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How to write a CV

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CV Writing - The Essential Guide For Success

12:27pm Wednesday 8th June 2011

Key rules

What should a good CV look like, and what should it contain? Start by thinking about the reason you have a CV - the reason is not to get you a job - even though that is the end result you want. The reason for a CV is to get you an interview.

A basic CV must be short, clear, complete and relevant to the job you apply for. Let's deal with these in order.

1. Keep it short

Keep your CV limited to 2 pages, because it is faster for potential employers to read and forces you to present yourself concisely. Use plain white paper and staple it together without covering binders - this makes scanning or photocopying easier.

2. Make it clear

Your CV should be easy to read, for example:

  • Use short bullet points to describe your special skills and knowledge
  • Avoid long sentences and large paragraphs of text which deter people from reading the details
  • For each job you have held write down what you achieved and a short list of responsibilities, in easy-to-read bullet points
  • Use a clear modern font, Arial 10 point
  • Spell check it and proof read it several times before sending it to anyone.

3. Ensure it is complete

CVs need to have a legally accurate, full and complete record of your employment and qualifications:

  • No gaps - there should not be any unexplained gaps; they can easily lead to a potential employer rejecting your CV at the first screening.
  • Make sure your phone number, address and email address are on your CV in a prominent position, making it easy to contact you.

4. Make it relevant

Many people are competing for jobs today:

  • First, make sure you read the job requirements very carefully.
  • Second, relate two or three things that you have achieved, or knowledge you have, to the job requirements. Make sure these are highlighted at the top of page one.

5. Covering letters and emails

Take care and time to create a short and compelling covering letter to use with your CV when applying for jobs:

  • Describe the job you are applying for and where you heard about the job.
  • List 3 reasons why you feel your skills and experience match the job requirements.
  • Give a reason why you are especially interested in the job and the organisation.

Advanced techniques

Why isn't my CV getting me interviews?

At this current time of extreme competition for jobs this is a question many people ask themselves. The answer can be found in approaching the subject of your CV from a different point of view. A key factor to bear in mind is that when you submit ff your CV there will be specific requirements for this job that are different from other jobs.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: do I have the skills or experience required, and does my CV show this clearly? If you do have the requirements you must ensure your CV clearly shows this. If you don't demonstrate your ability to fulfill the job requirements you risk having your CV rejected.

Step 1: Research the role

Before you apply for the job you need to carry out research, either via the recruitment agent, certainly the internet and probably both!

  • Research the organisation - what are their objectives and priorities?
  • Research the people - what kind of personal qualities do they look for in their employees?
  • Research the job requirements - why does the job have these requirements, how can you attribute your job-related and personal skills to the critical success factors of the job and the type of person they are looking for?

Step 2: Match the research results to your CV

Your CV must show clearly that you have carried out the research to understand the role and the organisation, and that you have the relevant experience in the key areas of the job requirements.

If your experience is not an ideal match to the job. To get an interview in this situation you will need to make extra efforts. If a recruitment agent is your point of contact they can help you. Employers can consider exceptional candidates without the exact requirements, provided that they can give evidence of:

  • A track record of high performance.
  • An impressive knowledge of the organisation and an understanding of the role.
  • Experience or qualifications that are not the same, but similar to those required.

Step 3: Follow up

Contact the person you sent your CV to by phone three days after sending it to make sure it arrived and, in the case of email, it was received and readable. If possible, use the call to re-state your interest in the job, your two best qualities that make you suitable for the role and to politely ask for an interview.