Your CV is an important sales document. Its aim is to get you an interview, so it’s essential that it’s as professional-looking and relevant as possible. Although there is no ‘correct’ way of writing a CV, there are a number of conventions that make it easier to read, which will help guide the reader through your information.
Bearing this in mind, there are some clear points to avoid, and some things to include, in any CV.
- Target your CV specifically to the job and company you’re applying to (more information about how to do this appears later in the article). Generic CVs do not stand out and will not get employers’ attention.
- Keep the information relevant. The employer doesn’t want to read your entire life story, only the bits that relate to the job on offer.
- Be clear and concise. Avoid waffling, as this can put the reader off.
- Check your presentation! Things like spelling and grammatical mistakes or poor layout make a bad first impression. Many employers will screen CVs on spelling and grammatical errors; too many and your CV may not pass the first round. If you post your CV to an employer, make sure the paper is pristine, i.e. no coffee rings or dog-eared corners.
- Think about your hobbies and interests. If you decide to include this section, think about what it says about you. If you claim to be a team player on your CV, but your hobbies include walking your dog and spending time by yourself, this may raise some questions.
- Always send a cover letter. You should never send a CV, either by post or by email, without a covering letter. This should be one side of A4, explaining why you are applying for the job and what skills and qualities make you a suitable applicant. It should be in the same font and on the same type of paper as your CV, so that the two documents obviously go together.
- Get too creative with the format. It’s great if your CV stands out, but it’s important that the reader can easily find the information they want. Pictures, unusual fonts and colors can look unprofessional, and often do not look good once they have been photocopied or faxed. Stick to a standard font (e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman) and a standard size (11 or 12).
- Write too much or too little. Your CV should be no longer or shorter than two sides of A4 (one and a half pages is not acceptable) and should use bullet points o present information, such as the duties you performed in previous jobs. Overlong CVs or those with large blocks of text are very off-putting to the reader.
- Lie! It sounds obvious, but it’s really important to be as truthful as possible on your CV. You’re likely to get found out if you’re not, and it could cost you the job if you’ve already started work.
- Write ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top. It’s obvious what the document is (you wouldn’t write ‘A Letter’ at the top of a letter), so put your name at the top instead.