How to write the perfect CV in 10 steps
Employers will spend an average of 8 seconds looking at your CV. In this competitive job market, how can you ensure that your CV is the one that stands out? Here’s a guide to writing the perfect CV
1) Be clear on your purpose. The point of your CV is to get you invited for an interview. Ensure that all information on your CV is relevant to the position and company you are applying to. Be harsh and ask yourself the question, “will this make them want to interview me?”
2) Do your research. Generic CVs are boring and will most likely go in the ‘no’ pile. It’s vital to tailor your CV to each company – it shows passion and commitment and will help differentiate you from the competition. Find out what the role you’re applying for requires and demonstrate your experience in each area. Find out what type of company you’re applying to and show why you’d be perfect for them. How to do this? Get creative – read trade press, interview a present or past employee or spend an hour on Linked In
3) What to include. Name at the top. Bold. Centred. Mission statement below this. Employment History section (role, company, dates, 4 relevant bullet points). Achievements section. Education section. Personal Information.
4) Make it sexy. Statistics are good, for example, “during my time with X I saved the department £750,000 through improving processes”. Achievements are good, such as, “I was the youngest person to be promoted to manager in 50 years”
5) Don’t lie. There is a world of difference between presenting yourself in a relevant light and either making things up or omitting important details. Just don’t do it.
6) The 'So What test'. This is my favourite trick. For every bit of information you have on your CV, put yourself in the shoes of your potential employer and ask, “so what?”. Consider the difference for the following application for a sales role:
I run 4 times a week and am learning to play the guitar
So what? It’s interesting but not relevant
I run 4 times a week with my local club, of which I’m an active committee member and completed my first marathon in November
So what? This person is motivated, goal-orientated and a team player – all good for sales
7) First impressions. You need a mission statement. This should be no more than 4 lines long and demonstrates concisely and compellingly why you are the right person for them. Avoid clichés such as “proven track record” or “motivated team player”, remember the aim is to stand out and you’ve only got 8 seconds. You should also state what your goal is, for example “to apply my creative techniques within a forward-thinking consultancy that’s looking to develop an international division”. (Tip: you need to apply your research here – they should match). If you would like help working out your mission statement, get in touch
8) How do I make it pretty? You don’t. Make it relevant to your industry. If you’re an engineer, don’t use a swirly font. If you’re a creative, you can add a picture or use coloured paper. If you don’t know, ask more senior people in your industry. Some general guidelines; one to two pages of A4 (relevance is more important than length), professional font (Arial is my favourite), size 12, well-spaced and formatted, impeccable grammar and spelling (you don’t want your CV filed under B for Bin because you can’t use apostrophe s – get it checked). If it’s being posted, use nice quality paper, if emailed, send as an attachment. Make sure there’s a covering letter (more on this later)
9) Make sure it gets to the right person. If it’s an agency, phone to check you’re sending it to the most relevant person and check their email address. Confirm they’ve received it. Ask to meet them, if you develop a relationship they’ll work harder on your behalf. Same goes for if you’re applying directly to a company. Be proactive too, is there anyone in your network you could ask to put in a good word for you? Could you send your CV in the post too to differentiate yourself? A word of caution here though – there is a line between passion and proactivity and stalkerish behaviour – don’t shoot yourself in the foot!
10) As soon as you’ve got your interview, the CV just becomes a reference resource – this is now your opportunity to dazzle them with your personality and expand on any points – and where the real hard work starts!
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