Creating the Perfect CV

Targeting

Employers do not always have the time to spare working out what your CV is trying to tell them. You must communicate clearly and concisely the information that you wish to convey about yourself that will be of relevance to them. As a potential employee you are far more attractive if you can convince the employer that you have the qualities they require. Think about what particular employers want, and how you fit the bill.

Problem solving is very important in all career areas. Define your problem solving skills relating them, as far as possible, to your target job. You need to try and convince the employer that you will be an asset to their company. Prepare a list of your skills and achievements. They will normally cover the following areas:

  • Education and qualifications – concentrating on your tertiary achievements.
  • Work experience – think about the skills you have acquired from previous positions. Transmit a sense of achievement. Say what you accomplished in your work. Show evidence of any leadership skills you used. Skills gained – they may be professional, technical or personal.
  • Extra-curricular activities – positions of responsibility, membership of a sports team. Use your interests to say something about yourself. It should be information with a purpose.
  • General skills – for example a drivers licence, foreign language spoken and computer skills.

Planning and Drafting

Now you’ve worked out what you’ve got to offer, it’s time to think about how to present it. This is crucial to the impact and success of your CV. Bear in mind the following:

  • Leave out any irrelevant material.
  • Avoid wordy CVs – make your points concise. You should use the minimum amount of words to make the maximum impact.
  • Avoid “flowery phrases”- make sure the words you use imply action and decisiveness.
  • Make sure your grammar and spelling are correct.
  • Make sure the CV is fairly short – many people recommend a one to two page CV. You don’t want the potential employer to lose interest.

As a guideline the length of a CV should be:

  • 1 – 3 pages if you have more than 5 years work experience
  • And 1 – 2 pages if you have less than 5 years work experience
  • A CV should not be less than 1 page as it will not give enough information to decide your suitability.

You must also select a format for your CV. Most arrange their CV chronologically, but there are other options. Skill profile CVs can help emphasise particular skills that you possess. Within categories such as communication, leadership or initiative you show how your experience demonstrates these skills. This can be a useful method for those with more patchy work experience. Try different formats and see which “sells” you the best.

Editing

Do not expect to produce a wonderful CV at your first attempt. You will need to make a few drafts. Each should be an improvement on the last. Be critical – aim to end up with a CV that is easy to read, looks attractive and communicates distinct benefits to a prospective employer. There are a few simple steps to follow:

  • Keep rewriting until you are satisfied.
  • Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Check again for unnecessary material – for example putting “references on request” can save you space.
  • Show your CV to someone whose advice you trust.  Listen to what they have to say – welcome constructive criticism.
  • Print your CV using a laser printer on good quality paper.

Presentation

  • More CV’s are sent by e-mail than ever before, therefore you must consider how easy to read and visibly pleasing it is on the screen as well as on paper.
  • Attention to detail is vital in the presentation of a CV.  Do not use block capitals; use a word-processing rather than spreadsheet package, check spelling/grammar thoroughly, select fonts carefully, highlight/underline headings.
  • Contact details must be easily visible.
  • The most critical information and that most likely to get you an interview should be included on the first page.
  • Always show a positive attitude throughout the CV and never use negative or doubtful phrases i.e. I will achieve… as opposed to I hope to achieve…
  • Make sure your strongest most positive statement is at the top of each section.
  • Tailor your CV to show connections and experiences relevant to the job, company, market and industry in which you are applying. If need be you should adapt it (not altering the facts) but using a change of emphasis.

The Must Not’s of CV Writing

  • NEVER Lie on your CV. The truth will come out at the interview and you will have lost the job for sure.
  • You MUST NOT have typos, spelling or grammatical errors in your CV. Don’t rely on the computer spell check. Read it through several times and get someone else to read it.
  • You MUST NOT type your CV in capital letters or in a spreadsheet format as both make the CV hard to read.  Always make your CV simple and clear in a basic word document.
  • You MUST NEVER attempt to use humour in a CV.  A potential employer will assume you are not serious about their job vacancy.
  • You MUST NOT leave career gaps in your CV unexplained, always explain what you were doing at this time i.e. travelling, unemployed etc.
  • Don’t use icons or try to be a designer.

Writing a Cover Letter

Now you’ve put together a strong CV, you need an equally strong covering letter to convince the employer to look closely at your carefully crafted CV.

  • The covering letter must be tailored to each job opportunity and individual company. It personalises your approach to companies.
  • Address the letter to the particular person with whom you wish to have an interview. (Relate the letter to the specific needs of the company, and refer to particular skills in your CV that are of relevance. This will probably mean doing a little research into the company, and re-reading the job vacancy advertisement.
  • As with your CV a letter should be brief, relevant, easy to read, with the spelling and grammar carefully checked. Keep the layout of the letter simple and consistent throughout.