CV Writing

Top 10 CV Do's

1. Use a confident tone and positive language. Use positive words to start each sentence, such as initiated, improved, introduced, developed, negotiated, established, created, pioneered, delivered, increased, reduced, saved etc. This also helps to ensure that you’re substantiating your skills with hard evidence.

2. Concentrate on your achievements not your responsibilities. This means listing things you have done – such as products launched, sales increase, awards won – not rewriting your job description. Quote figures/financial gains whenever possible.

3. Encourage the employer to read on. Ensure that you put your most salient points on the first page of the CV to include your greatest successes and achievements and proven examples of how you have used your skills to benefit the companies you have worked for.

4. Concentrate on the quality not quantity of your achievements. Don’t hold anything back but make sure that your achievements are fantastic and not just that you are a fantastic communicator! Typically a CV should have 10 achievements on it that cover the main successes in your career to get the reader’s attention.

5. Rise above the competition. Make sure you include other skills that could set you apart from other candidates, such as languages and IT skills.

6. Keep to the point. Be ruthless with yourself and keep your CV to a maximum of two pages. Only very senior, experienced executives have more to say.

7. Check, check and check again. Check thoroughly for correct spelling and grammar – spotting errors is a quick and easy way of weeding out weaker candidates when faced with a mountain of CVs to read. Don’t just rely on your computers spellchecker but get someone else to proof it – you may have spelt a word correctly but used it in the wrong place.

8. Use relevant keywords. With posts advertised through job boards, keywords are entered into databases to find the most relevant jobseekers without having to trawl through 1000s of CV's. These keywords will include specific technical skills like BRC or qualifications like ACCA or specific job titles like ‘NPD Technologist’. To ensure your CV is found, make sure your CV mirrors the language used in the job advert.

9. Capture immediate attention. Prioritise the content of your CV and detail the most relevant information first. Start with a hard-hitting personal profile that avoids clichés such as ‘hard-working', 'team player', 'excellent communication skills’. Make sure that all your career history is punchy and to the point with qualified and quantified successes.

10. Graduates should expand on their qualifications. With a lack of work experience, graduates need to tell the reader more about their degree other than just the modules taken. Show successes you have had in your project work and dissertations and other extracurricular activities you have undertaken. More experienced jobhunters should just put their degree details on page two with the university they attended, the degree that they took and the grade gained.

Top 10 CV Dont's

1. Expand the truth. It is simply not true that the bigger the lies you put on your CV then the better the job you will get. Most employers are not fooled by creative embellishments and if you do manage to get a job based on this you could be 'let go' pretty quickly which won’t look good on your CV.

2. List everything. An employer really doesn’t need or want to know all the one-day training courses you have been on. Keep information relevant and to the point.

3. Include a photo. No matter how attractive you make yourself look, it will not improve your chances. This tends to be popular in other European countries but isn’t favoured by the majority of UK businesses.

4. Get creative. Don’t use elaborate fonts and colours to make your CV stand out. The more gimmicky you make your CV using different shapes and pictures, the more off-putting it will be to an employer. It will also make it more difficult for you to upload your CV to Job boards.

5. Divulge sensitive information. Never include your NI or passport number or any other sensitive personal information on your CV.

6. Think one size fits all. Have two or three versions of your CV and make an application with the most appropriate CV. There may be more than one type of role you are interested in, so it maximises your opportunity to be called in for interview if you tailor a CV to demonstrate your relevant skills for specific types of job. Also, a lot of applications are made online with a CV and no cover letter. Don't fall into this trap as a strong covering letter tailored carefully for each position demonstrates you have taken the time to think about your application and are therefore genuinely interested in the position. This can separate you from the crowd.

7. Talk about me, me, me. Don’t start each sentence in the first person. Instead use phrasing such as ‘Selected to manage the companies annual packaging spend of £1 million and successfully re-negotiated with suppliers, resulting in a 15% (£150k) saving for the business'.

8. Talk in clichés. Phrases such as ‘I am a highly motivated individual who works well on my own or in a team, with exceptional communication skills and the ability to work under pressure to produce results under tight deadlines’ are dull and the employer has heard them all before. Make yourself stand out with carefully worded phrasing that is factual and captures the employer’s attention.

9. Duplicate applications. Some recruiters have systems that handle multiple applications from the same person, but for those that don’t, remember it is most off-putting to receive five CVs from the same person and for the same job application.

10. Make the recruiter jump through hoops. If you are able to perform in the job, explain how in your CV and cover letter. Don’t expect the employer to read between the lines to work out whether you will be worth the £45k salary. Sadly, that’s what lots of candidates think it's the recruiter’s job to do.


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