How to Write a Good CV
It can be extremely hard to sit down and produce a good CV from scratch. It can be equally hard to start revising the presentation of your existing CV when you suspect it needs to be stronger. With the current economic conditions making it even harder to secure job interviews, you need to ensure you have a good CV before you even start looking for jobs. Where should you start?
The plain truth is that your CV has to be highly effective in order to win you places on the interview shortlists. It's not simply a list of your previous and current experience, it's a sales document that has to do a great PR job on you, to the extent that the employer wants to meet you.
What's more, it has to do so in under a minute, because that's how long the employer will be scanning each CV they read. That presents you with quite a challenge. Our advice is that whether you're starting afresh or revising a CV, the best place to start itů the very beginning. In other words, you need to start with a blank page and, before writing a word of it, start planning your CV.
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Good CV Layout
A Performance CV is an extremely effective format to use, providing your work history is relatively straightforward. The sections in a Performance CV are:
- Your contact details.
- Personal statement.
- Career history.
- Other information.
What is significant about each of these sections is that they're full of compelling information, showing the employer the best you can offer and how you can benefit their organisation. Any information that fails to do this should not be included in a good CV. The focus is entirely on the employer's needs, rather than yours.
What Makes a Good CV?
Begin by taking a good long hard look at the following. Answer the questions with the job you're seeking in mind (if you're looking for more than one kind of job, you'll need to do this for each one).
Write down what you can figure out about yourself and your work history, this is how you turn a poor CV into a good CV. It shouldn't be hard, but you may need to do it over several days, as it helps to think things over if this is the first time you've done this.
- What are your personal characteristics? Examples would be honesty, integrity, being hardworking, paying attention to detail, get along with most people, etc. Employers prefer candidates who look like they'll fit in with their existing team and organisational culture.
- What are your strongest skills? Think about the skills you use at work. You may have developed some 'on the job', or received training in other areas. Would your next employer have to train you, or would you be able to hit the ground running?
- Consider your professional experiences. Which would be of most interest to a prospective employer? Think about it from their point of view, rather than your own. It doesn't matter how much you enjoyed something or not - what matters is whether your experience shows what you can do for a future employer. If you have significant experiences from outside work, think about these too.
- Your achievements may take longer to think about. Have you made a difference through your contributions at work, either individually or within a team? Is it a difference that can be measured? Have you been commended by your employer or received outstanding evaluation in your annual reviews?
- List your professional training. Is there anything there that really stands out, because it's unusual or really makes a huge difference to your skills level at work?
- Your qualifications are worth including if you did well in your education. Did you do well in your education and was the subject relevant? What does this say about you? Also, what work-specific training have you done?
If you aren't sure about what you have to offer an employer, our CV writing service can analyse your skills, experience and achievements and produce a first-class CV that will win you the interviews and job offers you desire.
What are Employers Looking For in a Good CV?
If you're going to pack your CV with information that's relevant to the employer, so they want to meet you, then you need to first identify what is important to the employer.
It's a simple step to take, but many people don't do it - you should look at lots of job descriptions for the jobs you want and tailor your good CV to fit the job you are applying for.
In practice, identify a job that you could apply for. Take a look at the job description and be realistic about whether you fulfil the criteria or not. In today's fiercely competitive climate, there's no point in applying for a dream job if it's just that - a 'pie in the sky' fantasy job that you're not qualified for.
Likewise, there's no point in applying for everything and anything in the hope that you'll get something. It doesn't work like that - employers want the most suitable candidate, not just any candidate (which is what you'd be).
When you've identified the role that you might genuinely have a chance of being interviewed for, learn more not only about that employer, but about other similar jobs. This means doing some online research so you can read job descriptions of similar vacancies. This information will help you to identify your most important experience and skills, while giving you plenty of words and phrases to use when writing your CV.
Discover How to Write a Good CV
Hopefully, your basic research has given you some raw material to use when putting the sections of your CV together. Below, you'll find out what you should put in a good CV to make an employer want to read on, and hopefully invite you to a job interview.
Your Contact Details
The document header should contain your name, postal address, telephone number, mobile number and email address. Use the name you're known by, but don't use a nickname. In your address, don't use abbreviations - write it out in full.
