Your CV is the tool you use to stand out against the competition when applying for a job. It can be tempting to add some ‘style’ to the pages with the aim of making it stand out. But like in an interview when what you say and how you say it is what’s important, the same goes for the CV, don’t let style distract from substance.

Your CV should be;

  • Easy to Read (font, size and flow).
  • Concise.
  • Matched to the job you’re applying for.

Start by writing out a list of the jobs you’ve had and with which companies, including the dates. This will help make sure all the dates fit and you don’t miss anything out. Then, it’s time to populate your career history.

  • There is no excuse for spelling errors! Use spell check and have someone proof read the CV when you’re finished. Spelling mistakes create a poor impression with recruiters and hiring managers BUT if you misspell key words, your CV won’t come up in searches in the first place!
  • Use a FONT that is clear and easy to read. However much you think ECCENTRIC standard reflects your personality; your CV is not the place to use it.
  • Start from your current/most recent job and work backwards. What you’re working on now is most relevant. Do a good job here and the employer will want to read on.
  • Try to keep the whole CV limited to 2-3 pages. You can always go in to more detail during the interview, but if you haven’t caught their attention in the first 3 pages, you won’t in the next 3!
  • Include dates of employment (and education). The dates should be accurate, honest and match your LinkedIn profile.
  • Speaking of your LinkedIn profile (you do have one right? If not get one here, your CV should match in terms of companies, dates, experience & skills. Recruiters and employers will look you up! – Any conflicting details will raise doubts.
  • Make sure you’re including the right key words that match the kind of job you want (so recruiters can find you) and the job you’re applying for (so employers will invite you for interview).
  • When applying directly to an employer or once you know the company, have a read of their mission statement or core values. Use language that reflects these.
  • When describing your current/previous experience follow this format WHAT>HOW>OUTCOME. In other words, describe what you did, how you did it and what you achieved as a result. Be concise, make sure they know what you did and are eager for you to elaborate at interview.
  • Be truthful, hiring managers may know if you’re stretching the truth. You don’t want to get an interview based on lies/exaggeration only to be found out.
  • Explain any gaps in employment, either briefly on the CV in the gap or in a covering letter. If going through a recruiter make sure to explain to them so they can relay it to the employer.
  • Leave the jokes for the pub! – Like the funky font you’re convinced will make your CV stand out, your CV is not the time to try humour. Remember, the CV gets you the interview, that’s when you can let your personality win them over. Jokes and humour tend not translate well on paper.
  • Mention any charity or voluntary work you’ve been involved in.

What if I’m changing career?
The same tips apply but as you’re changing career your experience may not be directly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Use ‘positive parallels’ and highlight your transferrable skills and explain how they translate to your target job. Also, think about what is attracting you to your new career and the skills you already have that are needed. Of course some skills translate between careers easier than others so some creative thinking might be in order.

What if I’m just starting out and don’t have much work experience?
On one hand, you won’t have any trouble keeping your CV to 2 pages, but don’t be tempted to use a bigger font to fill up the page! Write a more detailed personal profile; why you want the kind of job you’re applying for and the skills you feel you have that make you suitable.

I’d also suggest that you avoid putting separate instances of short term work experience placements, especially if you didn’t learn anything unique. Instead under a heading ‘Work Experience placements’ follow the format from above and perhaps list the companies who have given you work experience. When it comes to previous gainful employment, even if its just part time then list it as normal but there is no need to repeat what skills you learned under these job headings if they’re already mentioned in your profile and work experience section.

Mention any voluntary, community or sporting organisations you’re involved with. If you travelled during/after college or university then mention it here. Perhaps write a little about your experiences – especially if the job you’re going for is creative in any way.