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Tips on writing a CV

Updated on October 7, 2011

Writing a CV - Why a Good CV is Important

Think of writing a CV as writing the first impression a potential employer will have of you, and of course you know that first impressions count.

As someone who has ploughed through possibly 1000's of application CV's in my time I hope these tips on writing a cv will prove of use to you.

The first thing to remember is that your CV is normally your first contact with a prospective employer - so you need to pay attention to the impression your CV will make, as you don't get a second chance to make that first impression.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading a pile of 50 CVs of which yours is one. You want to make your CV stand out from the crowd - the trick is making it stand out for the right reasons.

Write a CV that Stands Out (for the right reasons)

CV's generally fall into 3 categories:

1. Those that are memorable because they are so bad ~ I'm talking ripped, scrunched up, poorly written, hand-written on postcards - or - and this is a cardinal sin as it's so easy to avoid - they've been checked by an online spell-checker but not by a human which leads to mistakes such as 'my hobbies include flour arranging' or writing 'there' instead of 'their'. It's especially damming to the applicant if at some point in their CV they have stated that one of their strengths is 'great attention to detail'.

2. The majority of CV's are perfectly okay, well written but without the wow factor.

3. The best - those CVs which make the applicant sound like a person you want to interview - that's the sort of CV you want to aim for, and it doesn't matter whether it's your first job or you're the CEO of a multi-national, getting it right is as applicable and achievable to both.

The good news is that writing a good CV isn't difficult, it just takes time, attention to detail and adhering to a few guidelines that will be covered here.

Curriculum Vitae Layout - General Tips on Writing a Good CV

General CV Points:

For the mast majority of people a CV should not exceed 2 pages of A4 paper - and by 2 pages I mean 2 sides not 2 sheets. In the world of CV's less is definitely more.

Your CV needs to be well spaced, written in no larger than 12pt and no smaller than 10pt  and easy to look at. You don't want the person reading your CV to have to search though the information to get the relevant points, you want them to be able to see it clearly.

Curriculum Vitae Layout

All CVs should start at the top with your name and personal details such as contact number, address, date of birth etc. It can help if you split the information into 2 columns so it takes up less space.

Next should be a personal statement ~ this is your chance to make a good impression and the right personal statement will get you further than all the qualifications in the world. The critical thing is to match the personal statement to the job requirements i.e. if the job is for a data entry clerk within a finance team your personal statement could include something like 'I am an efficient worker with good attention to detail and enjoy working in a team'. There is plenty of advice to be found on the Internet around the subject of personal statements for CV's.

Experience and Qualifications

This part of the CV will be different depending on whether you are looking for your first job or have a good employment history behind you.

If it's your first job, or you don't have much employment history then it's good to list any qualifications you have here ~ either academic or vocational (normally they would go at the end).

Another good item for this point in a CV is 'Technical Skills and Abilities'. This is not hobbies and interests which do go at the end, but more a chance for you to state skills you've learnt though life - with examples: i.e.

Good Communication Skills gained through chairing local organisations

PC literate

Run local brownie group

Coach local football team

Any experience you've gained through volunteering is useful here (if relevant)

These are things you may not have qualifications for but show great life skills which demonstrate to a potential employee the type of person you are.

Employment History

 When stating your employment history there are a few things to remember:

  • Make it relevant to the job you're applying for even if it's not immediately obvious ~ i.e. if you're going for a job fixing washing machines when all you've fixed before is cars break it down to the technical level of how you would diagnose a problem and where the similarities are.
  • Don't use too much jargon especially if in company specific to the last place you worked ~ using a load of language the person reading your CV doesn't understand isn't a way to endear yourself to them.
  • Don't write anything you can't substantiate - don't say you were line manager for a team of 10 when really you occasionally supervised a team of 2 ~ you will get found out and when you do, no matter how good you are, your honesty has been called into question.
  • The space you give to each job should be relevant to how long ago it was - you don't need to give the same amount of space to the paper round you did 10 years ago as you do to the supervisory position you did last ~ it's your current experience that counts.

And Finally a Word on Hobbies and Interests

 A lot of people fail to realise how important this section is ~ or how revealing.

It's always the 2nd thing I read on a CV after the personal statement and it can tell me a lot about the person.

It's good to have a selection of interests listed, and it's good to expand on them slightly for example cooking seems to be a fairly default one but is isn't half as interesting as reading that something likes to cook at least one new recipe a week ~ this can demonstrate a desire to learn.

Don't go too far and list 100's of hobbies ~ the first thing an employer will think is when will you have time to work.

Don't go overboard and state something like 'I'm a huge football fan and never miss a game even if it means going abroad or missing my brothers wedding' - you're applying for a job where your attendance is required and you can't pick and choose what time off you have.

Should You Use a CV Layout Template

It's fine to use a CV layout template as a starting point for your CV and there is no shortage of free cv templates available to download.

Just remember that the template you're using will be being used by many, many other people for exactly the same purpose ~ and however pretty and pro looking the template is, it's the information you put in the template that will make the difference as to whether you get that all important interview.

At the Interview

 Having a good CV will get you through the door. After that it's all up to you so it can be helpful to know what employers look for when they interview prospective employees.


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    • profile image

      Free cv 6 years ago

      I am currently looking for writing a perfect cv, one of my friend told me to add Job related keywords to cv which help in cv scanning process. I have a short gap in my work history, where i went travelling - i thinking to mention it. what do you say ? please reply.


    • cre8tive profile image

      cre8tive 6 years ago from U.K


      I would mention the gap you talk about - travelling is a good reason for a gap in work history and can demonstrate additional skills to an employer.

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