On average, a recruiter will spend six seconds scanning your CV. Yes, I know you spent several weeks crafting the perfect CV. But it’s the way of the world, friend. That’s why in 2023, it’s not going to be enough to know how to write a good CV. You’ve got to know how to write a good CV that actually gets your foot in the door.
The Perfect CV Does Not Exist: Know This and Know Peace
Look, forget about writing the perfect CV. It just doesn’t exist. You know why? People. People are different, and each one comes with their own preference.
If you keep searching the internet looking for the perfect solution, you’re going to be waiting a long time. But if you follow these tips, you will end up with a CV that gets your foot in the door with any recruiter, no matter how nitpicky they are.
Now, I know this topic has been blogged about to death on Google. So, I’m not going to talk about the obvious. You can check out other blogs for that. Instead, I’m going to address those aspects of CV writing that you actually want to know about, but no one tells you.
Let’s begin with the format of your CV.
What CV Format Should I Use?
It doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s simple and consistent. Always use black print on white background because sometimes your CV will be scanned by software, not a person.
If you use white on a black background, the entire text might disappear when the recruiter loads your CV to the system.
Your CV is not a place for glam and glitz. So, take out all those fancy fonts and colors. No boxes or tables as well. Keep it really simple and if you love the fancier version so much, you can take it with you to the interview.
Also, highlight key information like employer, dates, and job title. It makes your CV easier for your recruiter to navigate.
What Are the Different Aspects That Should Make Up My CV?
Always begin with a brief profile or career summary. And by brief, I mean brief. No more than 80 words, and packed with actual achievements instead of self-accolades like how you’re “passionate” and “highly motivated.”
This is a good example:
A graduate in Occupational Safety with 15 years experience in oil and gas onshore and offshore, including LNG. Good experience in implementing HSE Management Systems and well-versed in international standards and industry regulations.
Now, to your experience. You want to go in the reverse chronological fashion. In other words, your most recent role first.
Each entry should have the date you started and the date you ended the role.
As expected, you should write out what your responsibilities for the role were but avoid writing them like they are achievements. Instead, kick things up a notch by entering a key accomplishment of yours in each section of your job history.
And friend, do NOT be modest. Blow. that. horn.
To help you, use the PAR method: Problem, Action, and Result.
Cut costs of the sales team by 21% after negotiating an improved deal with our current supplier.
Notice the use of a specific number, not just some vague adjective.
Still on your work history, avoid repeating points.
So, if you did front-end development for three of the jobs in your work history, look for a way to combine and express that.
And if you took up different roles with one employer, don’t list each role as a separate experience. Instead, let your current title be at the header with your employer and dates, then explain in the responsibilities how you started and got promoted.
Started as a Machine Operator but was promoted after 2 years to Manager
List all your recent academic qualifications, beginning with your highest degree. Feel free to add other certificates you might have that relate to the job.
For Pete’s sake, no “Microsoft Office.” It’s no longer a skill at this point. Instead, list out skills you have that are actually relevant to the job but do not exaggerate.
Both hard (technical) and soft skills (like time management) are welcome but put them in bullet format.
Your contact information should also be presented nicely. But do not share extremely personal information like your full address or marital status or things like that.
Instead, let it be your name, your general location, and contact details. Speaking of, only include one number and one email address.
It’s okay to link to your LinkedIn profile as well.
Hobbies and Interests
It’s okay to include hobbies and interests, but that shouldn’t take up more than one line. Also, include all your language skills, even if they are obvious. Just because you’re Chinese does not mean you can speak the language.
How Long Should My CV Be?
The sweet spot is two to three pages. However, reject this rule if you’re further along in your career and have a lot of meaningful and relevant experience. Also, ignore if you’re in academia.
How Do I Write a CV If I Have Gaps In My Job History?
First off, having gaps in your employment history is not the end of the world.
While it is important to prepare ahead for how you’d explain your employment gaps, your CV isn’t the place to state those reasons.
What you can do, instead, is add the dates to the experience section of your CV, stating how you productively used that time. It could be through volunteering, upskilling, or personal development.
Employment gaps are a major concern with recruiters. So, it’s always best to address the elephant in the room before it is brought up. Just do it with tact for best results.
How Do I Write a CV If I Don’t Have A Lot of Experience?
The good thing is that this is a common challenge, so, there are many ways around it.
All Experience is Experience
First, in such a case, you do not have the luxury of cherry picking your work experience. So, include every experience you have: both relevant and non-relevant.
They may not be as impressive as the experience section of someone with 10 years of experience, but they show your recruiter several things. They demonstrate your transferable skills, work ethic, and overall employability.
As usual, follow the reverse chronological order. So, the most recent should be at the top. Don’t forget to highlight your achievement under each role.