Always use phone area codes and, if you're using a work telephone number, state that that's what it is - you don't want inappropriate messages left with your employer. For email, use a formal sounding address, rather than a jokey address set up to amuse your friends.
A Good CV Profile
In two or three sentences, a good CV profile needs to highlight: the one or two most relevant areas of your professional experience, your two or three most desirable professional skills and abilities, and one or two personal qualities that make you an attractive-sounding candidate. These need to be written up in an upbeat, emphatic statement that sounds confident without being arrogant.
Most people find their achievements hardest to identify and write up, yet these can be the most powerful lines in a good CV. As evidence of how you made a difference at work, these four to six bullet-points, positioned high on the first page, have real dominance. If you can provide evidence of the achievement, in the form of numbers (quantities produced, financial profit or savings, statistics, time saved, etc.), then so much the better.
If you can't produce this type of measurable achievement, it's not a problem. Perhaps you made a difference to the way a work system was set up or how an organisation was run. Or maybe you wrote a report or received praise from a customer in a letter. Rapid promotion counts as an achievement. If you find this part difficult to put together, ask a friend or colleague what they think your achievements are.
Career History on a Good CV
An employer will only be looking at your employment background if their eye has already been caught by the Profile and Achievements sections.
Their interest will be focused on your current or most recent job, so your work history is presented in reverse chronological order - the most recent is listed first. The rest of your jobs follow in reverse order, with only the last 10 years' worth expanded with job responsibilities and duties.
For each job, give the employer's name and location, your job title and the dates you started and finished (give the years only, you needn't include months). When providing details of your duties, try to write them up as achievements if you can. List about five or six duties, with bullet points, and mention any achievements that aren't already in your Achievements section.
Training and Qualifications on a Good CV
Be selective with your work training - there's no need to mention every in-house training day you've ever attended - this doesn't make a good CV! Stick to the main professional training that makes you a stronger candidate for the vacancy in question. Try to keep entries to one or, at the maximum, two lines each. Don't go into detail unless it's really unusual.
Education on a Good CV
You needn't list all the exams you've sat, but can stick to the most recent. If you have a degree or higher qualification, then that will be sufficient - a good CV has to be short. If the course had a strong vocational aspect, such as a work placement, or individual project that really highlights your abilities, then include a detail about this too.
Otherwise, only give details of your final school examinations, unless this was more than 10 years ago, in which case it's no longer relevant.
You may have some skills that don't fit into other areas of your CV. If you have good IT skills but are applying for a non-technical post, it can be worth mentioning your IT skills here. Language skills can also be listed here.
Good CV Layouts
The way your CV is set out will influence whether an employer reads it or not. Solid, dense blocks of text can be very off-putting and won't get read. A good CV needs to be no more than two pages long, with information presented clearly with plenty of bullet points.
Wide borders and white space between paragraphs also help make your CV easier to read. A clear font and simple layout will keep the employer's focus where it matters - on the content. Unnecessary graphics and colours will only make it harder to read and will put the employer off.
The Way You Word Your CV
Try reading your CV aloud. Is it easy to do so, or do you keep stumbling as you read out long, awkward sounding sentences?
Does it sound like a good CV to you?
While the employer may not read your CV aloud, they will still 'hear' the words in their mind as they read. They will stumble over the same words as you.
The writing style you use in your CV is as important as the content. Your descriptions need to be short, to the point and readable. The language should be active - this means using verbs, or action words, in most sentences. It seems strange, but this will make you sound more active too.
You should never include negative statements, so never say what you can't do. Always write in the 'third person', avoiding use of the word 'I' wherever possible. Write as though you are talking about someone else, but without using the words 'he' or 'she'.
Always check the spelling and grammar in your CV. It's a great idea to get someone else to check it for you, too. Get feedback from several people to find out if the CV gives an accurate impression of you - ask them if they thinks it's a good CV.
It's surprising, but most people's CVs understate what they can do and achieve. This is because it's so hard to write convincingly about yourself and your achievements at work. If your new CV continues to fail to win you any interviews, then it may be that you're not selling yourself effectively. It may be worth considering a professional CV writing service, so that your CV will really work hard on your behalf.
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