The CV writing guide

Here is the CV writing guide to help you through some of the most common CV questions out there.

How important is it to get the CV right?

A CV gives an employer a guide as to who you are, what you have done and what you have to offer. It is the first impression employers will have of you, so to put your best foot forward it needs to be three things:

Well presented Easy to read Well matched to the skills/experience required.

The CV is a crucial step in the process of getting the job you want. Without a strong CV you will not get an interview. Recruiters are looking for a match and the only guide they will have is your CV. Remember:

They may have many applicants to consider They may be under time pressure They don’t know you so your presentation of your CV reflects on you They will not give you the benefit of the doubt

What do employers want to see from a CV?

Employers are looking for that all important match. When screening CV’s they are looking for candidates who appear to be suitable for further consideration. Writing a CV well is about including the kind of information that presents you as a suitable match and will create interest in you. The research you have done will have identified what the employer is looking for, so it is important to write with the employer in mind. A good CV is focused and relevant to the job you apply for.

Before you produce or update your CV, review your job description of exactly what skills, experience and personal characteristics the employer is looking for you to demonstrate, and the responsibilities you will have. Think about how your experience matches what they are looking for.

Is there a right way to put the CV together?

I appreciate just how many options there seem to be when it comes to putting a CV together. What would be easy would be to be able to prescribe a one size fits all, “right” approach. Though there are definitely many ways to get a CV wrong there are also many approaches and tips to producing a great CV. Make use of those which you feel you can take advantage of. It is important that you are confident and happy with the way you are presenting yourself.

The great thing about your CV is that it is an area over which you have complete control, and it is also an area where many candidates are weak. You won’t get a job based on your CV alone but many employers will favour you heading into the interview on the basis of an impressive CV.

How long should my CV be?

You do not have to describe everything you have ever done. Many CV’s are too long and so are not considered. Do not make the employer work to find what is relevant and what isn’t. It indicates laziness on your part and a lack of eye for detail.

You know what the employer is looking for, so its your aim to show how you fit the bill. Two pages is generally considered to be the ideal length. Many candidates struggle with this as it creates the problem of what to leave out.

Ask yourself how relevant each role will be to your present application. Were the responsibilities similar, or do they at least show progression towards the role you are seeking now? What skills were you using? The experience you have gained most recently is likely to be a lot more relevant than what you achieved at school or university.

Remember the CV is about selling yourself by generating interest. It shouldn’t be your life story.

How can I make my CV more readable?

Keep your sentences short. The first time it is read your CV will most likely be skimmed, until you can create interest. Shorter sentences make this easier. Remember they are under time pressure, if they have to work to read it, they probably won’t.

The language you use can give your CV a real boost. Describe yourself using positive words. A great hint for this is to look at the language in the ad you applied to. It will almost certainly include words that describe the ideal candidate, such as flexible, efficient, innovative etc. By sprinkling these words in your CV you can send a subconscious message to the employer that you are well suited to the role.

Should I include my salary?

No! Save negotiation on salary until later in the process when they have expressed an interest and you have more control. At this stage you are more likely to rule yourself out if your salary expectations are too high; employers rarely admit they can’t afford a candidate.

If your application is through a recruitment agency they will almost certainly ask you about salary. In this situation you will need to tell them. Make sure you are honest, remember the more you make the more they make so they will rarely try to haggle you down. If they do it is most likely because you are asking for a figure they know is more than this particular employer is willing to pay.

Should I include a photograph?

Photographs only invite discrimination. Don’t bother.

Ok, well there you have your CV writing guide to get you on your way. Well actually, there is one more thing, a piece of advice which applies to your CV, your job search, in fact any goal you have in life.

“Begin somewhere. You cannot build a reputation on what you intend to do.”

~Liz Smith~

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