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Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve spent a large portion of the last 20 years poring over thousands of CVs of varying degrees of quality. I’m not talking about the skills—people are either qualified for a job, or they’re not. They either have potential or they don’t, and I respect any person who sends an honest and well-formatted CV to a potential employer in the hopes that the employer will recognize their worth.
But a CV that follows a poor format is inexcusable. They should, at the very least, be well-designed and free of typographical errors. So here ist what to do build an amazing CV.
“CV” stands for Curriculum Vitae, which is Latin for a “course of (one’s) life.” It is a summary of all the job experience and study experience a person has had, laid out in an easy-to-understand document, and which is handed to potential employers when applying for a job.
It is customary to send a cover letter along with your CV.
In the USA, CVs are called résumés.
You should think of your CV as your pitch. Before even considering an interview, employers will look at a CV. If it is professional, well-designed, and speaks for itself, you are more likely to get an interview.
On top of your CV will be your cover letter. This will furnish the first impression your potential employer will have of you. Some tips for creating a great cover letter are:
Ideally, your CV should be no longer than a double-sided A4 page. If you are fresh out of school or college, this can be reduced to a single side. If you are applying for a senior role, a three-page CV is acceptable.
If you are struggling to keep the CV short, focus only on the most important educational aspects. Also, don’t repeat anything you have already said in an accompanying cover letter.
Your CV begins with your:
This is a summarized statement of the most important aspects of your career. You might need to tweak it according to the position or company you are applying for, although it is more common to make this sector-specific rather than job-specific.
The profile section is your chance to state clearly what makes you stand out, and what you hope to achieve in your career. Be sure not to repeat anything that you said in the cover letter.
List your most recent education first. State what you studied and the grades you received. It’s better to mention a bad grade than to omit it as the omission will attract attention. Don’t explain it, just write it down and leave it.
We were all half-dazed at school anyway. It’s what you did afterward that really counts. Just make sure you did do something after school to show that you are a hard worker because, if your actions don’t match your words, that bad grade is going to reflect very badly on you indeed.
If you don’t have a lot of work experience, then your additional activities (community work, volunteering, sports achievements, etc.) will paint a more complete picture of your character.
Be sure to include any additional training, certifications, or courses you have completed, such as on-the-job training or night classes.
This is arguably the most important part of your CV. If you have extensive work experience, put it before your education.
List the most recent work experience first. For each position you held, list:
If you do not have a lot of work experience, you can move this section up and create what is called a “Skills-Based CV.”
A Skills-Based CV is a CV that places more attention on your skills rather than on previous experience. They have become popular in recent years and don’t follow the traditional chronological sequence.
But for traditional CVs, a Skills section after Work Experience is sufficient.
Here you list the transferable skills that you acquired either in life or in previous jobs. This could be anything from experience with Microsoft Office to artistic skills.
Make sure they are relevant to the job you are applying for. It is doubtful that a recruiter would be interested in your ability to paint if you are applying for a bank clerk position, but an interior designer might be.
Depending on the position you’re seeking, Languages Spoken might be an important skill to highlight here.
It is not necessary to offer a description of each skill, but a sentence or two demonstrating ability, or referring to any achievements, is advisable if that skill is particularly important for the role you are seeking. Put the most relevant skills near the top of the list.
This is an optional section. Use it only for interests that are relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, “Visiting A-list nightclubs” would only be relevant if you were applying for a position as a gossip columnist. Rather leave it out, otherwise!
If you have not received any awards, name this section only References.
If your CV is getting too long, leave this section out.
You can also just say “References available by request.”
This is an optional section and should only be used if it is applicable. In some cases, certain publications would fit equally well as a line under Achievements, such as a peer-reviewed paper in a medical journal if you are applying for a medical position.
It would be a shame to miss an opportunity for a position because of poor layout or design.
Here are some important tips for the CV’s formatting:
There is no need to include any of the following unless the job specifically requires it:
Beware of job ads that ask you for your date of birth when it is not professionally required as it might lead to ageism and discrimination.
A photo is never required unless the job is for a modeling, acting, or similar position.
Images are not required.
Do not include salary requirements. These get discussed at the offer stage.
You don’t need to include personal social media profile links. Although, here’s a bit of free advice—if you have a bunch of photos of you drunken on festivals on your Facebook page, take them down, then scour the web for any vestiges of them and get rid of them as well. Even though you don’t need to add your social media profiles, your recruiter will look them up if they start considering you seriously.
Above all else, never embellish or falsify your CV. It might’ve been funny in the movie The Internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. But in real life, it is considered fraudulent and will likely cost you your job.
The following are personal preferences I had when looking at CVs. These tips might help you in landing a job.
I always liked seeing CVs of people who did extra things in their lives whether that was sport or community work. I didn’t insist that it was linear—it could also be a random adventure like traveling to South America for a month to learn about the Aztecs—but I was eager to see personal development.
Someone who had changed jobs five times in the last two years would be a no-go for me. I see it as someone who hasn’t found themselves.
When I hire a person, I want it to be for the long term. I want to invest in the right person for my team.
CVs must be professionally written, concise, error-free, and factual. If you are low on experience but high on skills, do a skills-based CV. In each section, include only things that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
If your CV is professional and complete, the next step to finding your dream job is to nail the interview. Although that’s an entirely different article, the same overall rule applies: Present yourself professionally so that you don’t give them any excuse to reject you other than based on your skills and experience.
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