Your CV is one of the most important documents you have when job hunting. It‘s your career history condensed, to present yourself in the best possible light. It is a weapon in your job-hunting arsenal, and along with your cover letter, will give any potential employer their first impression of you. Treat it as your gateway to the interview.

Because of the CVs importance, it can also be one of the most stressful things you have to do while finding your perfect job. Figuring out what exactly to include, in what style to write and what length it has to be (or in a lot of people’s case, how can I stretch my experience and skills to make it look more impressive?!). Well don’t fret, we’re here to help.


Keep It Simple

The problem is too many people over complicate it. When talking about writing up a CV, the famous acronym coined by Kelly Johnson comes to mind: KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid!! The reality is, unless it’s a very specific job where you’re applying for an exclusive position and there are only you and one or two other candidates, you only have five to ten seconds to catch an employer’s eye. So keep it simple, concise and easy to read. Scrolling through multi-page mini books someone calls their CV, will only frustrate prospective employers and make them pass you up because of it. They simply don’t have the time.


Tailoring Your CV

Each CV should be tailored to each specific job you’re applying for, so yes that does mean more work if you are applying to multiple companies but the results are worth it. So highlight all of your relevant experience, skills and achievements. If you are applying for a computer programming position, you don’t need to include that shop assistant job you had one summer when you were 16, even if you were director of floor sweeping.

Generally, you want to keep it all within the last five to ten years, unless it’s something really relevant to the job you’re currently applying for.


Transferrable Skills

However if you are having difficulty in describing your prior jobs, or feel they are too short and lacking substance, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Maybe a previous job taught you exceptional organizational skills, or made you a more creative and innovative thinker. You want to portray how a lot of your skills from previous jobs are transferrable to the new one, even if they don’t strictly relate.

Here are is list of points to consider when writing your CV:

  • The length of your CV will greatly depend on the time in your life you’re at and the experience you’ve had. If you’re fresh out of college entering your first real job, chances are you don’t have a lot of relevant work history to include except for some summer internships, which are a great addition. If on the other hand you’ve had 30 years of hands on experience with all kinds of industry knowledge, training, accolades and honed skills, then you’re more likely to fill up more than the traditional one – two page recommendation. In many cases of high-level jobs, the qualifications and experience required by the companies simply won’t fit on 2 pages. But keep it as concise as possible. One – two pages is good
  • Start with your name and contact information either at the top or on the side, clearly visible for anyone to see
  • Have the first section as a brief description about your self entitled Summary or Objective. Use this as a way to concisely tell your prospective employer what kind of person you are, highlighting your best character traits. Make them want to read more
  • Keep to the same font throughout, consistency is important. Use bold when necessary, such as highlighting each individual section, e.g. Skills, Experience, Education
  • Use bullet points such as the ones used here for each description of your previous jobs, ideally making them 3-4 points each. This catches the eye better, making it easier to read than a paragraph
  • Include – Education, Relevant Experience & Skills, Qualifications, Interests and any Achievements that would make you stand out to this particular job
  • Include the years and dates you attended that school/college, worked at those jobs, collected those achievements
  • If providing Referrals, make sure you have contacted them so they are aware and won’t be surprised to receive a call from a potential employer
  • Stick to the standard fonts, i.e. Ariel or Times New Roman
  • If printing your CV, use plain black font and print on a plain white A-4 sized sheet (although cream is acceptable and may make yours stick out from a pile of white more!), preferably of good quality
  • Don’t include things like a photo, gender or date of birth
  • Don’t lie about your experience or qualifications. Companies use clever tactics to weed those kinds of people out. Plus, it’s just unethical and downright dishonest!


Your Online Presence

Although a tangible CV is extremely important, as is the content you add to it, no paper on Curriculum Vitaes would be complete without mentioning one of the most accessible yet most forgotten CVs of all, the Internet. Nowadays, almost every employer will use the web to research potential employees. In particular, headhunters heavily rely on the Internet as a preliminary tool to scope out the people they’re looking for, thus reducing the stress and workload of interviewing dozens of unsuitable candidates. So keep your online presence clean and up to date.

You should however include in your CV any online material that’s relevant, such as a blog you created, a website or anything that will impress an employer and show that even outside of work hours you are still a creative and productive person.


Do You Swear To Tell The Truth, The Whole Truth??

As for altering or extending the truth on your CV, many people have tried this, including some high level authorities in some major companies such as Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson who lied about having a computer science degree. Enhancing their qualifications, exaggerating about their work history or just outright lying about whom they are. They were eventually found out, quite publicly too, and make no mistake about it people, you’ll be found out too. These are trained professionals you’re dealing with, digital gurus. They have a belt full of experience using clever rues and all kinds of hiring techniques to test you out. On top of that, they have Big Brother to check up on you, the World Wide Web. Whether you like it or not, employers will use social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter to see all the activity and antics you’ve been up to. They want to know the other sides of the people they are potentially hiring, the sides of people they don’t see in the interview. So although we all try to make ourselves seem more impressive and phrase our achievements in a way to make ourselves stand out, lying about your qualifications and experience is never a good idea.

Remember, a CV is a brief description of all your qualifications, experience and useful skills. It is the basic information about you to show how you will be a great fit with that company. So don’t sell yourself short or hold back on all those amazing accomplishments. Just keep it simple, relevant and up to date.

Follow the points above and you’ll soon be on your way to reaching your digital ambition!

Read nextInterview Guide

Bookmark and Share