How to write a CV that does the job

Chief Nut By Chief Nut, 15th Dec 2009 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Jobs>CV

You CV is likely to be the first contact you have with a potential employer. Follow some simple advice and your CV could be the first step to your new career.

Sell yourself

A CV is a sales brochure in which you are selling yourself. So right at the top of the first page should be your name in large font. There is nothing worse than having to leaf through loads of CVs and struggling to distinguish between candidates. Your name should leap out.

Follow your name with a one sentence description of yourself, wrapped in a clear box. This should be a section that describes your best attributes and why they fit the role for which you are applying. What I'm saying here it that you should tailor your CV to fit the job. Tell the reader why your skills and experience meet their requirements.

Write this sentence, reread and tweak to improve. Then read again, and rewrite again. Keep doing this until it can't get any better. Unless you are applying for really varied roles, I think this is the one bit of your CV that needs to be changed for each application. As it is just one sentence, make it good. Think about the keywords that the interviewer is looking for.

Here's one example a starting point:

Highly motivated, committed and ambitious team leader, with 4 years' experience managing call centre staff, seeking challenging next step in the customer service industry.

Pick out your key skills and experience

Next you should list your last few jobs. For each you should provide a header including:

  • Your job title
  • The company/employer name
  • The dates you worked

Then under each role outline the key duties you performed, and next to each give specific examples of what you achieved or learned. Use bullet points to enhance the legibility.

So each job section could look something like:

Team Leader, Big Company PLC, July 2008 - Present

  • Responsible for performance management of 5 agents
  • Key role in project to devise new incentive scheme
  • Reduced staff sick days by 25%
  • Awarded team leader of the month on 5 occasions

Notice how I've picked out key phrases in bold to draw attention to the achievements. Try to write in short, concise statements that are easy to scan. Interviewers like CVs that are easy to speed read, especially when there are lots of applicants.

Make sure you can back up these statements if they arise as questions in the interview. Never lie, as this can go badly wrong in more ways than one.

List your academic achievements

The importance of your qualifications depends on the stage of your career. For your first full time job, these are very important as you won't have much else aside from part time jobs to talk about. At this point, you may want to list individual results for exams and degrees.

Later in your career, your experience is what counts. A summary of your results will be more appropriate at this point. Although you should list any recent vocational qualification or training courses that are relevant.

And for each of your key qualifications, try to list any key knowledge or skills you learned that are relevant to the role, similar to the example for the job role in the previous section.

Be interesting

Your hobbies and interests section should be pretty concise, but try to include at least one talking point, or quirky fact. Your interviewer is likely to be future colleague and so they'll want to work with interesting and stimulating people.

Plus, you'll be setting up an easy ice breaker question for the face to face. Whenever I've interviewed people, I've tried to find out what they are really like. This is tricky in interviews as people are generally very nervous so I'd look for a question that helps relax the atmosphere. I'd often pull these from the candidates hobbies section.

Keep it short and snappy

Fit your CV onto 2 pages, no more. If it is too long, edit it down - do not just shrink the font size! Your CV should be clear and well formatted with obvious titles and sections.

Put yourself in the place of the interviewer and imagine having loads of CVs to read. What would you look for? Any simple spelling mistake is CV suicide. Same with obvious grammatical errors. Whether you are confident or not in these areas, always use a spell checker, and try to get a friend or relative to proof read your CV.

Don't go crazy with colours and fonts, unless you're a trained designer going for a design job. For everybody else, it can go badly wrong.

And that's my advice. Work through your CV step-by-step and make each section as short, relevant and focused as you can.


Advice, Content, Interview, Jobs, Write

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author avatar Chief Nut
Overly excited co-founder, keen to share the buzz so please get Wikinutting and give us some feedback! I'll be writing about new features as we add them to the site, and a few other topics as well.

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author avatar Caveat
28th Jun 2010 (#)

Great article.

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author avatar Artur Victoria
23rd Jan 2011 (#)

Excellent article

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author avatar Retired
17th Apr 2011 (#)

I totally "Disagree" & if you were to agree to disagree _ I would not trust you- only find that you are 'Brain-washed". This man is making a lot of money out of nothing that he produces in any good quality writing himself... start anew website & cop what he has done - good luck!!!

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author avatar JB
12th Mar 2011 (#)

Misleading article. Curriculum vitas (CVs) are typically for academic or research positions. A CV places emphasis on education, research, and teaching experience. You would typically not include a personal statement or classes/grades because the type of employers requesting a CV (as opposed to a resume) will request a cover letter & college transcripts. It sounds as though the author is confusing a CV for a resume. Which one you submit is dependent on the type of job you're applying for. IF applying for an academic, or research publication position, submit a CV. Most employers (in a corporate/business environment) expect a traditional resume.

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author avatar Retired
17th Apr 2011 (#)

Umm... Do you have any "Real Writing Skills" - other than just hounding your ways of gaining money???
Have you ever produced any literary compositions etc; there are many of us here that speak & write but you seem to take things in a 'shallow,' 'academic' way of advertising for money- cause your the enterpriser; but really Not the "Writer!"----=-

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author avatar Rey
13th Apr 2012 (#)


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author avatar Retired
7th Jul 2014 (#)

I've requested my articles to be removed several times, but I get no response. Who do I need to talk to?

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