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How to Write the Perfect CV

Jun 26, 2008
Print your CV on decent paper. Don't go overboard with watermarked or decorated paper, but don't print it on scrap paper with failed print-outs on the reverse. This document represents you.

Keep it simple. Employers don't want to see colourful titles, text or images, the information should be presented as clearly as possible with headers to distinguish the different sections. Think of it as a business document. You don't want your clients to think you spend all day making colourful titles or adding clip art. Your focus should be on the content itself.

Proof read your CV yourself. Computer spellcheckers are not as good as a brain and a dictionary. Particularly if the job you are applying for requires communication skills, you should ensure your CV is grammatically as good as it can be, as this is the first piece of work your potential employers will be judging you on.

Contact details

There is a certain amount of information which CVs should contain :

- Name
- Address
- Phone number & email address

Think twice before including any sort of networking website URL (such as your Facebook or Bebo profile), as you should be fully prepared for employers to look at all the information provided on your page when assessing whether you are the right person for the job. Even if you are careful about what you put on your page, what if a friend posts a message about a crack smoking weekend or a fight you were involved in?

Personal profile

It is a good idea to have some sort of personal profile at the top of your CV. Don't go into too much depth or explanation but you should summarise your skillset and experience, maybe even with an idea of what you want to do next (make sure it is in line with the job description you are applying for).

Skills, Employment & Education

There's no mathematical equation to writing the perfect CV. Many people will offer you set ways of doing things but your CV should be uniquely tailored both to you and the job you are applying for. Things which you might include on a CV for certain job applications would be a waste of space on another. The best idea is to read the job description and custom-build your CV to match the specification.

You should include a list of skills you possess, but whether this should be a list of skills with descriptions or a list of jobs or qualifications with a skills breakdown is your choice. Many people format their CVs with Education and Employment sections with descriptions of the different roles, duties, skills and responsibilities held.

Sometimes to list your employment and education is missing out a lot of your more important accomplishments. Let's say you organised a cake sale for charity, or a school newsletter - Education or Employment? It doesn't fit into either category neatly but clearly displays you are a motivated and organised person - Sometimes exactly the qualities employers are seeking. Consider an 'Accomplishments' or 'Achievements' section for any activities you have taken part in which show you in a good light. Remember to relate everything to individual skills; teamwork, organisation, responsibility etc.

Other CVs will have a more general list of skills (Communication, IT, Organisation, Teamwork, Customer service...) with reference to certain jobs, education or experiences contained elsewhere on the CV.

Even if you decide to have a less formal skills list, you should still list all your academic attainment and at least your last 2 years of employment with dates so potential employers can see how you have spent your time. Often graduates who do not find jobs immediately after education can have trouble finding a job because employers can see by their CV that they haven't worked since they graduated. If you have gaps of months or years on your CV be prepared to be asked about them. You can talk about spending time with family, volunteering for philanthropic causes or helping someone start their own business. Employers expect applicants to be slightly creative with the truth on CVs, but be prepared to be quizzed on your volunteer work or business start-up.

Interests & Hobbies

Many people put a 'Hobbies' or 'Interests' section toward the end of their CV. This is not the opportunity to tell your employer how much you like to pick your nose or watch television. Employers will either be looking for interests relevant to the job (for example being interested by the media for a PR job) or interests which show you to be a rounded, popular person (meaning you will probably fit in well to the working environment).

References

References are important, but are often excluded from a CV to save space. If you are going to miss out references to make room for your skills, employment and education it is good idea to just write "References available upon request". Employers will want a reference who has known you in a professional or academic context, preferably someone in a position of power and/or responsibility.
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