How to write a good CV
As job vacancies rise to a new record of 1.3 million in March, many candidates are continuing with their job hunt. Last month, we offered advice to candidates who were getting worn down by their search for a new role and how to avoid that burn out. But how can you have confidence that you’re putting your best foot forward with every application? Read our tips below on how to make your CV stand out.
Think about the design
Before you begin writing about your past experiences, you firstly have to design the template. Although there is usually no set layout that a recruiter or employer prefers, unless explicitly stated, it’s best to try and keep the pages to a minimum. Typically, three pages is an absolute maximum with two pages being good – in short, the less pages the better. Excessive amounts of pages will turn off a recruiter or employer as they need to digest a lot in a short period, as well as diluting and distracting from your key selling points.
Something else to consider is the layout of your CV – something that is completely up to you. Landscape, portrait or with a unique design – it’s best to choose a layout that you can fit a suitable amount of information on without overcrowding the page. Some people prefer to write a list on word whilst others prefer to be slightly more creative. It is best practice to make sure that there is some white space on your CV and that it is readable; if you’re running out of space on one page, don’t think too hard about moving onto another page as you can condense the content and finetune it later.
Essential details to include
Think of your CV as a self-summary – everything should be brief and kept minimal to ensure that an interviewer has plenty of questions to ask you after you submit your application.
One of the most important things to include is details about your past roles. It is recommended that you write about three or four of your past roles, dependent on the space and what you think is relevant. Make sure you add your job title and the date the employment began and ended, as this helps a recruiter or employer see how many years of experience you have under your belt.
If a particular sector, such as tech, is your speciality, it is essential to have a section on your CV dedicated to that so you can highlight your knowledge. You’ll want to place this high up on the actual document so they cannot be missed. The same can be applied to any key industry achievements within your sector, with this showing a recruiter that you have an appetite for learning and development.
It is also key to include any relevant qualifications you may have such as university degrees, National Vocational Qualifications or any other recognised body that will further call attention to your experience and any years spent studying the sector. If you are applying for a wide variety of roles, it is recommended that you have a few different versions of your CV to send to recruiters or employers that are specifically aimed at answering the job description and advertisement. By curating a set of bespoke CVs, you will show employers where your experience and skills match what they’re looking for.
Show your personality
After putting in all the effort to showcase your professional skills, make sure you leave a little room to let your personality shine; a small section detailing any interests will make you stand out amongst the crowd as an employer can see unique details about you as a person.
Another section that will make you stand out as a person is to include any professional awards won or any articles published. This will foreground to an employer that your work has been recognised by independent bodies and you are committed to your sector. If you are an active part of the tech community this could also be worth highlighting, especially if you contribute to peer review websites, tech meet-ups, mentorships or attend industry conferences. Showing passion and enthusiasm for the industry as well as knowledge will help the employer understand a little more about you as a person.
Don’t overdo the detail
The tips above will give a potential employer plenty to get to know you; including any excessive details might leave them with few questions to ask you during an interview.
Unless specifically requested, it is recommended that you leave off full details of any referees who can speak to your skills; simply putting ‘references can be provided upon request’ will be enough for most job briefs. Referees are normally requested separately on an application or when you are offered the job so including full names, email addresses and phone numbers would be a waste of valuable space on your CV.
It's also best practice to leave out any industry-specific acronyms or jargon. Typically, the first person to review your CV will be a recruiter who may not have the same knowledge you do, so they’ll need to be able to understand all the language before passing it on to other professionals – the interview stage is a place you can truly let your tech-specific language shine.
Basic task lists can also be left off as these can be gauged from your experience. As stated above, giving a short description of your role is the best way to describe your tasks and will be able to prompt an interviewer to ask more in-depth questions later.
Similarly, try to leave off any basic skills that an employer or recruiter will expect. For example, in today’s tech friendly world, it is all but confirmed that most candidates have used programmes such as Microsoft Office alongside any specialist software specific to the role and an employer will typically ask separate questions about your skills alongside the application and in the interview. Leaving off the above details ensures you don’t give too many details at the initial stage and there are still key questions you can be asked during any interviews you attend. However, it is worth noting that an employer could potentially ask for one or more of the above to be included on your CV and on that occasion, you would include the detail.
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