As a recruitment agency, we review hundreds of CVs on a daily basis and commonly see candidates make the same simple mistakes. My most straightforward advice for writing a good CV is to focus on clarity and relevancy above all else. The point of a CV is to show potential employers or recruiters who you are, what skills you have, and what will make you the ideal candidate for their vacancy, so focus on these three points at all times.
Your personal details should be the first thing recruiters see on your CV – you should include your name, address, telephone number and email address. It seems obvious to include your personal details, but frustratingly many candidates choose to leave out contact details, resulting in us being unable to get hold of them regarding potential roles that may have been perfect for them. Additionally, it is also useful to include whether you have a driving licence or not, this will prevent recruiters calling you regarding roles that may not be suitable.
Your profile, also known as your personal statement, is a short description detailing who you are, what skills you have, and what you are looking for from your next role. Make sure to keep it relatively short and keyword heavy to draw employers in and prove your relevancy to the role. It is important to also include what you are looking for, in terms of specific job or industry, as well as whether you want part-time, home-based or temporary work. Again, this level of clarity will reduce wasting any time and make finding your perfect role more efficient.
Your working history should be clearly laid out, starting with your most recent role and including your dates of employment. I would avoid including any working experience that is irrelevant to the roles you are applying for, for example weekend work alongside education, and make sure that the details of the experience you do include is clearly stated in bullet point form. Additionally, ensure that you remember to include not only what your duties have been, but also what you have achieved in your previous employment. For example, if you work in sales, employers will specifically be looking for solid statistics and evidence of success, so make sure to make this stand out on your CV.
It doesn’t matter too much what order your education and work experience are in, so use your initiative based on your overall experience. For example, if you’re a recent graduate with little working experience and a good degree, it would make sense to put your education at the beginning of your CV and vice versa. Like with working experience, you need to include specific dates of education. However, you should also remember to be selective, for example, if you’re educated to degree level, including each subject and grade achieved at GCSE level is irrelevant.
Achievements or Hobbies
The importance of your achievements or hobbies will depend on the individual and the role you’re applying for. For example, we recently worked on a Photographer role where many of the applicants had no evidence of photography experience on their CV, despite the fact that when we spoke to them on the phone they actually were suitable for the role. If you are looking for a creative role, but lack employed experience, then include a link to your blog, website or portfolio to show employers solid evidence of your skill set. On the other hand, if your hobbies or achievements are fairly generic, such as ‘reading’ or ‘going to the gym’, there’s no harm in including them, but I would advise leaving them at the bottom of your CV.
A Few Extra Tips
Always explain any gaps in employment – interviewers will always ask you this at interview stage so it makes sense to be direct. Additionally, the reasons for gaps in employment are usually completely justified and won’t deter potential employers.
Proof read again, again and then again – spelling mistakes or grammatical errors will immediately stand out to employers or recruiters and rapidly decrease your value as a candidate.
Don’t worry about aesthetics – the appearance of CVs, in terms of colour, font or pictures, is completely irrelevant to your ability to gain an interview or job offer. Whilst creative CVs may look nice, your absolute priority should be to sell yourself to your reader as quickly and effectively as possible.
Don’t include details of references on your CV – it is actually now against GDPR regulations to put someone else’s contact details on the internet and employers will only ever need references at a later stage in the process anyway.