The grind to get employed can be daunting when it seems like you’ve sent enough resumes to fill a book. Yet when you don’t hear any responses, it’s easy to get discouraged. Well, it’s time to learn how to write a curriculum vitae (CV) that will separate the chaff from the wheat, and get you ahead of the competition.
How to write a curriculum vitae to land your dream job
You’ve got the skills, experience, and passion. Yet getting it all of that down in a single document stumps a lot of people. Maybe no one has told you, but it isn’t your fault your CV isn’t up to scratch. There isn’t a set formula for how to write a curriculum vitae to simply follow. Every employer looks for something different. And a CV that impressed one potential employer won’t draw the same interest from another! We’ve drawn the best tips from HR experts to help you avoid common mistakes people make when submitting their CVs and help you understand how to prepare the best and most polished CV for each separate occasion!
The top HR management firms reveal telling statistics about behaviours of employers when they look over CV’s.
- Most interviewers spend only 6 seconds scanning your CV!
- The first time many interviewers look at your CV will be when you step into the room
- More than 75% of CVs are discarded because of unprofessional email addresses
- Don’t use a photo! CVs with photos have an 88% rejection rate
But wait! There’s more! Here are nine tips to spruce up the CV so it has style AND substance to get you into the interviewer’s room.
1. Avoid grammatical errors and get formatting help
This sounds really obvious. But over 58 per cent of CVs have typos. We all make mistakes. But when applying for a job, a typo is the one you can afford to make the least! You can get your CV checked from three separate sources – a friend, a spellchecker and a professional. While the professional might sound like overkill, you can find freelance editors with many hours logged and years of experience who can spend 15 minutes scanning over your CV for peace of mind.
It also goes a long way if you can format your CV that highlights the most relevant and important parts of your work experience and skill set, whilst looking easy on the eye. Italics, use of bold and all-caps should be used sparingly, but it doesn’t mean avoid them like the plague. The best font will look good when printed and on a computer screen. Debra White of Careers Done Write says “I would stay away from Times New Roman. That’s the sweatpants of font”.
2. Keep it to one page!
If you haven’t heard already, interviewers don’t spend a lot of time looking at CVs! A lot of people often feel they need to cram as much information in as possible. But if your CV is longer than one page, it shows employers that you can’t highlight exactly why you’re a good fit for this job. Recruiters from Google and Barclays said two-page CVs “are the bane of their existence”.
3. Having a killer Header and precise Personal Summary
Many CVs have a header that tells the employer who you are in a short sentence. Some people opt for flashier options like including a short sentence of what their experience is. But you might be making it harder for yourself since you’re forced to sell your experience and what you have to offer in such a tiny space. Furthermore, other people use this space to put down the words “Curriculum Vitae”. Don’t do this! An employer looking at a well-formatted CV will immediately know what it is, so you’re wasting space!
We recommend putting your name – not in all-caps so you don’t come across as aggressive – in large font and bond while centralised. Also, put down your full name and not your nicknames, as that can appear unprofessional. If you get the job, you can always tell them your preference for how you’d like to be addressed afterwards.
Personal summaries can often be too long and formal. You already know an employer spends no longer than six seconds reading over it. If they see a wall of text telling them that you’re a great team player, they’ll probably skip it! Bullet points can be used which tell interviewers why you’re a good fit in short, succinct statements.
4. Making the Most of Your Work Experience
In the case of work experience, less is more. When people ask how to write a curriculum vitae that is good, including the most relevant work experience is vital. Especially if you have accumulated many roles. Include just the past 5 jobs or past 10 years of work experience. If there are irrelevant roles in your work history, don’t leave any out since it can look odd if there are any gaps in your employment.
5. Avoid getting personal
Unless it directly affects your ability to do the job, you can leave out additional details on your CV like age, religious beliefs or even if you’re married. If you choose to reveal this after you get the job (congrats!), that’s your choice. Employers will judge your ability to do the job based on your merits and not on any personal characteristics.
6. Using overly simple language
Of course, you’re not trying to wax lyrical and show that you’re a wordsmith. But there’s a danger when you apply for a job that requires specialist knowledge and skills. You sell yourself short if you try to write in simpler terms so it’s easier to read for the interviewer. But you run the risk of appearing to not knowing your stuff and being a bang average candidate.
A good example of a poorly written statement is:
“Helping out with different important tasks to free up time for the manager”.
There’s nothing wrong with the above grammatically. But you can afford to use terminology to show that you understand your role. A better example of writing the above job responsibilities is:
“Supporting various business critical functions to relieve management of administration duties”.
7. Show off your impact with some results
When it comes to showing off your skillset, a lot of people fall short. It can feel like a not-so-humble brag, which leaves a lot of job seekers uncomfortable. But this type of confidence and positive effect you had on a business is exactly what employers look for. Did you work on a project that smashed expected targets? Or did you set an unprecedented record for meeting KPIs for a quarter when all odds were against you? Throw some stats in! Interviewers can clearly see your impact when you show your work in numbers.
8. Change from passive to active
You risk putting the reader to sleep when you use long sentences with passive verbs that have run-on clauses that don’t mean anything and I forgot what I was saying…
We’re not suggesting you go all alpha on your CV, but being assertive by using the present tense, getting to the point and using action words goes a long way to showing enthusiasm.
9. Ease up on the buzzwords
This might be one of the biggest headaches for people when they ask how to write a curriculum vitae!
Did you know that using too many buzzwords can actually get your CV to be filtered out from a selection process? It can seem like second nature to type that you’re a great “teamplayer”, who is “motivated” and “passionate” at driving a business forward. But calling back to point seven, an interviewer will appreciate it more when you get straight to the point. The fact that you are experienced and ambitious will come through the results.
With our guide on common mistakes people make when making their CV, you should know how to write a curriculum vitae! Share with any friends that are on the lookout for a new role!
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