If you don’t have a lot of experience, another area you must also focus on is your profile or what some might call a personal statement.
Use that section to share with your recruiter how your skills, interests, and achievements could be of help to the company. For instance:
I am a History graduate with a keen interest in pursuing a sales career. During my degree, I was largely graded on my presentation skills, and this was an area in which I scored highly. I also held a part time role as a retail assistant, and during this time, I enjoyed developing my interpersonal and customer service skills. I would like to apply my communicative and interpersonal skills to a more challenging sales role where I would have room to grow and develop as a professional.
Think About Your Transferable Skills
Under the skills section, list your self-taught skills, soft skills, and transferable skills.
To dwell a bit more on this, some fresh-off-the-block graduates might feel like they don’t have skills. But in reality, they do have many transferable skills.
Did your program in college or university require you to write a lot of essays? In such a case, you must have developed impressive writing skills.
Did you have to handle the social media account of the small business you interned at? In that case, you should have developed your social media management skills, probably photography as well, a little design maybe, and probably copywriting too.
You see? You just have to give it a little thought.
Academic Projects Are Good to Include
As usual, list all your recent education with the qualifications you earned from each school.
You might also want to include certain impressive projects you took on in college or university. If you have these projects online, fantastic. Link to them as well.
That said, if your employment history is very weak, it might serve you better to put your academic qualifications before your employment history.
Just weigh both and see which section flatters you the most. As they say, you always want to put your best foot forward.
Hobbies and Interests
If you don’t have a lot of experience, then don’t underestimate this section. Pick out solid hobbies and interests and include them in your CV. And by “solid,” I mean those where you have achievements or awards.
So, for instance, if your painting got picked for a local art exhibition, that’s great to add. Or maybe you are a national chess championship finalist. Include that information.
What other impressive achievements do you have that might not necessarily fit in other sections of your CV? You could create another section, title it “Additional Information,” and add them.
We’re talking about information like being first aid trained, understanding sign language, etc.
How Do I Write My CV If I Have a Lot of Experience?
Start by killing your darlings. By that, I mean all those achievements you’re proud of yourself for but have no relevance to the role for which you’re applying.
Also, if it’s an achievement from so long ago, take that out too. You can’t afford to be sentimental here.
While crafting your personal summary, give hard facts and numbers. Don’t play with adjectives and buzzwords here. You’re senior-level. You’ve got to act like it.
Now, you’ll be tempted to write big fat blocks of text because you are well-experienced. But you must remember that you’re not the only one with lots of experience applying. So, keep your CV scan-friendly and get straight to the point, not forgetting to use as many action verbs as possible.
Tips for Writing the Content of Your CV
- There are two methods most people use: X result achieved due to Y action in Z situation. The reverse order of this also works.
The second method is the Task, Action, Result method.
Use either of these paradigms to outline your roles and responsibilities under the experience section of your CV.
- Vary your word choice. As a synonym for “responsible for,” you can use words like pioneered, assisted, initiated, galvanized, etc.
- Think of your job in terms of what you got done, not what you did.
So, change that “did market research for a new brand of children’s wear and gave recommendations” to “ideated qualitative research focus groups for 250 parents. Assessed gaps post data analysis and recommended solutions that birthed a new clothing line which now contributes to 15% of the company’s total income.”
- Of course, don’t forget to proofread mercilessly. And if you have a grammar police for a friend, have them go through your CV too.
- When you send out your CV, don’t forget to add a cover letter, whether it’s specifically requested or not. Only exclude a cover letter if the job specifically says you shouldn’t send one. By the way, here’s how to write a kickass cover letter.
Bonus Point: Keep Updating Your CV
I know, I know. Writing a CV is drudgery. But you’ve got to keep updating your CV. Ideally, every time you learn a new skill, complete a huge project, or move on from a role. Don’t forget to add measurable results and quantifiable achievements.
In fact, you should have a master document that serves as a repository for all the moves you make in your career. This way, you’re less likely to forget key accomplishments that could one-up your chances in the eyes of your recruiter.
Especially if you’re just starting out, you have to chronicle every single experience. It doesn’t matter if you did it only once, have it written down in your master document. As we’ve already seen, for you with not enough experience, every experience counts.
You might also want to have a blank CV template that has all your common information already filled out. We’re talking about details like your contact information and your academic qualification.
As you might have heard, you don’t want to send out generic CVs to every company to which you apply. But creating a CV from scratch can be intimidating. This is why having a template on hand can help. And if all I have shared here seems overwhelming, then let our friends at Resume.io help you out.
Did you find this article on how to write a good CV helpful? Then share with a friend. I wish you the very best!