A CV, an abbreviation of curriculum vitae, is a summary of your work experience, qualifications and capabilities. In American English and some other countries, these documents are usually referred to as a résumé. However, whether you’re preparing a CV or a résumé, the aim of your document is always the same: to make a positive impact on the reader and encourage them to get in touch with you regarding job opportunities. There are certain tried and tested techniques that you can use to ensure your curriculum vitae is effective in the job market. In this article, we provide eight CV writing tips that you can use on your CV to ensure you have a greater chance of getting the job you want.
1. Research the roles you are applying for
Many people make the mistake of applying for jobs that they don’t know enough about. If you don’t know what companies are specifically looking for within your industry, you’re not going to be able to tailor your CV to the requirements of the industry.
One of the easiest ways of researching your targeted roles is to go through the job description. Find out what the company is looking for and tailor your CV in line with those requirements. Identify the skills that they class as essential and desirable, including both hard and soft skills, and provide examples of times you have demonstrated these skills in your CV. This could be done by detailing your skills, achievements, responsibilities etc.
When writing your professional CV, it’s important to also conduct research on the company itself. Visit the company’s website and perform a few internet searches to acquaint yourself with their culture and history. With this information, you will then be able to write your CV in a way that is optimised for the company.
You can go even further by writing a cover letter that is tailored to the company that you are targeting. In your cover letter, you can directly describe how you fit into the company. Show them your enthusiasm for how they operate and how you can add value to their operation.
Another way of learning more about what recruiters expect from professionals in your industry is to attend recruitment fairs or job-related events. This will give you the chance to talk directly to recruiters, picking their brains about how you can improve your CV to optimise it for job applications.
A professionally written CV should always be based on comprehensive research. When you have successfully conducted your research into the roles and companies that you will be applying for, you will have a better idea of how you can show recruiters that you are the ideal candidate.
2. Break up text
When writing your CV, ease of reading should be one of the factors at the forefront of your mind. Recruiters often have hundreds of CVs to read through on a daily basis. As such, you can be sure that they would prefer to see concise pieces of text that are easy to read and professionally formatted. Don’t cram your CV with big blocks of text; this makes the key information difficult to locate and it can result in recruiters passing on your CV.
Using bullet points is a good way of separating big chunks of text and ensuring that you get your message across in a succinct manner. Bullet points can be used in various areas of your CV, including the career history, skills section and as a brief introduction at the start of your CV.
Many people write their CVs as narrative, going into great detail and describing all aspects of their career. While it is fine to include plenty of content and go into detail regarding key projects that you have participated in etc., it is also very important to present this information in the right way.
Put yourself in the position of the recruiter, who may have hundreds of CVs to review and analyse, and try to present your CV’s information in a way that he or she would want to read it in.
On the other hand, you don’t want your CV to be full of white space. There is a reason that white space is often referred to as negative space: it has a negative impact on your CV. If you’re CV has half a page of white space, or even quarter of a page of white space, you’ll need to make some serious changes to ensure you come across as a professional candidate.
White space is usually as a result of poor formatting and a lack of skill in the use of word processors such as Microsoft Word. If you can’t find the right balance between too much text and too much white space, it might be time to seek professional help from CV Nation’s CV writers who know how to for format CVs professionally.
If you don’t feel that you are ready to invest in professional CV writing services, learn how to format your CV professionally. There are various formatting tweaks that you can use with Microsoft Word to ensure your CV is easy to read and professional in appearance. These include editing the margin sizes, the ‘before’ and ‘after’ spacing, column width etc.
On a side note, try to format your contact details in an easy to read way too. Make sure they’re not taking up quarter of the page at the top of your CV; one line is usually sufficient. Don’t include the full address; not only does this take up a lot of valuable space, but it is also not expected or necessary in CVs. For example, if you live in London, simply write London, UK, followed by your telephone number, email address and LinkedIn URL is you have a LinkedIn profile.
