Whatever the job, whatever the company, there are some golden rules of writing CVs and Resumes that any potential employer will expect you to have followed. Whether you are applying for your first graduate job or changing your current job or some part-time summer work, following these points on how to write a successful CV or Resume should help you to get one step closer to that all-important interview.
If you are applying for more than one type of job, you should have a different CV targeted to each career area, highlighting different aspects of your skills and experience.
Employers will want to see that you have all or most of the relevant skills and experience required for the job role. You do not want to come across as mass mailing – employers will want to see that you have taken the time to write a CV specific to that organisation and job vacancy.
However, if you are writing a speculative CV (i.e. a CV with a covering letter that expresses an interest in any upcoming positions but is not replying to a particular job advert), then emphasise your suitability to the company and the area of work in which you are interested in the covering letter.
Look carefully at the language used in the job advert and the skills and experience the company has identified as being essential to the job role. When discussing the skills you have in your CV or Resume, be sure to use the same terminology used in the job advert, that way, employers can quickly identify that you have what they require.
Remember that your CV or Resume is a tool to get you an interview, nothing more. Whilst you need to be informative, your CV merely indicates what experience and skills you have. The interview is where you have the opportunity to explain in detail what you have written in your CV.
Using bullet points on your CV or Resume can force you to write shorter, more pithy sentences that will grab the reader's attention. Making your CV concise doesn't mean leaving out large sections of your employment or education history – you need to be able to summarise your experience by drawing out the most relevant skills and knowledge gained.
A concise CV or Resume is one that gets straight to the point, you don't want the person reading your CV to lose interest. Your CV or Resume is much more likely to stand out and make an impression if it is succinct.
It sounds obvious but you must research the organisation and the job role before you apply. Not only will this give you a better perspective on the type of applicant the employer is looking for but it demonstrates that you are keen and have a conscientious attitude.
Never underestimate how easy it is to make simple grammatical and spelling errors and overlook them. So many employers reject CVs and Resumes outright because of these silly mistakes – don’t fall at the first hurdle by rushing your CV.
Print your CV on paper; many people find that they can spot spelling mistakes more easily than on screen. If you are sending your CV or Resume as an attachment to an email then it is wise to email it to yourself or others to check that the CV opens correctly and maintains its format.
If you can, you should get friends or family to proof-read your CV or Resume before you send it – they are bound to notice something you haven't.
Any unaccounted for gaps in education or career history must be explained or the reader may think you're hiding something.
If you had a gap year, went travelling or were unemployed for a significant amount of time then this needs to be addressed in your CV. Being in full-time Higher Education does not count for a 'gap' in your CV.
Normally, any gaps over 2-3 months will require explanation.
Instead of listing activities in a dull, non-descriptive way such as "reading", be more specific and say "reading Russian history" or "swimming twice a week to retain fitness" for example.
Employers want to know that you are a rounded individual and may ask you about your leisure pursuits in the interview. So, if you've got lots of interests and hobbies – write them down!
Before you send your CV or Resume, get feedback from your friends and family. People close to you know your strengths and may be able to help if you are under-selling yourself.