Crafting your CV is an art, and is usually the first impression an employer has of you. That's why as recruitment experts we've created and accumulated the top tips and questions we get asked when it comes to CV advice.
Before you send out or upload your CV take a step back and run through our quick CV checklist. Remember your CV is one of your most valuable tools for opening doors and securing that all-important interview, so make sure it’s perfect before you send it to prospective employers.
- Are my personal details up-to-date and easily visible?
- Is it easy to read and well structured?
- Do my most important skills and experience stand out?
- Is the spelling and grammar correct?
- Is my tone of voice appropriate?
- Have I given a brief summary of the main duties, responsibilities and achievements for each of my previous roles?
- Is the CV tailored to the job I am applying for?
- Is there any irrelevant info? If yes, remove it.
- Would I want to read it?
- Have I included relevant keywords so employers and recruiters can find my CV online?
Common CV mistakes
- Just listing previous jobs - always include a short and precise description about your key responsibilities and achievements.
- Avoid adding lots of personal details that are not relevant to the job - keep your CV professional at all times.
- Avoid exaggerating your skills.
- Don't rely on auto spellchecking, ask a friend or family member to proof read your CV for you.
- Don't leave unexplained gaps in your CV; explain the gaps or at least be prepared for further questions regarding those gaps.
- Include relevant keywords in your CV so that recruiters and companies can find your CV - no matter how well written it is, it won't help you find a job if no-one is able to quickly see how your CV matches the job description.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Where do I start?
For the majority of jobs nowadays, the best approach is to tailor your CV to the job, or jobs, you are applying for. This may mean you need to create multiple CV's if you are applying to multiple roles, as there may be differences in the roles you are applying for and the types of candidates each company is looking for.
An obvious tip is to make sure you highlight the skills on your CV that match the job description. But you can go further than this – take a look at the company’s website and social media channels. Does your CV paint a picture of someone who would fit in well in this environment? This is a great way to let the hiring manager know that you’re a strong fit for this company.
2. How do I order my CV?
It’s standard practice to list your career history in chronological order on your CV, and nine times out of ten this is probably the best approach to take.
But it’s important to use some common sense. You might have jumped around jobs a little, and that’s fine. However, you should make sure your most recent and relevant projects are the first thing the hiring manager will see on your CV. There’s no point in your first page being filled with positions irrelevant to the role you’re applying for.
3. How long should my CV be?
Being concise on your CV is key; if you have so much experience that every word of your four page CV offers something of value then that’s fine. However, you’ll probably be able to trim your CV quite easily, two pages is usually the standard length.
Imagine you are in the Hiring Manager's shoes reading through application after application; a concise easy to read CV is going to stand out. By getting straight to the point you are demonstrating that you have taken time to really think about the role, the necessary experience and skills you have for the job.
4. Should I put the location I want to work in my CV?
Yes! This might seem like an odd question – why would you apply for a job in a location you don’t want to work? But from a hiring manager’s perspective, if they get an application for a job in Manchester from someone living in London, they may think you’ve just applied on a whim, or misread the location of the advert. If you’re looking or willing to re-locate for a position, you should briefly reference this in an opening statement.
5. How do I tailor my CV for the job description?
A bit of subliminal messaging can work a treat; if you can mirror some of the language you see in the advert on your CV, you’re already showing that you’re a great fit for this role. This instantly offers the impression that you’ll fit in with the role you’re applying for.
When it comes to writing down your history listing technical skills and experience is obviously crucial, but it’s equally important to make sure you explain the benefit your work has had on the company. Contextualising and demonstrating how your technical ability made an impact on the company, people, systems or processes, is very powerful. You’re then offering more than just a shopping list of your abilities; you’re highlighting how your skills directly benefited your past employer.
6. Should I include my hobbies?
As a rule of thumb it's absolutely fine to mention your hobbies or interests on your CV, just be careful not to go overboard. A lot of people seem scared to do this, but if it’s relevant to the role, or you think it adds value, then go for it!
However, if you are struggling to stay within the standard two pages, this should probably be the first thing to cut. The golden rule is to think about the job you’re applying for; will putting your hobbies in make you more attractive to the hiring manager? If so, then pop them in.
7. What layout should it be?
A tidy CV gives off a great impression… but a messy one? Not so much. Keep your CV tidy as it is potentially the first impression an employer receives of you. Make sure the font size is consistent and we reccommend using the same typeface throughout your CV. A messy CV is a bad idea; it makes it look like you’ve put minimal effort in, and is the best way to get your CV thrown straight out of contention.
8. What do I do if I have gaps in my CV?
Job hopping can often be looked on unfavourably within the job market. Gaps in your CV are fine – life happens. But you need to be able to contextualise it; don’t just leave an unexplained five year career break in your CV. You need to provide a reason for time away from work; if there was a personal circumstance that lead to time out, then don’t be afraid to include this- it doesn't need to be explicit, just a reference, for example, maternity leave, family grievance.
9. Should I ask someone to review my CV?
Absolutely! After reading your own words over and over again, you can become numb to your own mistakes. It’s a good idea to get a friend, mentor or colleague to look over your CV; you’ll probably be surprised by the amount of errors they manage to find.
There are also many grammar and spell checker tools out there which can do this for you.