How to write a brilliant CV

How to write a brilliant CV

Have you ever struggled writing a CV? Have you spent hours trying to review your CV and felt confused? The following article will help you to create a successful CV and save you time in the process.

What mistakes should I avoid?

Think of your job application as a marketing tool. The purpose of the application is to give your future employer a taste of your skills and experience. Cramming too much into a CV is a common mistake. This approach often leads to creating generalised, vague and confusing applications. The more clear, structured and bespoke your CV is, the more likely that you will receive an interview invite and take the next steps in your application journey.

Make sure that your CV exudes professionalism. You will need to avoid grammar and spelling mistakes because it is most likely that your CV will be disregarded. Have you used a professional e-mail address? Have you accurately described your roles and responsibilities without being dishonest?

What lengths and layout to use?

Did you know that nearly half of all CVs that are more than two pages long are discarded? Research shows that the average time employers spend looking at a CV is in the region of seven seconds. You will need to think carefully about the layout in order to showcase your most relevant skills.

First, look at the job description and decide on how you would stand out from the crowd. Do you feel that your education and academic background would be most relevant to the position? If so, place the ‘education’ section towards the top of the CV. Do you consider your work history to be the most unique in your profile? In this case, you would find it helpful to place your work history at the top. Use bold headings to highlight the name of your employers and roles.

For most positions, your CV needs to be no longer than two pages. Many people describe their previous roles in generalised terms and include lots of irrelevant detail about them. When you list your previous roles, try to include about five bullet points describing what your responsibilities included.

Sarah, who works as an academic manager for a leading UK University, recently approached me to help her polish her CV before she applied for a Head of Department position within her organisation. Looking at her CV, I have noticed that the way Sarah described her previous roles did not match the main responsibilities required in the new role. In her CV, she used so called action verbs such as ‘coordinated’, ‘checked’, ‘responded’, ‘arranged’. I suggested to Sarah that she should describe her previous roles using verbs that align more closely to the leadership role she was applying to. She decided to describe her tasks using words such as ‘developed’, ‘mentored’, ‘monitored’, ‘lead’, ‘delegated’, and ‘resolved’.

As a result, Sarah has been able to secure an interview and received a fantastic job offer a few weeks later.

Should I include hobbies and interests?

Do make sure that you include your hobbies and interests if they are relevant to the job you are applying to. Volunteering can be especially helpful as you might be able to draw on a wide range of experiences. Do not forget about achievements and awards as these could help your application to stand out. If you have ever run a small business on the side, this could demonstrate helpful entrepreneurial skills. Do you speak any languages which could be helpful? Do you excel at sports? 'Have you ever lived overseas and gained some new hobbies?

Do I include references?

Employers tend to approach your referees if they wish to offer you a job. Do remember to contact potential referees well in advance of submitting your application and check if they are happy to submit a recommendation for you. Unless it is a requirement, you do not need to include the names and contact details of your referees in the CV. You may simply include ‘References are available upon request’.

It is wise to keep in touch with your referees and check from time to time if they are still willing to stay on your referee list.  It’s a good idea to contact your referees at least once a year to maintain good relationships with them and to check if they are happy to keep on providing recommendations.

Writing a winning CV is a skill that you will develop throughout your professional life. This is a skill that anybody can learn. At the start, you may find it helpful to ask a good friend or a colleague to take a look at your CV and ask for some constructive feedback. The more time you devote to polishing your CV, the more you will increase your chances of landing your dream job.

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