Don’t worry if you’re a bit daunted by producing a CV – it’s a very specific way of writing that’s unique to job applications, so it’s unlikely you’ll have done anything like it previously. To help you understand what’s required to make an effective CV, here are four key things to bear in mind…
1) Make it relevant
Firstly, remember that your CV is not meant to be a record of everything you’ve ever done, but should show how your skills and experience make you the ideal candidate for the job. You should tailor each CV to the specific requirements in the job description, but what does this mean in practise?
Well, you should first make sure you are demonstrating the required skills and experience, so if you have done a similar job, you could separate it from your other work experience and title it Relevant Work Experience. You should also consider listing the required skills in the order they appear in the job advert on your CV and give good examples for each.
Be aware that all work experience can develop your skills, so you should include everything that’s recent (within 3-5 years), and definitely anything that you can reference as an experience that has built up your skills.
Once you’ve decided what to include, you can then leave out the things that aren’t relevant. If you are listing skills that aren’t required, you are wasting space on your CV and potentially putting off the recruiter.
2) Be concise, but specific
It can be a challenge to describe your skills and experience without waffling, but there are a few ways to get to the point. As your CV is obviously about you, it’s acceptable to leave off the subject of the sentence, e.g. “I was…” “I did…” “I am…” and start with the verb. But you also want to make sure you are explaining the value of your role and making the most of the skills and experience, after all, you want to make an impression on the recruiter reading your CV.
So, this description:
“I stacked shelves and swept the floors”
may be factually accurate (and it is concise), but it’s not particularly engaging. Whereas something like:
“Effectively monitored and maintained stock levels, ensured the store was clean and tidy”
gives the idea that you were actively involved in the role and had a sense of purpose.
Check out the table below for some examples of effective phrases to give your sentences a sense of action (taken from our useful words and phrases page).
Also remember that the details of your examples can be the thing that adds weight to your application, such as:
“Raised funds for charity”
doesn’t tell the whole story, if what you did was actually:
“Organised a week of fundraising events on campus, collecting £2000 for Cancer Research”
In the same way, there’s a big difference between listing your hobby as “football” and a fuller answer, such as:
“Football: Captain of Shearbridge Tornadoes five-a-side team, organised and coordinated training and fixtures and was responsible for team budget.”
If you can show passion, responsibility, trustworthiness and commitment within your interests this can add value to your application (as long as it’s all true!).
3) Make your information accessible
So how do you get this information to leap off the page and make the recruiter take note? You need to make it really easy to read, and there’s a few ways to do this.
- Bullet Points: where possible, your information should be in bullet points. With individual sentences broken up this way, each piece of information has the same value, and the same chance of being read. If you use a paragraph, the reader has to go through the whole thing and may skim read or be put off by the amount of words, so key information may be missed.
- Effective formatting: Similarly, if all your text is the same style it can look bland and unappealing, but the use of bold, italics and underlining can break up text and highlight important details.
- Clear sub-headings: make things easy to find by clearly labelling them. In your skills section, name the skill first so the reader’s eye is drawn to it, e.g:
“Communication: developed active listening and clear communication skills helping a diverse range of customers at Tesco.”
4) Be accurate
Lastly, make sure the information in your CV is correct (including your contact details). It almost goes without saying that correct spelling and grammar are essential, but it’s surprisingly easy to miss errors, even when you’ve gone over your CV a hundred times. Here’s a link to common grammar mistakes.
Also double-check the names and addresses of the places you’ve worked (you can quickly look them up on Google) and dates, and make sure you’re consistent with the way you present them. If you use ‘Aug 17 – Jan 18’ this is fine, but make sure you use this format across your education and work experience sections.
Hopefully this has helped to clarify what CV writing is about, and for more check out our CV pages . If you have any further questions, we offer drop-in sessions at Careers in Student Central every weekday from 10-12 and 1-3, or you can book an appointment for more detailed feedback.