Your CV – or Curriculum Vitae – is a selling tool. It outlines your abilities and experience. It’s your chance to sing your own praises and make an employer sit up and take notice. So you must take time to fine tune it.
What’s more, your CV is the one part of the job-seeking process over which you have total control. Writing a CV is one of the most important things you will do in your job-seeking process. If done correctly, it will increase your prospects of getting the position you want.
How do you decide what to include?
You need to convince a potential employer that you have the skills, abilities, and the experience to be considered for the position. Many CV’s tend to look like shopping lists, but remember companies are results orientated – so you must emphasise what you’ve achieved in previous employment. Start with your personal details (name, address, and phone number). Then there is the Personal Profile – give a short 3 or 4 line personal profile summarising your skills, experience, knowledge, and career aspirations. This gives the potential employer a quick overview to match against the position.
The next part is your employment history. Write down the details of when you started and finished each job. Account for all of your time; if you had a period of unemployment, describe what you did with your time – for example you may have been travelling, bringing up family or studying to advance your prospects. Think through the purpose of each job, the responsibilities you handled, and the specific results you achieved.
List your previous employment, with the most recent first. For each period of employment give your job title, the name of the company, and the period you were employed. Follow this with a description of the role, your key responsibilities, and remember to highlight any achievements. For previous jobs keep the details more brief.
Next, list your qualifications, education, and professional training. Begin with your most recent qualifications and work back. If you have a degree, or higher education qualification, list these first if they are relevant to the jobs you will be applying for. There is no need to include an extensive list of your Leaving Cert Results, and if you are in education at the moment expand on areas of your studies that might be relevant to the post you are applying for.
Presentation & Layout
Presentation and layout are critical. Put yourself in the employers position; they’re busy people – wading through hundreds of CV’s is a time consuming process. Research shows that, on average, managers spend less than two minutes – and often just 30 seconds – examining each CV. Visual impressions count. A jumbled, poorly laid out CV is an open invitation to move onto the next one; a well structured, clear and concise CV encourages the employer to read on.
- Two pages is an ideal length for a CV.
- Use subheadings (Employment History etc) wherever possible – they help the reader quickly find information. Keep it well spaced, so it’s easy to read – don’t try to squash everything onto the page by using tiny typefaces.
- Use a simple, clear typeface – fancy fonts and gimmicky design devices do nothing for clarity.
- If printing use good quality, white A4 paper – cheap photocopying paper does not impress.
Style & Tone
- Again, don’t make life hard for the employer. Write in a precise, clear style and stick to the point – only include relevant information.
- Keep the language formal with short, crisp sentences – your personality will come through at interview stage.
- Use active keywords (created, devised, enjoyed, relished, helped, negotiated, managed, liaised, motivated) which have a positive impact.
- Avoid jargon and abbreviations – the employer may not be aware of what they stand for.
- Take great care with spelling and grammar – the slightest error can result in your CV being rejected. Don’t just run the CV through a spellchecker – that won’t identify ‘typos’, discrepancies and grammatical inconsistencies.
- Once you have checked the finished document, ask a friend to check again – a fresh pair of eyes often spots a mistake you missed.
- Ensure it is always typed, and contains no spelling mistakes. Take the time to produce a document that is both easy to read and professional looking. Tempting as it might be, avoid the use of gimmicks, elaborate typefaces and fancy designs just to get noticed.
- Use clean, white paper and never give the impression that this is one of the many CV’s that you have photocopied and sent out. A photocopied CV, like a circular, will normally end up in the bin.
- Find out the right person to send the CV to. If it goes to the wrong person, it may also just end up in the bin.
- A CV is a confidential document, so post it or email it. Don’t fax it unless it’s very urgent and you are specifically asked to.
Don’t be disheartened if the first CV you send out doesn’t secure you a position. As with most stages of getting a job, there is some luck involved. Follow our advice, and be persistent!
Download our PDF example – CV Example