3. Be an achiever, not a doer
The difference between the doer and the achiever is that the achiever adds value, while the doer performs actions. A doer’s CV explains what he or she did, while the achiever’s CV explains how he or she added value via what he or she did. Almost everyone has the experiences and accomplishments to write their CV in the style of an achiever, but most write in the style of doers.
A CV that is written in the style of an achiever will make you stand out from the competition and it will do your career justice.
How do you change from writing your CV as a doer to writing your CV as an achiever? How can your ensure your CV shows you to be the achiever that you are? One option is to get your CV done professionally. The second option is to learn how to write your CV in a way that does you justice.
Here is an example of a doer’s Project Manager CV writing: ‘Serving as a Project Manager, responsible for managing all stages of the project’.
And here is an example of an achiever’s Project Manager CV writing: ‘Saved the company £1.3M and improved the productivity of the Dispatch department by 14% by managing all stages of a project to transition two locations into one’.
The difference between the two examples above is clear to see. The achiever’s writing outlines how the project delivered results and added value. The doer’s writing simply describes what the Project Manager did, which doesn’t do anything to make the candidate stand out from other Project Managers.
CV writing as an achiever is all about identifying your achievements – which ideally should involve specific metrics, figures and data – and ensuring this comes out when describing what you did. This way, you will convince recruiters that you can add value to their company.
4. Avoid clichés – Many CVs include a number of over-used phrases and keywords that recruiters have become insusceptible to. While candidates add these words to their CV to improve their chances of success in the job market and demonstrate their skills, they actually cause more harm than good.
Why are clichés a problem? Clichés in your CV are a problem because they are boring and, as they are very common, the writing doesn’t seem genuine. When reviewing CVs, recruiters and hiring managers see these clichés countless times; they stand out like a sore thumb. By using clichés in your CV, you are simply making it easier for your CV to move closer to the no-pile.
Which clichés should be avoided in your CV?
Works well alone and as part of a team
Good communication skills
It is perfectly acceptable and beneficial to draw attention to the skills listed above, such as communication skills and an ability to work as part of a team. However, these statements should always be backed up with quantifiable statistics or evidence.
For example, you could highlight your communication skills that you demonstrated while delivering a presentation at university. When there is some substance behind these clichés, they actually start to add some value to your CV.
There are also a number of clichés that you should avoid simply because they go without saying. For example, a common cliché is ‘reliable’. If you’re applying for job, it is fully expected that you should be reliable. Including such words in your CV does nothing to help your chances of making a strong impact on the reader and progressing to the next stage of the job application process.
Other common clichés that should be avoided at all costs are those extremely common interests and hobbies. An example is ‘Enjoys movies, socialising and spending time with family’. The majority of people enjoy these things, and as such you’re drawing attention to the fact that you don’t have any interesting hobbies. Unless you have interests and hobbies that are genuinely interesting – or related to your profession – don’t include them in your CV.
Another common mistake that many people make is to title their CV with the words Curriculum Vitae. This is not expected as it’s always going to be very obvious that the document is your curriculum vitae. The title of your curriculum vitae should be your name. You wouldn’t title your cover letter with the words Cover Letter, so don’t make the mistake of using Curriculum Vitae as the title of your CV.
5. Use numbers and statistics
Numbers, figures, data and metrics can significantly strengthen your CV. They demonstrate the level of success you have had in previous roles and the impact you have had on projects/operations. They provide the claims and content in your CV with warranty, concrete evidence that reveals you can deliver results against objectives.
Companies measure their success on various factors, but one of the key indicators of success is finances. Financial figures that show the success or improvement of business performance are some of the most valuable assets to your CV. Other measurements of success could be efficiency improvements, which in turn often lead to cost savings and improved financial performance.
The way you use numbers and statistics in your CV will depend largely on the industry and role you are operating in. For example, if you’re a sales manager, your sales manager CV should be geared towards demonstrating how you have increased sales.
