How to write a killer CV

Writing a CV can feel like a complicated undertaking. Understanding what a recruiter wants to see and what may be irrelevant can be difficult and to write a CV is time consuming. Ideally, you’ll have a CV that is suitable for all the job applications that you want to make, but there is no one template that will suit all applicants.

Your CV will need to be easy to read, follow a professionally suitable format but must be unique enough to ensure that you stand out against other applicants. The recruiter will inevitably have several CVs to read and so you want to be sure that yours will impress, even if it is only scanned or skim read.

There is a skill to ensuring that your CV is appropriate for the role that you are applying for, without having to need to rewrite it for each application. The tips below will help you write a killer CV that will impress and be flexible enough for multiple applications.

Important Information to Include on a CV

A recruiter wants to be able to pick a CV up, briefly read it and pick out relevant points that highlight your suitability for the role. This means that a recruiter doesn’t want an elaborate CV that is complicated to read, nor do they want something so basic that they have to invest too much time in finding information that will make you suitable.

The following inclusions should be made on all CVs, no matter what the job is or how senior the position will be:

Personal Information

Perhaps the most important inclusion in any CV is your personal details. You will need to include your name, email address, postal address and a contact telephone number. Without this information, the recruiter won’t be able to contact you, even if the rest of your CV makes you the best candidate. Add your name in bold to the top of the document to ensure that this information stands out and is memorable.

Mini Personal Statement

A small personal statement is imperative on a CV as this will be the opportunity for you to personalise the document and impress the recruiter. The statement should offer information on who you are, what skills you have and the role that you are seeking. Try to add some impressive adjectives such as ‘innovative’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘focused’ and conscientious’ as a skim read should allow a recruiter to highlight your eagerness and abilities.

Try to keep this section relatively short at around a paragraph in length. The statement should provide enough information to interest the recruiter, but little enough to ensure they want to ask you more.

Work Experience

Your work experience and employment history is a vital part of your CV and often the section that a recruiter will review with the most focus. List your previous jobs with the most current or existing role first.
You should add your job title, employer, dates of employment and some information about your role including their key responsibilities that you hold.

Educational Information

Your education and qualifications should be included on your CV, with the most recent achievement first. Add the date that you achieved the qualification, the grade that you achieved and if relevant, the place that you studied. For example, if you achieved your degree from an impressive university, add this information to the section.

Vocational qualifications and certificates are important and so take the time to add details of any courses and awards that you have achieved in a working environment as well as academic achievements.

Achievements

If you have any additional achievements, such as skills or sports that you have been successful in, ad brief information under this heading. Try to keep your achievements relevant to the jobs that you are applying for and include details of any in-house training that you have completed in previous employment.

Hobbies and Interests

Including information about your hobbies is not imperative and so don’t add this section unless you have a pastime that is relevant to the job that you’re applying for. Mention any hobby that helps demonstrate the skills that you may need in your employment. It’s not worthwhile to say that you enjoy socialising with friends, for example, so only add this section if there is valuable information to share.

What shouldn’t I include on my CV?

Recruiters spend a lot of time skim reading CVs and can quickly ascertain whether a candidate is likely to be suitable for their firm based on a fast CV review. In order to ensure that your CV is given more consideration and a thorough evaluation, there are some things that you should avoid adding. Each recruiter is likely to have their own pet peeves with a CV and they may get fed up of reading generic terms such as “I’m hard working” or “a great team player”, so try to avoid clichés and be more unique in the contents and adjectives you use.

When you want to add skills or adjectives to promote yourself, make a list and review them to ensure that they don’t seem too common or that they won’t make you blend in with every other CV. Try to avoid using terms such as:

  • Works well in a team or independently
  • Great time management skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Hardworking/Flexible/Motivated

Instead, use descriptions that are true to you and that will set you aside from the competition. Words such as: consistent, non-negotiable in meeting targets, committed, ingenuity and innovation are much more eye-catching and tempting to a recruiter.

What format should my CV be presented in?

It is very important that your CV is presented well in order for it to make a good impression and be readable to an employer. If your CV doesn’t look impressive or is too complicated to read, no matter how well suited you are, it is unlikely that an employer will take the time to see this in a scan read.

To promote yourself and your skills successfully, follow the presentation tips below when creating your CV:
Keep the CV as succinct as possible and never exceed two sides of A4. If you find that your CV is longer than two sides of A4, it is likely that there is too much information or irrelevant details included.

Choose an easy to read font that is professional. Don’t think that a unique font is a sure way to be memorable for the right reasons! Remember, the recruiter wants to quickly skim a CV to determine whether they should invest more time in reading. Arial and Times New Roman are a secure choice.

Use the layout above and give a subheading to each section. Some employers may be more focused on employment history than educational achievements, for example, and so guide them to each section.

Perform a thorough spellcheck and grammar review. Your CV must be free of errors to impress an employer and show you to be a professional and reliable candidate.

Final Considerations

Following the guidelines above, you will produce a professional and thorough CV that will be effective and of interest to potential employers. However, as generic as the requirements can be, do be aware that it may be necessary to amend your CV for certain job roles.

Consider adding to some sections to demonstrate experience and skills more thoroughly if the job role calls for a specific requirement. Try to look at the job description for the vacancy that you are applying for and pick out key duties or responsibilities. Try to add these into your CV under your work experience or skills to ensure that you appear well matched to the recruiter.

Take time to forward your CV with a well written covering letter then further enhances your interest in the role and your skills. Take the opportunity to further match your experiences and abilities to the individual jobs that you are applying for in your cover letter.