10 CV Writing TipsHere are our top ten CV writing tips:
- Less is more. You haven’t got pages and pages of space, so make every word count. Successful job applicants tend to have CVs no longer than two sides of A4. So, keep it short, succinct, and easy to read.
- If you’re printing out your CV, make sure it’s presented on a clean sheet of crisp, white, A4 paper. If there’s colour on there, make sure it’s of good quality, that images are not distorted, and it’s not in black and white. Presentation is key.
- On the other hand, if your CV’s uploaded digitally to, say, a jobs board or recruitment site, you need to think about keywords that will help Google pick your CV out before the others. For instance, an Accounting candidate might mention their analysis or forecasting skills as well as particular software or programmes they’ve used. If you’re unsure what’s appropriate for your role, look online at what words and phrases are most often mentioned in relation to your job title.
- Don’t fib! It’s a common – and all-to-risky – misconception that you’ll get away with being deceitful on your CV. Spoiler alert, you won’t! And, it will do far more harm than good if you get caught. Be sure to sell yourself on the skills you have and the experience you’ve obtained. As opposed to fabricating your ‘accomplishments’ or second-guessing what you think the employer might want to hear.
- Keep your CV completely up-to-date. Add any new experiences and skills whenever you can – it increases your chances of standing out.
- Make sure you read the job specification thoroughly. If the role you’re applying for has certain stipulations, make sure you list the required qualifications (if you have them) on your CV. You want to tailor your CV – as much as you can – to the company and position you’re applying for.
- Be mindful of font. Think ‘clear’, ‘professional’, and ‘easy to read’. ‘Comic Sans’ and ‘Old English’ are a no-no, sorry guys. Likewise, if you’re struggling with your word count, sizing your text at ‘24’ or ‘8’ – depending on your problem – is not the way to resolve the issue. The person reading will see through it. Your main text size, i.e. paragraph text (not headers) should be ‘11’.
- Steer clear of using pictures. Whilst it’s common practice in some countries, it’s advisable to avoid featuring a headshot on your CV. It has the potential to cause more issues than it’s worth, such as the age of the photo, the quality of the image, the displacement of text, and the formatting if printed by someone else, etc. The same goes for other images too – on most CVs anyway (see no. 9). However, logos of universities or previous companies, as you’ll find on LinkedIn, can add a nice touch. Just make sure they’re small, full colour, and un-pixelated.
- That said, if you’re applying for a more creative role, don’t be afraid to try something a little different colour or design-wise. Tailor your CV to the industry. Whilst this might not be appropriate for a lot of roles, for those applying for more artistic positions or graphic design jobs, your CV is an ideal opportunity to showcase some of your talent. Here are some examples to get you inspired.
- Be consistent and check your spelling! You can’t list ‘attention to detail’ as a strength in your personal statement, and then undermine yourself with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Whilst ‘Spellcheck’ is great, mistakes can still slip through the net. Check your grammar and punctuation, your use of capitals, apostrophes, and Americanised spelling before you hit that send button. It sounds basic but it might surprise you how many people let themselves down on this kind of thing.
Your Personal DetailsThis is where the important details go, such as your name, contact number, and email address. You could include your LinkedIn URL too. If you’re not on LinkedIn, sign up. It’s a great networking tool and a useful way to connect with people and look for jobs. Make sure the information you post on your profile is relevant and does not contradict what’s on your CV. Potential employers often seek to verify the information on their applications.
You could also put your Twitter handle here too if it’s relevant. If you’d rather your potential employer didn’t see your social media accounts – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram – go private! The interviewer doesn’t need to know what state you and your mates were in after a long weekend in Amsterdam three years ago…
Your Personal ProfileThis is the space to sell yourself and why you are right for this role. This section should encapsulate what you’ve done in the past, what you want to do next, and the skillset you have to bridge the two.
State the job you’re applying for and why you’re applying for it. Provide a few sentences detailing your relevant skills, attributes, and experience. Don’t worry if you run out of room, you can always expand on this in greater detail in the Employment and Skills/Qualifications sections.
The time you take to adapt your CV to the role you’re applying for will not go unnoticed and could make all the difference.
Your Education & QualificationsSo, what are our CV writing tips in relation to what you should or shouldn’t say about your education and qualifications?
- University degrees, higher education & career development courses, Diplomas, A-Levels, GCSEs, BTECs. Yes.
- Primary school SATs, 11+ grades, 50m swimming badges, cycling certificates. No.
When it comes to high school and, to a certain extent, sixth form/college, your potential employer wants to know where you went, when you went there, and what you came away with; not whether you played the triangle in the school band or Wing Defence in the Year 8 netball team. Be conscious of the fact that the person reading your CV will have a mountain of others to go through, on top of their everyday role.
One other thing that might be worth mentioning, depending on the role and its location, is whether you can drive. Some employers will look out for this, particularly if you live further afield.
Your Employment History/Work ExperienceAs you should with your ‘Education & Qualifications’, start with your current or most recent job and work backwards. Provide your job title, the organisation you work/ed for and the years you worked in the position. Then, write a brief but impactful paragraph or so about your achievements in the role, the skills you developed, and how the experience has prepared you for the role you’re applying for.
Be aware of the tense you’re using, too. As in, if you no longer work in the role, use the past tense, but if you still work in the role, use present. Be prepared for your interviewer to ask why you left one or each of the roles, though you don’t need to explain this on your CV. Also, it might be an idea to address any career breaks or gaps in your CV, for instance travelling or looking after your child/ren, as you’ll only get asked about them further down the line.
Your Hobbies, Interests & Further InformationAnother important CV writing tip is to sell your personality through your extracurricular hobbies and interests. Do you paint, attend language classes, or coach boxing sessions for youngsters? Extracurricular hobbies and interests show employers that you have another dimension. They demonstrate dedication, motivation, and a passion for other things, as well as showing that you’re a well-rounded person.
Likewise, quiz teams, five-a-side football, and book clubs all show a willingness and ability to work well in a group. Of course, if you do volunteer at a food bank or youth club, or commit to any kind of charity work, that’s amazing and definitely worth sharing. But don’t get tempted to make yourself sound a certain way. Be true to who you are.
Your ReferencesIf you’ve reached your two-page limit, create space to write: ‘References available upon request.’ Then again, if your CV is around 1 ½ or 1 ¾ pages, use the space you have left to provide full details of two references, including your most recent employer. If you don’t have a previous employer, teachers or college tutors can also act as referees.
Sam Wright is Danbro’s Marketing Manager. He produces regular content and feature articles on our digital and non-digital channels – and social platforms – for the Danbro Group and its subsidiaries, as well as having responsibility for the Company’s internal and external communications.
His background is in Journalism and Creative Writing, having previously contributed to publications such as The Daily Post, The Lancashire Evening Post, and The Blackpool Gazette.
He is a keen swimmer and avid Manchester United fan (but don’t hold that against him), and he lives in Lancashire with his wife, Sarah.