DOs and DON’Ts : The CV

Along with your cover letter, your CV is the very first impression of you that recruiters or potential employers receive. Research has shown that recruiters will form an opinion on a CV within just six seconds. This means that devoting time and attention to yours is absolutely vital, ensuring that the areas where their attention will be focused are absolutely perfect. We’ve all heard the supposed rules for writing your CV; don’t let it exceed a page, give them your references and so on. But should your CV really follow these rules? There are of course also many other less discussed rules that should not be forgotten…

DO have a focus. Your CV is your chance to show hiring managers just how suitable you are for their job. Every job is different, so it is clear that your CV should be tailored to show your suitability for each individual job. Despite this, many of us send off one CV and cover letter for numerous, very different roles. Statistics show that 71% of hiring managers prefer a tailored CV. A good way of keeping this majority happy is to keep one “tailorable” CV saved with all of your past experience, which you can then edit to emphasize experience suitable for the job at hand. If you choose this option however, you should take care to keep only truly relevant information, as an overly lengthy CV will only decrease the amount of content that employers read.

DO be clear. There is nothing more off-putting for a hiring manager than receiving two pages full of prose, worse still three or more pages. Be succinct – why use 20 words when five will do? While the aforementioned one word CV rule may be a little excessive, it is wise not to exceed two pages. If you think you have more than that to say on your CV, then the chances are that you’re including irrelevant information.

DO use keywords. Thanks to recent developments, employers increasingly use technology to screen candidates, namely making use of keyword searchable databases. As a candidate, you can’t possibly know that your CV will be screened in this way, but it is better to be safe than sorry. No matter how good a candidate you are, your CV could well slip through the net if you don’t express your suitability using appropriate keywords.

DO be thorough. Pay attention to detail and check your spelling and grammar and ensure that formatting is consistent. A CV where the bullet points change halfway through or where a candidate misspells important words will leave a bad impression. Even if you aren’t applying for a job where written English is of high importance, a lack of care is never attractive to employers, so make sure to iron out any the mistakes.

DON’T hide your skills. With limited time and often hundreds of CVs to sort through, readers pay the most attention to the first third of the first page. It is advisable therefore to include a clear “profile” section at the top of this page, featuring all your key information including a name, title, photo and key skills such as languages.

DON’T mention your references. Stating that you have “references available on request” – or even listing them – is a bit of a waste of space. After all, why would you be looking for a job if you didn’t have references? Recruiters will presume that you do and will ask you for them when they need to.

DON’T flatter yourself. Describing yourself as a dynamic, enthusiastic employee doesn’t really do you any favours. Anyone can describe themselves this way on paper, so you are far better off keeping the content of your CV quantifiable and waiting for your interview to show in person that you really have these qualities.

DON’T use clichés. Again, anyone can say that they are a team player or have good leadership skills. Why should a reader believe this? If you genuinely feel you do possess these skills, show them through the work that you’ve done. Describing the contribution you’ve made to a team project or the success of an initiative you led will show off your skills on paper far better than just words. Another word that gets thrown around is “experienced”. Anyone can claim to be experienced, whether they have been in a job for 10 days or 10 years, so by describing yourself this way, you may be doing yourself an injustice. A short description of your experience will paint a more realistic picture.

Anyone can write a CV. It is attention to detail and really thinking about the requirements of each job that will really enable you to tailor your CV to show yourself to be suitable for a role.

Good Luck!

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