How to make a CV
If you want to secure job interviews, you need a CV that works for you.
You need a CV that is specifically written for your own unique situation.
There are lots of CV templates and formats you can use, but they will not be effective if you don’t tailor them to your own skillset and target jobs.
This detailed guide will show you how to use an existing proven format and mould it to your own needs, so that you can make a CV that works for you.
- Example CV
- Pre-writing research
- CV structure and format
- CV profile
- Work experience
To start this guide, it’s important to understand how a good CV looks, and the type of content it should contain.
Take a look over this example CV before delving into the guide below, where I will show you how to tailor this structure to your own needs.
Pre CV-writing research
Before you start writing your CV, it’s crucial to research the needs of your target employers, and identify what they expect from candidates.
By finding out what skills and knowledge they want to see, you will know exactly what content needs to go into your CV.
So, prior to writing your CV, you should hit the job boards and scour through a large number of your job adverts that fall into the category of jobs you are looking for.
Make a list of the skills, knowledge and experience that repeatedly appear in the candidate requirements.
Focus on hard skills like;
- Industry experience
- Market knowledge
- Product service knowledge
- IT skills
- Role specific skills
Don’t worry too much about soft skills like;
- Team work
- Problem solving
Soft skills are needed for most jobs, and recruiters won’t be searching for them, so they don’t need to be made prominent in your CV (curriculum vitae).
Focus on hard skills throughout your CV to show recruiters you have the specific skills needed for the roles you are applying to – and not just the generic skills that everyone has.
Once you have this list of in-demand skills for your field, writing your CV will become a much easier task.
CV structure and format
To start creating your CV, you need a structure that facilitates ease-of-reading, and a format that looks slick and professional.
This infographic gives you an overview of best-practice CV structure and format.
Here are few pointers on CV format.
Use a clear font
There is no one particular font that you must use for your CV, but just make sure it is clear and simple, thus making it easy to read.
Don’t be tempted to use an elaborate font to jazz the CV up and stand out, it will make it difficult for recruiters and hiring managers to read the content and understand your message.
Divide sections clearly
Recruiters often receive hundreds of CVs a week, so they scan through them initially to find key terms, before reading in full.
To allow them to do this, divide the sections clearly with big bold headings and even borders – this will help to ensure that your CV passes the initial scan test.
Don’t waste space
Ideally your CV should be about 2 pages of A4 in length, as this tends to be the optimal size for telling your story without boring readers.
With this limited space (and limited attention from recruiters) you can’t afford to waste space. So make sure that you reduce your page margins as much as possible, and don’t leave huge white gaps all over the document.
Here is a quick run down of how to structure your CV before I cover each section in detail.
Place your name and contact details at the top of the CV so that recruiters have no problem contacting you.
An introductory summary of your skills to grab readers’ attention and hook them.
Your history of roles listed in reverse chronological order.
A summary of your most relevant education and qualifications.
Hobbies and interests?
If your hobbies and interest will add value to your applications, then add to the bottom of your CV. It’s an optional section though
Now, I will walk you through the content needed for each section.
Your name and contact details are a very simple section, but one that you need to get right.
Head the CV with your name and a professional title to set the tone for the CV. This title should be written for the jobs you want – not the one you are currently in.
The only contact details you need to include are:
- Email address
- Phone number
- And maybe Linkedin if you have a profile worth looking at
You do not need to add:
- Your full address
- Date of birth
- A photo
- Your marital statues
None of these things will influence a hiring decision, and will waste space on your CV.
Writing your CV profile
Your CV profile is the first proper content part of your CV, and your chance to catch recruiters’ eyes and make them stick to your CV.
It should be a high-level summary of your skills, experience and knowledge – and it should be packed with in-demand terms that you found during your role research.
You should avoid cliché terms in your profile (such as “hardworking team player” etc.) but focus on giving factual information like market/industry experience, product/service knowledge, specific professional skills (like sales, marketing, design, reporting etc.), types of companies you’ve worked for, and qualifications.
Keep your profile brief so that it doesn’t become a long and boring read – anything at the top of your CV needs to be quick to digest.
Core skills section
You can also add a bullet pointed core skills section to highlight essential points that you don’t want to be missed.
This creates a snapshot that can be gained from a quick glance at the CV.
Your work experience gives you a chance to show recruiters how you apply your skills in the workplace to benefit your employers.
You should list your current and past roles in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest).
Employers will be more interested in your current and recent work, so add plenty of detail in them – they will be less interested in dated work, so reduce the amount of detail in older roles.
If you have no full time paid work experience, don’t panic! You can also include:
- Voluntary roles
- Uni/college/school work placements
- Part time roles
- Personal projects/businesses
Structuring your roles
When writing your role descriptions, you need to make the information flow in a simple structure, so that recruiters and hiring managers can quickly understand the points you are trying to communicate.
This annotated role from an example CV shows you exactly how to structure your roles, and the type of content that needs to be included.
To build context for readers, you must start each role with a brief intro that describes who you work for, where you fit into the organisation, and what the overall goal of your role is.
To provide detail on what your role entails and showcase the skills you apply, use short one line bullet points to list your responsibilities.
Bullet points break the information up and make it easy for readers to find what they need.
Detail the colleagues and customers you interact with, the tasks you carry out, and what the output of your actions is.
To prove the value you add to employers, round your roles off with big impressive achievements which have made an impact.
This could be anything from generating money or saving money, to increasing efficiency or gaining an award.
Try to back your achievements up with numbers where possible, this gives readers scale and a measurable way of assessing your value.
Although your most important qualifications will be mentioned in your CV profile, a detailed list of your education and qualifications should be included at the bottom of your CV for completeness.
Experienced candidates will want to keep the detail light here, but junior candidates can afford to add more detail to compensate for their lack of experience.
Hobbies and interests?
Hobbies and interests are a totally optional section and should only be added if you feel they will add value to your applications.
If you have common interests such as eating out, reading or watching sports, it’s unlikely that they will impress anyone, so leave them out.
However, if you have hobbies and interests that are highly related to your target roles, or are just very impressive, then they may be worth including.
- Running marathons
- Organising charity events
- Writing a personal blog
- Public speaking in your field
References: You don’t need to add reference details to your CV – references will not be asked for until interview stage.
How to make a CV that works
To make a CV work for you, it needs to be totally customised to your target jobs and your own skill set.
Whilst every CV will be unique, this method and format will ensure that your CV is a professional-looking pleasant read, and that your in-demand skills will be picked up by recruiters and employers.
Once you’ve perfected your CV, apply to plenty of suitable roles using a strong cover letter.
Keep track of your applications and chase up companies who don’t get back to you within a few days
Good luck with the job search!
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