How to write a good CV

Your CV is important as it is the first chance you have to promote yourself to the client or the recruitment agency and a good CV will help you secure an interview.

There is no single “correct” way to present a CV but we hope that with this guide we can give you some key presentation tips that will help you feel confident that you are presenting the information in a clear and structured manner that show off your skills and experience to your best advantage.

If you know the detail of the opportunity you are applying for, it is very important to tailor your CV to bring out your relevant experience for the specific role; it is a very competitive market and you must make it as obvious as possible, as early as possible in the document why you are the person for the job! Do not rely on a generic CV (even though you do need one as a starting point) to cover all eventualities. The following suggestions apply equally to a tailored or generic CV

Remember that a CV is not designed to get you the job but rather to get you the interview!

The most common way to present your experience is with a chronological CV and most clients are used to reading this format and feel comfortable with this layout.

A CV should begin with your relevant personal details such as your name and address, but avoiding details like your children’s names, spouse’s occupation and how many pets you have.  Personal information like this is not relevant to the client.

Start with your name, and ideally a brief summary about you – make this as objective as possible and try and highlight key skills avoiding clichés such as “excellent communicator” and “able to work in a team or independently”.  Try to keep your summary factual and relevant to the role you are applying for and then go on to demonstrate your personal skills throughout your CV by detailing your achievements.

Next; detail your qualifications, educational background and qualifications and then systems and language skills, as well as any relevant training courses you may have attended.

You should detail dates, institutions, and course providers (where applicable) in reverse order so that your most recent qualifications are listed first.

When detailing your career history this should be presented chronologically in reverse date order starting with the most recent. List the dates worked, the employer and the type, size and nature of the business and then the role/roles you held in order.  Detail your key responsibilities followed by your achievements.  Include more detail for your recent roles, but for roles that are not so relevant or more than 5-10 years ago simply list your key achievements.

In order to keep your CV clear and concise – use bullet points, keep the layout simple and ideally do not use images, photographs or fancy borders to try and stand out as this often looks unprofessional.

Try to keep the CV to a maximum length of 4-5 pages if possible.  If you have extensive experience a 2 page CV is not going to sell you effectively and contrary to popular belief clients do not wish to see a shortened version of a CV as they cannot glean enough information to establish if an applicant is suitable for their role.

If you choose to include a cover letter – take the time to ensure it is specifically tailored to the role. Don’t use a generic cover letter as it looks as though you haven’t put in any effort. If you are going to use a cover letter, use it to clearly outline where your skills and experience match those required in the role and ensure that it is correctly addressed.

Key CV Tips

  • Ensure that you have used the same layout and style throughout and that the CV is easy to read and understand.
  • ALWAYS use the spelling and grammar check. CV’s with inaccuracies are the first to be rejected in a world where communication skills and PC skills are key to an employer.
  • Use a simple unfussy font such as Arial or Times New Roman and black ink.  If you are providing a hard copy of your CV ensure that you use a good quality white A4 paper.
  • Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes; does your CV reflect your skills accurately in line with the role that you are applying for? Would you ask this candidate in for an interview on the basis of the CV document?
  • Include all methods of contact so that the recruiter can get hold of you easily and if possible provide numbers with an answer phone facility.  Do not include your work telephone number if you are unable to speak privately in the office.
  • If you are looking to relocate ensure this is clearly noted on the CV
  • State on the CV that you are able to provide referees and supporting qualification proof on request.
  • Do not leave unexplained gaps in your CV – if you had a career break or spent time travelling detail this.
  • There is no reason to include your reasons for leaving each job on your CV but be prepared to answer these questions in your interview.
  • To describe your responsibilities in your current role always use the present tense
  • Use the past tense to describe responsibilities in your previous roles and make sure if you add a new position you update the tense of the previous role. Above all – ensure that the whole of the CV document is consistent.
  • Avoid speaking about yourself in the third person
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms that other people might not understand
  • Indicate if any roles were temporary or interim by stating your job title as “Temporary Accountant” or “Interim Accountant” to ensure the client understands why the role was of a shorter duration.

Create an job winning cv with this template

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