CV Format: Top tips for success
Your CV, or curriculum vitae, is the first point of contact between you and your next potential employer. It is important that it is succinct and presented in an easy-to-read format with a simple font, minimal styling and bullet points to break down information.
CV Top tips
Your CV is a tool with one purpose: to gain an interview.
It should present you in the best possible light and convince a prospective employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this specific position or career. You don't have much time to impress with your CV— research shows that employers scan, rather than read, CVs. To ensure it stimulates interest, follow these basic tips.
You don't have much time to impress with your CV - research shows that employers scan, rather than read, CVs- so to make sure it stimulates interest.
- Avoid coloured paper or type, fancy fonts, photographs or clever delivery approaches
- Be truthful and don't be afraid to sell your skills
- Keep the look simple and make your point quickly
- Use the past tense and choose strong action verbs
- Avoid speaking about yourself in the third person
- Avoid jargon and acronyms that other people might not understand
- Tailor your resume for each specific application
- Include the company profile of the organisations that you have worked for
- Make your CV results oriented: give proof to back up your capability statements.
- Personal Information: Include your name, full address, telephone numbers (day/evening/mobile) and email address.
1. Start with your name, address and contact details
List the main contact details prospective employers will be able to reach you through easily at any time. Ensure that the details are presented clearly and feature prominently at the top of your CV.
CV Format Tip: Include a link to your updated LinkedIn profile within your introduction.
2. Introduce yourself
This is where you should emphasize what you can offer your prospective employer. Summarise any career highlights that will draw attention to what you have accomplished. You should tailor your introduction for every position you apply for to make you stand out for each particular role.
3. Summarise your skills
Use brief bullet points to list the skills and experience you have that are relevant to the role. Hiring managers will scan this section of your CV very quickly to see what you can offer and how suitable you are for the role.
CV Format Tip: Wherever possible, use the same adjectives as those used in the job advertisement.
4. Highlight relevant experience
This section should include your work history in the most recent historical order including paid work, relevant volunteer or work experience placements. It is important to tailor this section of your CV to the job, specifically where key responsibilities in previous roles are relevant to your current application.
CV Format Tip: Highlight how you overcame challenges both personally and as a team member.
5. Show off your achievements
Your CV is an opportunity to sell yourself and demonstrate why you are the best fit for the role, so it is important to include ways you have gone above and beyond the role or made a significant achievement.
Where achievements are measurable, be sure to include the actual numbers, such as “increased sales over target by 10%.”
6. List any training, education and courses
Only list what is relevant or required for the role you are applying for, starting with the most recent. It is important to showcase where you may have upskilled or were able to add new knowledge to the organization.
7. Strengthen your CV in these key areas
- Qualifications: List both academic and non-academic qualifications in chronological order, providing grades. Do not include irrelevant information.
- Employment History: Beginning with your most recent job, include your responsibilities, duration of employment and reasons for leaving. Do not omit any period of employment for whatever reason, as this may prove awkward in an interview.
- Personal Interests: Listing your interests is important, but do not generalise. For example, instead of simply saying 'football', you could expand and say that you have played for a local club for the last four years and are now publicity officer for the committee (but only if this is true).
- Final Check: Before submitting your CV/Resumé, make sure you review it thoroughly, not just for spelling mistakes, but also to make sure that it is a clear representation of you, relevant to the role, and that it will encourage the employer to contact you to find out more. Ask a friend to check it too. Someone who works in the industry for which you are applying would be particularly beneficial.
8. Mention any interests/hobbies (optional)
This is where you can highlight your personality with any hobbies or interests that you have outside of work. Note, it is optional to include this on your CV, and it is best to avoid stating anything that could cause friction early on.
9. Provide references on request
It is fine to list that “references are available on request” on your formatted CV if you are not comfortable disclosing them until further into the recruitment process. However, it is important to make sure you have them readily available and and prepared when requested.
10. Final top five tips
- Use the right "keywords" to ensure your CV is picked up in word searches.
- Explain any gaps in your CV and be sure to highlight the skills that you have developed.
- Don’t include acronyms or organisation-related terminology.
- Include two forms of contact: email and mobile.
- Perform a spelling and grammar check. Do check your CV thoroughly for any errors. It may be worthwhile to have a friend or family member check it over for you as well.
CV advice Q&A
1. Should I put my referees on my resume?
These need not be included on your CV. However, before Robert Walters can place you, we will need to carry out detailed reference checks for your most recent five years of employment history, so it is useful to have these ready.
2. How much personal information should I include?
Generally, you should avoid too much personal information on your resume. Remember the employer is looking for an overview of your skills, so think about what is relevant.
3. Should I put my photo on my resume?
You should try to avoid inserting any photographs or graphics onto your resume.
4. Should I put my hobbies / interests on my resume?
It is fine to include hobbies and interests on your resume but always consider if they are likely to add or detract from your resume. Remember not everyone enjoys the same pastimes.
5. Should I include academic or extracurricular achievements on my resume?
Definitely. Achievements such as school prefect or captain can reflect leadership skills and any involvement in extracurricular activities will be well received by an employer looking for staff who demonstrate a work/life balance.
6. Should I put my work email address on my resume?
You should avoid using your work contact details when applying for other positions unless you have clarified this with your current employer. If you are going to set up a Hotmail address or something similar, be sure it is an appropriate address and avoid using nicknames as this could give a negative impression to a future employer.
7. How long should my resume be?
We would recommend that a resume be no longer than 4-5 pages, as this is ample space to include all relevant career history and information.
8. Should I include a cover letter?
Cover letters are only useful if they are specifically tailored to the role. Don't use a generic cover letter as it looks as if you haven't put in any effort. If you are going to use a cover letter, use it to clearly outline your skills and experience that fit the role well and ensure that it is correctly addressed.
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For more hints and tips, visit the Career Advice section of the Robert Walters website.