This could encompass quarterly and annual sales figures. On the other hand, if you’re a project manager, your project manager CV should ideally demonstrate through numbers and statistics how you have facilitated the success of projects. This might include the specific number of projects that you have delivered within budget and time restraints.
Whatever industry you’re in, there is always scope to utilise numbers and statistics in your CV to make a powerful impact on recruiters.
Sometimes you may have to conduct investigations to obtain numbers and statistics. You may need to get in touch with ex colleagues or study performance reports from your time in previous jobs. You might also need to do some calculations to work out the specific percentages and value-adding statistics for your CV.
For example, if you identify that there were 100 customer complaints before you overhauled the customer service process and only 50 customer complaints afterwards, you can state in your CV that you ‘reduced customer complaints by 50% by overhauling the customer service process’. This is much more effective than simply stating that you reduced customer complaints, as it offers a level of proof.
Another way of using numbers and statistics in your CV is to include examples of deadlines you have successfully met. A key skill employers look for in employees in many industries is an ability to manage time effectively and complete tasks within established deadlines. Use numbers in your CV to show that you have completed projects on time.
Furthermore, there are means of using numbers and statistics to demonstrate specific skills in your CV. For example, if your project manager CV states that you ‘managed 3 projects simultaneously’, you have drawn attention to the fact that you are able to manage complex workloads while managing your time effectively. Similarly, if you highlight the number of different tasks you have specialised in, you can show that you are versatile and able to adapt to changing environments.
When your skills are backed-up by numbers and statistics in this way, your CV will prove much more effective in the job market as you are presenting tangible proof of your ability to utilise the skills.
6. Don’t Include…
What not to include in a CV. This is a common question asked by many people who are writing CVs. What should and shouldn’t be included in a CV. We all know that certain information should not be included in your CV, but what are the standards and expectations of employers?
Information such as gender, marital status and date of birth should be avoided as recruiters are not allowed to use this information as part of their decision making process. Including this information in your CV may actually make them feel uncomfortable, resulting in them passing on your CV to avoid opening a can of worms.
However, there are certain industries that require personal information. For example, if you’re a flight attendant, your cabin crew CV should include your date of birth, gender, height, arm reach and so on. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to ensure your CV is tailor specifically to the industry that you are applying to. Do some research and make sure you understand what is expected of candidates in the industry.
Including unexplained gaps in employment is another one to avoid. Many people take career breaks and have gaps in employment. There is no problem with these periods of unemployment in your CV. However, ensure these gaps are explained in a positive way. Don’t just describe why you were unemployed, but find the positives and draw attention to them. For example, you could show how you maintained a knowledge of industry developments or acquired new skills.
References should also not be included in your CV. If you reach the stage of the job application process where recruiters want to speak to references, they will ask you. Many people include a line at the end of their CV that states ‘references are available on request’. However, this is not required. Use the space in your CV wisely and show how you can add value, rather than including information that is redundant.
Lies are also something to avoid at all costs in your CV. Recruiters go through many CVs and they become accustomed to noticing the pieces of information that likely are not true. You may be asked about information in your CV at the job interview, so it’s a wise idea to make sure your CV doesn’t tell barefaced lies.
Unprofessional email addresses could also result in your CV edging closer to the trash can. Email addresses like allaboardhelen@gmail or crazydavid@hotmail don’t send out a very professional message. Creating a new one is free, so spend a few minutes opening a new email account and getting an email address that looks acceptable on your CV.
A link to your Facebook page or Twitter page is a no-no. While it is always advisable to include a link to your LinkedIn profile, we don’t recommend including links to other social media platforms. Keep your job application professional.
Over the top buzzwords or enthusiasm in your CV can be counter-productive. Here at CV Nation, we review thousands of CVs every year. We notice all kinds of mistakes and issues that could cause problems. One of the less common CV mistakes is over the top buzzwords or enthusiasm. ‘Enviable skills and achievements in project management’ and ‘Unrivalled success in my profession’ are examples. You should show your capabilities through results and achievements, rather than exaggerated claims that can’t be backed up.
