Career Advice

Writing a CV from scratch

Writing a CV from scratch…

Are you looking to either update your existing CV or writing a new one from scratch? There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect CV, however the following basic rules should help you create a great CV that will hopefully land you that first interview for your dream job!

Before you start, remember that recruiters can receive 100s of applications per vacancy.   The saying goes that it takes a recruiter only seven seconds to decide whether to save or reject a job applicant’s CV so make sure your CV is clearly formatted and concise enough for someone to scan it quickly.    

Like your cover letter, your CV should be tailored to the job you are applying for.  For more tips on how to write a compelling cover letter read our article LINK.

Presentation and General Advice

How your CV comes across at first glance is key when the recruiter or employer decides whether to read it in more detail.  A badly written and/or laid out CV can be confusing and is unlikely to get a second look, not to mention land you that all important first interview.

Points to remember when writing your CV:

  • Keep your CV short and succinct.  In most cases no more than two A4 sides are necessary.
  • A clear, professional font makes it easier for the recruiter to read your CV.  No fancy scripts or formatting!
  • Apply your common sense and lay the content out in a logical way, using spacing and section headings for the various components such as Work Experience and Education.
  • Always highlight your most recent work experience and achievements by ordering your experience and education achievements in reverse chronological order.
  • Check your grammar and spelling thoroughly. 
  • Check dates, making sure any gaps are explained as appropriate. 
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter or employer when proof reading and editing your CV, and ask someone whom you trust to read it and provide feedback.

Always ensure you stand out from the crowd by outlining the following in your personal statement and throughout the other sections on your CV:

  • Ensure you address specifications and requirements contained in the job description.
  • Include specific skills you can offer.
  • Highlight relevant achievements and accomplishments.
  • List work experience and education/training you have that is relevant to the job, the organisation and industry.
  • Talk about your personal qualities that make you right for the role.

Taylor your CV to every job you apply for

Once you have finalised your CV for the role you are applying for, remember that you may need to update and amend it to tailor it to any other roles, employers and industries.  Looking carefully at the job description, make sure your CV includes your skills, experience and achievements that match the specifications and requirements outlined in it.


Back up your attributes and achievements with accomplishments

Some of the key attributes people like to use in their CVs include: Accurate, hard-working, confident, experienced, team-oriented, innovative, reliable and responsible.  Whatever the attributes you include in your CV, you should back them up by including actual achievements which not only helps you stand out but adds credibility to your CV.

Words to avoid?

Are there certain words or phrases candidates should avoid in their CV?  Some recruiters will give a resounding YES, citing some of the overused clichés which don’t only risk irritating the reader but will prevent your CV from standing out against other CVs. 

The following list has been adopted from a well-known UK recruitment website, although I would caution that candidates should still feel confident when using these attributes if they are included as required specifications in the job description, in which case backing them up with work and educational accomplishments is still important:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Goal driven
  • Flexible
  • Motivated
  • Independent
  • Detail oriented
  • Self-motivated

What information to include?

Personal Details

Whilst fairly obvious, don’t forget to include your name, email, contact phone number and address, all clearly presented at the top of your CV. 

Personal Statement

The first information about you to appear on your CV, your personal statement is an important step to help you catch the recruiter’s attention amongst the many CVs they read.  Use this space to explain who you are, what you can offer, and what you are looking for.  Keep it short, aiming to bring across why you are suitable for the role in one short and succinct paragraph.

Work Experience

Here, you need to list all of your relevant work experience, with the most recent showing first.  The recruiter will want to see your job title, the name of the organisation, start/end dates and your key areas of responsibility. 

Achievements

Here you can show how your above work experience has equipped you with the skills needed to make you a suitable candidate for the role you are applying for.  When you list all of your relevant skills and achievements make sure you provide examples and explain how you would be able to transfer these to the job you are applying for.

Education and Training

This is where you list your educational and training background.  Make sure you include dates and the type of qualification achieved, with a grade where applicable.  As with the work experience, list the most recent qualifications first.  If you are at the beginning of your work career or you have more educational and training achievements than work experience that are relevant to the role, you may want to place more emphasis on this section.

Hobbies and Other Interests

Candidates are often unsure whether to include hobbies and interests in their CV.  If they are relevant to the new role, they could help you stand out and provide further examples of where you have applied your skills.  Additionally, adding hobbies and interests can help provide a discussion item for your interview.  If you have no specific hobbies or interests that are relevant to the job you are applying for, or they don’t really add value, it’s probably best to leave them out.

Additional Information

Where applicable, you should add additional information that will help clarify certain aspects of your application such as reasons for a career change or gaps in your work experience history.

References

You can leave out details of your references at this point, the recruiter will ask for these when you get through the next stage in the application and interview process.

Further reading and CV templates to get you started:

CV sections | Careers advice | National Careers Service

Career Advice and Guidance | reed.co.uk

How to write a great cover letter

Good Luck! 

Written by Susanne Ollig

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