The ultimate CV guide
There are hundreds of thousands of articles online on CV Tips, how to write your CV, what to include, what NOT to include, etc. We wanted to share what, in our experience as recruitment experts, works best.
Firstly, the format of your CV matters. It doesn’t need to be special, it just needs to be set out clearly so that a person who knows nothing about you can easily navigate the document and get the best and most accurate picture of you possible. I have come across hundreds of CVs that are so messy they are hard to read, and so it makes me reluctant to get to know the person behind it in the first place. If I have only received a handful of applications for a role I will spend time trying to read through it, but if I have 50 applications, those CVs are the first ones to get cut from the list. It is important you ensure this is not the case with you. In contrast, if your CV is inviting, easy to follow through and clear, it gives me a much clearer impression of the person who wrote it and makes my decision-making process quicker and easier, which is what hiring managers appreciate and therefore what your CV should aim to do.
It is important your CV goes from general to specific. What does this mean? Your CV should be laid out in the following order: name and contact details, personal statement, skills, work experience and qualifications.
- The personal statement should capture your experience and attitude in a few sentences. The first sentence should sum up what you do e.g. “highly experienced salesperson with X years’ experience”. Make sure you relay the qualities that the job you are applying to marks as important e.g. adaptability, planning skills, communication, etc. Use power verbs, adjectives and phrases to stand out from the crowd, such as: exceptional, innovative thinker, target over-achievement, talented in X, etc.
- Skills – this is one of the most important sections of your CV. You should write at least 10-12 skills (in bullet points, then separated into columns to take up less space) that relate to the role you are after. Have a look at 3 to 4 job adverts for roles you want to land. Go to the requirements section and have a look at the wording they use and the skills they are after. Include the skills you have from that list in this section and use the same wording whenever possible to increase your chances of being noticed. Keep them short and straight to the point.
- Work experience – here is where you list the roles you have had in the past. It should not look like a job description. Under each role, detail your main functions, especially the ones which are transferable to the role you are after, but make sure to highlight your key, measurable achievements while at the role. They need to be quantifiable so the hiring manager can get an idea of what you could realistically do for their company. For instance, your key achievement could be “Every year I exceeded my sales from the previous year by 10%”. The hiring manager will know you are a great salesperson who is focused on growth and that you will bring the same energy and attitude to the new role.
- Education – list your qualifications, the institution where you got them from and the date you got each of them. If you have a degree, you do not necessarily need to list your A Levels but you can if you want to. If the role you want relates to your degree, ensure you list the relevant modules you took.
Following this structure, you go from general to specific: your personal statement and skills sections will give the hiring manager an overview of what you can do, and then your work experience will give more specific examples of what you have done and achieved in your time working at those roles, which is why it is important to highlight key achievements. The education will also let them know what courses you have taken that qualify you for the role.
Throughout your CV, it is important to use powerful verbs and adjective to describe what you can do and have done. I have come across many CVs where sentences such as “I had to do X” or “I was given X task”, which tell me the author of the CV is passive, so if I am looking to fill a managerial position, the CVs with this wording get cut out of the list. In contract, CVs with wording such as “I devised an implemented a new method that saved the company 20% of their budget” or “I successfully managed X process which led to Y benefits” are more appealing and have a greater chance of being shortlisted, especially for positions which require someone proactive.
Make sure you use “I” instead of “we” as that places greater responsibility of the tasks and projects onto yourself, which is viewed in a more positive light. This is the case for interviews too.
The main takeaways from this article are that you should have a clearly structured, easy-to-follow CV with powerful verbs and adjectives. Look at a handful of job adverts for a role you would like to land and highlight the skills they need on your CV using similar wording. Ensure your key achievements for each role are measurable and that you highlight transferable skills.
If you would like a CV template, email firstname.lastname@example.org for one.