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Writing a great CV

Writing a great CV

CV writing can be a daunting prospect when starting your job search. This, along with your cover letter, is what a potential employer uses to make their first judgement about you.

To make the interview shortlist, your CV must demonstrate that you possess most or all the criteria required in the job. Tailor your CV for each position you apply for by expanding on your experience relevant to the job and cutting back the less relevant parts.
Your CV must also get past any initial screening algorithms, or applicant tracking systems (ATS), which identify suitable candidates based on the use of relevant keywords in their CV.

Tips for great CV writing

Contact details - Start with the basics such as your name, phone number, email address (make sure it’s a professional sounding one) and LinkedIn profile link.

Professional summary - In 50 to 150 words, describe your applicable experience. This summary should prove your value and help to differentiate you. Avoid describing what you’d like from your next job and instead focus on what you can offer. Use keywords from the job description so that an ATS can find a match.

Skills summary – List the systems, skills and competencies that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Use keywords from the job description here too.

Achievements - Then list your key career achievements, supported by facts, statistics or links. Keep in mind, this is a summary to grab interest by demonstrating you can successfully add value to an organisation.

Work experience - This should be listed in reverse order, beginning with the most recent. Include employer names, positions and primary responsibilities. If your job title is unconventional, it is perfectly acceptable to replace it with a recognisable equivalent. Quantify your accomplishments and remember to use verbs such as “managed” or “oversaw” to demonstrate your experience. Avoid overused clichés that can waste valuable space. Rather include examples of your work to demonstrate your strengths. Remember that proof is in your results.

We advise not to leave gaps in your work experience. If you took a year out, carried out an interim assignment, or travelled for six months, say so. Stating just the years you started or finished a role can also send off alarm bells. Writing "2018 - 2019" could be interpreted as employment from December 2018 to January 2019 unless you say otherwise.

Education & qualifications – Keep it concise by listing the qualification obtained, year of completion, the institution’s name and a one-sentence summary.

References - Include details of two references, ideally former employers. If you are a graduate with no work history, include details of a former lecturer. The referees recruiters and employers value the most are those people you reported to directly who can speak about how you used your skills and experience to add value to their organisation.

Document format - Most organisations will upload your CV into their database so make sure it is in a commonly acceptable format. We recommend a cleanly formatted Microsoft Word Document with no graphics, images no fancy formatting or fonts. While a creative CV may look good, graphics and special fonts can be difficult for an ATS to process.

Final checks - Don't forget to spell check your CV, it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you, so take the time to get it right. If possible, ask someone to check for any spelling, layout or typing errors.

Finally, attach or submit your CV and cover letter if requested. Unless otherwise stated, you don’t need to attach copies of certificates, qualifications or references. You should instead bring these to a job interview.

Follow our tips for updating your CV or download our CV template below.  

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