CV writing is easy when you know how to do it. However, for many, it can be a confusing and demanding experience. If you’re looking for your first job, already reacting to being made suddenly unemployed or the desire to leave a role you hate, this can make it even trickier.
Yet, when planning how to build a CV, following the right steps can make a significant difference in the performance of your job search.
Whether you’re finding a job in Australia or further afield, there are 10 key points to consider when you commit your experience and skills to paper. Below we’ll look at each of them in detail.
Plan your design carefully
Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a designer to create a CV. There are only a few styling tips you should really keep in mind. These include the following:
- Add a little neutral colour to your template
- Keep everything tidy and organized
- Use a clear structure that’s easy to navigate
- Write in a consistent font size and style
- Don’t rely too heavily on fancy bespoke graphics
The most important thing to remember is that it’s the words on the page that count more than the flair in your design. Don’t forget there are also plenty of online tools to help you get this right if you don’t quite trust your own handiwork.
Read the job description thoroughly
Another very important starting point is to look over the job description of a possible role very carefully. This will help you get a clear idea of what you should focus on in your CV.
Of course, a good number of recruiters spend less than 30 seconds checking applicant files. This means you’ve got only seconds to show that you’re a good fit!
For example, it’s no good to include skills in cookery on your CV if you’re aiming to get a job in IT.
Reading the position outline from top to bottom will help you ensure that you don’t end up in the reject pile at the first step of the hiring process.
Prepare your most hireable achievements
Once you have a better idea of what the recruiter wants, you’ll be able to source your most employable achievement or skill for the specific job.
Ideally, you should focus on key examples of where you made a positive impact on the performance of your company. This might include examples of the following:
- How you saved the company money
- How you increased revenue
- How you improved internal performance
- How you interacted with other departments and stakeholders
Alternatively, depending on the job, you can draw attention to any special skills or qualifications that you hold that might set you apart from 90% of the other candidates.
The most important thing is to show why you are exceptional as an employee. This will always depend on the specific job you’re targeting so make sure to plan this with that in mind.
Decide on the most effective sections
The sections you decide to include in your CV can also have a big bearing on how well your document does. How you organise these will affect what the recruiter reads first and how fast they make a decision on whether to advance you to the next stage.
In addition to your contact details you’ll need to include 4 core sections which are as follows:
- Career summary
- Work experience
You can also add additional sections where appropriate detailing information on your certifications, languages spoken or personal hobbies or interests. These can be added and deleted as necessary depending on the requirements of the job and where they can mark you out as a uniquely qualified candidate.
Craft an outstanding introduction summary
As we’ve already mentioned, you might only have a few seconds to catch the employer’s eye. However, the career summary at the top of the page can help you make sure you don’t miss out.
This is just a short 2-3 sentence summary but it can give the recruiter a really good idea of how well suited you are for the position on offer and how your goals align with the company’s needs. As before, this needs to be carefully written to respond to the precise needs of the employer.
Choose a few headline achievements and skills that will get the reader interested and keep them looking at the page.
Work your work experience section
Now we’re into the real meat of the CV. The work experience section is probably the most overall important part of any professional application.
It demonstrates that you have actual expertise in doing the job that’s being filled as well as how recent those abilities are.
Each job you list should be added in reverse chronological order (most current to oldest) to make sure your recent experience stands out. For each job you list try to include up to 6 short bullet points explaining what you did, what skills you used and how you achieved results.
Sometimes less is more in this section. You don’t need to include every single job you’ve ever had. Try and just list the most relevant examples and don’t trace your history back more than 10 years unless there’s a good reason to.
Select effective skills
Your skills section is another area where you can easily get the recruiters attention. This too needs to be tailored to the job to make your expertise stand out fast.
For this can simply add the skills you have as quick bullet points. Around 5-10 should be enough in most cases.
Depending on the sector you work in you can use examples of hard skills you hold such as experience with relevant software and hardware, engineering or design skills or specific management abilities.
However, don’t forget to include a good number of soft skills too. Intrinsic abilities such as being flexible, multitasking, organising or communication are highly sought after.
It’s estimated by LinkedIn that around 91% of employers are placing their focus on hiring individuals with solid soft skills. Therefore these can be your ticket to easy success if used right.
Add enough education for your career level
Your education section plays a significant role in your CV’s success. However, how important a part it plays depends on where you are in your career.
If you’re fresh out of school or uni you’ll lean more on your education section than other areas. Whereas the further you are into your career the less effect it will have on your overall success.
However, no matter the situation, you should always include your most recent and highest qualification at the very least. You may also choose to include any other earlier educational achievements but these should only be mentioned if they give you an edge in a specific application.
Show off a few additional achievements
It’s not just about work experience, skills and education to make your CV a winner. Other special traits that you can bring as a candidate can help push you into that top percentile of applicants.
This is highly dependent on the job you’re targeting but if you have an extra achievement that is relevant to the position, don’t be afraid to show it off. This could help get you in contention.
You might wish to add a certification that fits the job spec or even mention any awards you won in previous positions. Little touches like this can sometimes make all the difference.
Check for mistakes
Even if you’ve written the most qualified CV ever penned mistakes will get you booted out of hiring processes. This is an easy way to slip up even if the contents of your document are absolutely flawless.
Therefore make sure you read through everything carefully after you’ve finished building your CV to be absolutely certain that no niggling spelling or grammar errors sneak through. Quickly proofreading everything can sometimes make a crucial difference.
Download your file in a recruiter friendly format
Last but not least, make sure your file is saved in a recruiter friendly format before you send it in. Ideally, you should make sure this is an easily machine-readable file type such as PDF or TXT.
This is especially important these days as more and more companies make use of applicant tracking systems (or ATS) to manage the volumes of CV they receive. These can be pretty ruthless in cutting applications that aren’t easy for machines to interpret thanks to elaborate graphical elements or bespoke fonts.
Using a clean design and an easy to parse file format is the best way to avoid this from happening.
As you can see, the most important running trend in getting a CV right is making sure you edit it carefully for the job you’re applying for. Employers always want to know what’s in it for them and by showing the clear benefits of them hiring you the faster you’ll get called in for interviews.