Reasons for leaving jobs. While we have noticed an extreme minority of employers asking for this information on CVs, it’s highly advisable to avoid raising the issue of why you left employment. If necessary, you can explain why you left your previous jobs at the job interview. A CV is not the place to explain this information.
Should you include a photo in your CV? You shouldn’t include a photo in your CV, unless you are applying for a job that requires one, such a modelling jobs, cabin crew jobs or acting jobs. For other roles, your photo shouldn’t have an impact on the success of your application so it is advisable not to include a photo in your CV.
Bear in mind that if you’re using your CV to apply for jobs in certain foreign countries, the rules around what should or shouldn’t be included change. For example, Saudi Arabia CVs and Dubai CVs should include a photo, along with personal information, such as gender, nationality, visa status, marital status etc. While recruiters do not make recruitment decisions based on this information in the West, it should be included in your CV for applications in the Middle East.
7. Include voluntary work
Voluntary work can be a fantastic way of drawing attention to your skills, experiences and achievements. Voluntary work is most effective in your CV when it is relevant to the jobs you are applying for. Is this is the case, it is beneficial to approach your voluntary work in your CV in the same way that you would approach paid work.
Include the job title, the company name, the dates, the responsibilities and the achievements. Use this section of your CV to show the recruiter your experiences and skills, just like you would do with your paid employment history.
If you’re using a reverse chronological CV, include your voluntary work experience in reverse chronological order. However, ensure you make it clear that these positions were voluntary. If the positions were short placements, make this clear too.
In some cases, voluntary work should be the focal point of your CV. For example, if you’re a university graduate looking for a job in computer game development but the only experience you have in this area is voluntary, your CV should be built around these voluntary placements. Likewise, if you’re unemployed and have recent voluntary experience or you’re pursuing a career change and you have substantive voluntary experience in your targeted field, voluntary work should be your CV’s centrepiece.
If your voluntary work isn’t relevant to the job you are applying for, it can still be beneficial to include in your CV. Identify what skills you acquired during the experience or what achievements you accomplished. While not related to the job you are applying for, these voluntary experiences can still be a very effective way of showcasing your capabilities. For example, volunteering at a care home for two years to read to the elderly shows that you are emphatic, dedicated and loyal. These are skills that employers want in employees; if you can demonstrate them through your voluntary work in your CV, you’re likely to experience more success in the job market.
8. Obtain new CV content
While this is more of a long-term strategy, rather than something that you can instantly implement to improve your CV, it is arguably the most effective way of improving your CV.
So what do we mean by obtaining new CV content?
Start by identifying the weaknesses of your CV and find out why it isn’t as strong as possible. Are you inexperienced in your targeted role and struggling to find employment? If so, undertaking a two-week voluntary work placement in this area will provide you with a whole new set of experiences and skills to work with in your CV.
Of course, undertaking voluntary work in order to help you secure paid work isn’t for everyone. But there are many other ways of generating new content for your CV. You could join clubs and organisations related to your targeted roles. For example, if you’re targeting jobs as a teacher, you could join academic associations or teacher groups. Participating in such groups not only demonstrates your passion for education as a profession, but it also provides you with a platform to show that have taken active steps to learn about teaching best practices.
Furthermore, you could undertake new training programmes that are directly related to your targeted role. Many budding accountancy professionals undertake AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) training to develop an accountancy skill set and secure entry roles in the industry. Having self-funded themselves through this training, they have demonstrated their dedication to developing a career in accountancy while acquiring value-adding skills that enable them to make an instant impact for employers.
These tips are designed to improve your CV and bring you more success in the job market. If you feel that you could benefit from CV Nation’s professional CV writing services, feel free to get in touch with us here.
Our CV writing services have received many highly-positive reviews on Trustpilot and across the web. Feel free to ask to see some of our CV examples and don’t hesitate to book a free consultation with one of our experienced CV writers.