Writing a good CV

Your CV is probably one of the most important pieces of writing you could ever do. It can make all the difference to your career path and your future, the information you provide is all an employer has on which to judge your suitability for a job.

So when an employer is faced with 30-40 CVs and has to shortlist them down to just four or five for interview, you need to make sure your CV is working hard for you.

At On Target we see hundreds of CVs and we know what makes candidates stand out from the crowd, so we’ve put together some suggestions that will help you do just that.

The anatomy of a good CV!

The information is well laid out using a straightforward font, making it easy to quickly scan. On a more subliminal level, the look of this CV is likely to suggest someone who pays attention to detail and is keen to create a good impression. Similarly, good spelling and grammar will be influential.

Try to restrict your CV to 2-3 pages
Remember that employers will have limited time in which to read through CVs and dense, information-heavy descriptions of your employment history will not be inviting to read.

All the necessary contact details are at the top of the page, with the name most prominent. Always include your address, email and phone number – if an employer can’t find your contact details, they may simply move on to the next best candidate.

The personal profile is given emphasis by the simple use of rules, drawing attention to that all-important summary of key skills and attributes. Wherever possible, tailor this section to the job you are applying for.

The company name and duration of employment are made more prominent
This will help employers quickly get the measure of your employment history and whether you are a ‘stayer’ or not. The summary of the company’s business gives a good context for your specific role. Always put your most recent employment first and work backwards.

Specifying the month you started and left is always advisable.
Stating that you worked at a company between 2011-2012 could mean December to January, but it could also mean you started in January 2011 and left in December 2012 – there’s a big difference. Be transparent, and if there is a gap in your employment history demonstrate what you did during that time – you may have re-trained, gained extra qualifications or did voluntary work when you were made redundant. Employers will want to know what you’ve been doing.

Good, clear synopsis of the job role
Presenting key achievements as bullet points is a really good idea – they are so much easier to read than a lengthy paragraph. Being able to substantiate achievements with numbers – percentages, monetary value etc – will add further strength and credibility. But always be honest – employers are likely to draw on this type of information in an interview situation, so be prepared to discuss your achievements in more detail and make sure you have your facts correct.

Earlier jobs, that may be less relevant as your career has developed, should still be included but with less detail about your role.

If you’ve been in employment for a number of years, your school/university education will gradually take more of a back seat, but it’s still important to add such details. And don’t forget to include further training or qualifications that you may have gained during employment – most employers will expect to see a commitment to continuous personal development.

You don’t have to state your date of birth, but most people do.

Other skills such as languages should always be included
You might not think they are necessarily relevant to a particular job, but it could help tip the balance in your favour when candidates are being shortlisted.

Don’t be tempted to add a long list of interests
Opinion is often divided as to whether hobbies and interests should be included in a CV at all, so think carefully what you choose to share. You may well like watching football on the TV every weekend, but put that next to a candidate who volunteers as a youth football coach and who sounds more interesting on a personal level?

Watch our CV Advice Video

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