How To: Write a Professional CV

When it comes to job hunting, your CV is one of the most important steps. It’s the first thing an employer sees, so therefore it’s vital to make a good first impression with a strong, professional CV by proving you’ve got the skills for the job. Although, get it wrong and it may result in you wondering why you’re getting no call backs. Luckily, within this article I will be guiding you through the steps of writing a proficient CV that will make you stand out to your competitors. What do you need to bear in mind when writing these? It should be easy for the employer to scan through your CV quickly and important information should stand out from the rest, whilst still maintaining consistency.

A CV is a personal marketing document that you will use to sell yourself to potential employers. It should tell them all about you, your professional history, skills, and achievements. There is no such thing as a perfect CV, the contents of it will be determined by the position and who it is applying. For example, the CV to a digital designer will differ from someone who is applying for a marketing job. You need to suit each one you make to appeal to different employers. In addition to a CV you employers may ask you to also write a cover letter. This is piece of written information made with the job you’re applying for in mind, specifying why you’re best suited for the role. When writing your CV you need to write it with the aim of ‘what do I want the employer to think of me after they’ve read my CV?’

Name, Professional Title and Contact Details

The first part of your CV should be positioned at the top of the page. Treat your name as the title, remember your advertising yourself so you want to ensure that it’s neat and not over cluttered. Below that include your location, which doesn’t need to be your full address. All you need to put in is your town and city. Contact details within your CV are vital. Without these, the employer is unable to contact you to arrange a interview. Write down your mobile number and email address. By doing this you’re given two ways to be reached in regards to arranging an interview. It might also be wise to include your Linkedin profile, so therefore potential employers are able to see your professional history.

Professional Profile

Your personal profile is one of the most important parts of your CV. It’s a short paragraph that gives your employer an idea of who you are and why you will be suited to the role you’re applying for. You should ensure that you suit your personal profile to each job that you apply for. Emphasising on certain attributes that suit you to the job. You should ensure this part of your CV is short and to the point. It takes an employer up to 5 seconds to decide if they like the look of your CV or not, so this is probably going to be the first thing they read before they decide to put you in the yes or no pile. Within your personal profile you should include: Who are you? What are you career goals? and what can you offer to the company?

Core Skills

This section is important to show off the specific skills you have that your employer will find valuable. Customise as much as you can the skills on your CV to suit the job posting. The closer your match to the job requirements the more chance you have in getting called in for an interview. If you’re applying for a job in IT then list all of the computer programmes and software in which you know how to use. Having a skills section makes it easier for the hiring manager to be able to pinpoint what skills you have. Many employers use something called the applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan each candidates application. The more ‘keywords’ you have the more chance you have of your CV going to the next stage of the hiring process.

Education and Qualifications

This is where you will show your academic accomplishments, from secondary school onwards. You should list these in reverse chronological order, so your most recent school or academic programme is the most relevant, start there and work backwards. Underneath each list what qualifications you gained from your studies, extra courses you took part in, and the dates you started and completed your studies.

Work Experience and  Previous Employment

This section allows you to show your potential employer all of the past work you had, paid or unpaid, past and present. So, all of your past jobs (relevant ones, don’t include when you worked in Starbucks at 17 years old when you’re applying to a marketing job.) Any freelance work you’ve done or any volunteer work. Treat the layout the same way you set out your education, write it in reverse chronological order with your most recent at the top with bullet points. Ensure you don’t write too much about each job unless you feel like it’s needed, but also don’t write too little. The secret to a perfect CV is finding the perfect amount to write about each of your points. Clearly state your job title, responsibilities and the tasks in which you had to complete when you were employed by them.

Extracurricular Activities/Hobbies

This section is to show the employer who you are. It tells them about your skills, interests and what you like to do outside of work. Be careful though, only list skills that the employer will find relevant and add value to your CV, for example, don’t write that you enjoy doing generic things, such as reading. Focus on interests that will enable you to stand out in comparison to the other candidates. Use bullet points to avoid rambling.

Extra Tips

Write the CV Yourself

Your CV represents you as a professional, so it’s important that you compose it yourself. It’s okay to get a little extra help, or have someone read through it for you, but it’s important that it shows the language you use. A lot of times in interviews you will be expected to discuss your CV, and if you’re hesitating and look like you’re trying to think of an answer an employer will immediately know it wasn’t made by you. You need to remember they have conducted many interviews, without doing so they wouldn’t have a business, so therefore they know each sign to spot in knowing that the CV wasn’t been written by the candidate.

Length of Your CV

You should ensure that your document is no longer than 2 pages of A4. By allowing your CV to be too long your employer may become bored, as they’re most probably looking through hundreds of different CV’s you want to be able to catch their eye, whilst they’re skimming through potential candidates. It’s also important that you ensure that font size isn’t too big. This can result in using up more pages than required, size 12 font is recommended. Include important information, but ensure its punchy and to the point. 

Tailor to Each Employer

Every single time you apply to a new job, its vital that you suit your CV to each job you apply for. Take some extra time reading the job description and research the company. This allows you to know which skills you need to ensure stand out and grab the employer’s attention.

Don’t Leave Gaps

Employers become suspicious when there are gaps in your CV. What did you do in your time out of work? Courses? Volunteer work? Freelance? It’s important to keep your CV up to date and record any work that you’ve done.

Proof Reading

Employers search for mistakes within CV’s, if they spot any it makes you look bad. If you’re unsure use a spell checker, or get someone else to read through it for you.

Tell the Truth

You may be thinking everyone lies on their CV so a little white lie here and there can’t be that bad, but unfortunately it’s one of the worst things you can do in regards to a CV. When your employers check your references and background history and you can’t do the things that you stated you were able to do you may end up being in a lot of trouble. You could end up getting the job and straight away get fired for lying when they see that you’re unable to do the skills that the job advertised for. Your employers may also ask you about the things you lied about, resulting in you not knowing how to reply, which may end up with you not getting the job that you could of got if you hadn’t lied.

Specific Figures

Your employers love to know about facts and figures, they want to know how you helped the company improve, they want to know specifics, for example don’t just say that you increased sales, tell them by how much and how you did it… but remember, ensure you tell the truth.

Make your CV Visually Appealing

This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to add lots of different colours to make it stand out (unless you’re applying to a creative job e.g. graphic designer) Ensure you use bullet points and keep sentences to the point. Leave plenty of white space between text and each section to ensure professionalism.