April 17th, 2013

The Wrong and right way of writing your CV

Do you put your work experience or educational achievements first? Do you add a photo of yourself? Will coloured paper make you stand out from others? Writing your CV can be a difficult task but there are certain rules you can follow. Discover the wrong and right ways to CV writing with our guide.
The right way

  1. Use confident and positive language. Use positive words such as initiated, introduced, improved, developed, established, negotiated, created, pioneered, delivered, increased, reduced, saved etc. This helps to ensure you’re substantiating your skills and abilities with hard evidence.
  2. Focus on your achievements and not responsibilities. Listing things you have done – such as increasing sales, products you may have launched, awards you have won – try not to repeat your job description. Quote facts and figures whenever possible.
  3. Encourage the potential employer to read on. Put your most salient points on the first page of your CV; include your greatest achievements and where possible give examples of how your skills have benefitted the businesses you have worked for.
  4. Focus on the quality not quantity of your achievements. Make sure that your achievements stand out! A good CV would have between 5 and 10 achievements on it that covers your main successes in your career to maintain the reader’s attention.
  5. Rise above the competition. Ensure you include other skills that might set your CV apart from other candidates, such as languages or IT skills.
  6. Keep to the point. Be ruthless; keep your CV to a maximum of a few pages. Only very senior or diversely skilled individuals have more to say.
  7. Check and check again. Check thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors – spotting mistakes and eliminating the CV from the selection process is a recognised technique for weeding out the weaker candidates. Don’t rely on your computers spellchecker, get someone else to proof read it – you may have spelt a word correctly but used it in the wrong context.
  8. Use relevant and industry recognised keywords. Recruiters use keywords to find the most relevant jobseekers. These keywords will include specific technical skills such as SAGE or qualifications like ACCA, specific job titles like ‘Sales advisor’. Also, when responding to a job advertisement, make sure your CV mirrors the language used in the advert.
  9. Capture their attention. Prioritise the content of your CV, detail the most relevant information first. Start with a hard-hitting personal profile that avoids clichés such as ‘hard-working, team player with excellent communication skills’. Make sure that your career history is punchy and to the point with qualified and quantified successes.
  10. Graduates should expand Tell your reader more about your degree other than just the modules you have taken. Show successes you have had in your project work and dissertations and other extracurricular activities you have undertaken. More work experienced job hunters should just put their degree details on page two with the University they attended, the degree that they took and the grade achieved.

The wrong way.

  1. Expand the truth. Most employers are not fooled by creative embellishments and if you do manage to get a job based on a creative CV you could be fired for gross misconduct if found out. Falsifying a CV is a criminal offence.
  2. Listing everything. An employer doesn’t want to know all the one-day training courses you have attended. Keep information relevant and to the point.
  3. Include a photo. No matter how attractive you maybe, it will not improve your chances. This tends to be popular in other European countries but it isn’t favoured by the majority of UK businesses.
  4. Get creative. Do not use elaborate fonts and colours to make your CV stand out. The more gimmicky you make your CV using different shapes and pictures; the more off-putting it will be to an employer. It will also make it more difficult to upload to the various job portals
  5. Divulge sensitive information. Never include your NI or passport number or any other sensitive personal information on your CV.
  6. Tailor your CV. Your CV should be strong enough to be used for different positions that you are applying for. Your covering letter that should be tailored carefully for each job opportunity, make sure it answers all of the employer’s questions about your suitability for the role.
  7. Talk about me, me, me. Avoid starting each sentence in the first person. Instead use phrasing such as ‘Selected to manage the companies online marketing spend of £150,000 which resulted in the company achieving a top 10 page ranking across all search engines within 6 months’.
  8. Talk in cliches. Phrases such as ‘I am a highly motivated individual who works well on my own or in a team, with exceptional communication skills and the ability to work under pressure to produce results under tight deadlines’ are dull and the employer has heard them all before. Make yourself stand out with carefully worded phrasing that is factual and captures the employer’s attention.
  9. Duplicate applications. Some recruiters have systems that handle multiple applications from the same person; however, for those that don’t it is not advisable to submit more than one application, make a note of the jobs you are applying for, locations, job titles, dates etc.
  10. Make the recruiter jump through hoops. If you are able to perform in the job, explain how in your CV. Don’t expect the employer to read between the lines to work out whether you will be worth the advertised £40k salary