Finally - How to write a CV that actually works.

As you can imagine, over the years as a recruiter, this is a question we get asked a lot. We see some great ones, and we also see some absolute horror shows. 

We’ve all heard the saying, “you have 6 seconds to grab an employers attention.” With that in mind, I thought I’d share some do’s and don’ts and a nice simple structure you can use to get the job done.

Let’s kick off with the Do’s

  • Keep it simple: You don't have to elaborate massively on what you do day to day. List your time spent at the employer, job title, skills used, and an overview of the job. That’s all it needs.
  • Reverse date order: This is vital, and commonly overlooked. If your most relevant experience is at the bottom of your CV it’s not going to get seen.
  • Showcase your skills: Regardless of what you think of recruiters or potential employers, we all need to be able to find you! So make sure you include your top skill sets!
  • Show personality: We want to see what sets you aside from other potential candidates, so if you want to be creative, do it!

And the Don’ts

  • Don’t waffle! 3 pages max: Really, there’s likely to be a lot of applications for the job you’re going for. That being said, a 27 page novel of a CV isn’t going to be either read or relevant. You wouldn’t use a flamethrower to kill a fly would you?
  • Don’t ‘over share’. You’d be surprised at some of the info we see on CV’s. It’s great that your hobbies are ‘Snakes and Weapons’, but think about the impression it makes to anyone as a potential employer. Probably not!
  • Throw the system-generated template away. This is your chance to showcase yourself, and any hiring manager can spot a template a mile off. Most of them are generally poor anyway.


So… How to write a good one. This is obviously open to interpretation, but I personally think this structure is a winner.

Personal Details:

Name, Address, Telephone Number, Email – That’s it.

Overview:

In 3 sentences, tell us who you are, what you do, and what you’re looking for. NB. Please don't do it in the third person! We all know you wrote this yourself!

Key achievements: 

Bullet point 4 or 5 points that you’re proud of. These give great structure for employers to question around in interview.

Key Skills: 

Consider a table or some more bullet points here. I’d leave this with ‘Hard Skills’ AKA Technologies, or Core Skill Sets. DO NOT include Microsoft Office or Facebook. (Please) 

Working History – (Most Recent First)

Where you worked – Dates – Job Title - All as a header. 3 or 4 sentences about each job. What’s the company, what was your responsibility / project? What skills did you use?

The further back you go, the less of an overview you need to give. Keep it relevant to the roles that you’re applying for now. If you started your working life as a butcher’s assistant, we don't need a page on that if you’re now a Senior Project Manager.

Education: Again – Reverse order

It’s good to display your results of degrees, higher qualifications etc. But again, if you’re 40 years old, we don't need to know test results when you were 16. These things can all be talked about in interview if necessary.

Hobbies and Interests / Personal Information:

Again, tell us a little about you. What makes you tick? Done some charity work? Passionate about a cause? Jui Jitsu grand master? Tell us here. Makes for some great rapport building, and show’s us about a likely team fit.

Please be careful though. Snakes and Weapons.

References: Available on request.

Nice and simple.

Format: Space it out. Avoid enormous blocks of text. Use a professional font. You’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. Colour can be good if used subtly ie. For headers and stuff. Comic Sans, size 22? Not cool.

So that’s it. It might not be your idea of ‘the perfect resume’. However, it’s to the point, well structured, highlights your skills and tells us a little bit about you. After all, isn’t that what a good CV is meant to do?

Remember, A CV is only a snapshot to get a foot in the door. So tell us your best attributes, and let us uncover the rest at interview.

If you'd like some help, please get in contact with us, or if you have any comments, questions, or queries, we'd love to hear them.

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Chris Stringer

7th June

Career Advice