed. An employer will only want to employ you if they can see a benefit in it for themselves. So do tell them the benefits of employing you.

Mis-spellings, typographical errors, poor grammar

Your CV should be carefully checked for errors before you send it to employers. Tiny errors in your CV can detract from an otherwise good CV and make you look lazy or careless – not the sort of qualities you want to portray to an employer. As you will probably be “blind” to these errors you should get someone else to check your CV for grammar and spelling errors.

CV tips

  1. Keep your CV to the point. As a guide you should aim for 2 pages. Anything over 4 pages is too long -companies do not have the time to read CV’s of this length.
  2. Don’t sell yourself short. This is by far the biggest mistake of all CV’s. Treat your CV as an advertisement for you. Be sure to thoroughly “sell” yourself by highlighting all of your strengths.
  3. Make sure people know when and where and how to find you in as many ways as possible. This communicates that your job search is important to you, and that you value the time and convenience of anyone trying to communicate with you about an opportunity.
  4. Stick to reverse chronological format. If people have to work too hard to see what you did when and where, they may just put your CV aside and move on to another which is clear, simple and straightforward. Also, as with contact information, a career history where dates are not logical implies that there may be something that you don’t want the reader to know.
  5. If there are gaps in your employment or educational history try to account for them.
  6. Define what YOU have done for each important project, what you did as a team member or solo and what impact it may have had, as well as anything special that was accomplished. Also, where relevant, explain what technology was used in the completion of each task. Key technologies should not just be mentioned in a list at the top of the CV. A client should be able to see where, when and how these technologies were used by you.
  7. Don’t include EVERYTHING. For instance, leave out personal details about your hobbies or your family. You need not describe experience that is fifteen years old in the same detail as work you did last year. The phrase “Prior to 19XX – details on request”, should help limit the size of your document, while ensuring that the space is given to describing your most relevant and recent experience.
  8. Be sure that your key technical credentials are visible both through the human and the electronic eye. Include, even repeat, as many key words and phrases as possible, that define your technical strengths. These “magic words” will be searched for in matching your credentials to available jobs. If your document has been electronically scanned in to a database the keyword search may be sensitive to one spelling of a term and not another. It may even rank you by the frequency with which a particular word appears on your CV.
  9. Do not start the CV with an “objective”, it might rule you out if it is misinterpreted. You will get a better response with a declaration of what you have to offer a client, rather than a statement of what you want from the client. Instead, write a summary paragraph of your key skills and accomplishments (profile), that will set the tone for how the client perceives you while reading your CV.
  10. Proof your document once, twice and again before sending it out. If your CV and cover letter suffer from poor spelling, mistakes and grammar, disorganisation or sloppy execution, the client will probably feel this also is a reflection of the quality of your work.
  11. Finally, don’t forget that Shepherd Stubbs is dedicated to helping you market your experience and skills to their best advantage – so if in doubt ask!