Top Ten Tips for Successful C.V. Writing


Match the CV to the Job. The need for an effective C.V. has increased as working patterns have evolved in recent years. With the “job-for-life” culture vanishing even directly employed people are becoming “serial monogamists”. And with each new partner we have to adapt ourselves, and our C.V.

Standard Format. When there’s a lot of competition for a job it can be tempting to submit your application in some eye-catching design. Will this make your C.V. stand out from all the others landing on the C.E.O.s desk? Probably. Will it get you an interview? Probably not. Even in so-called creative industries a gimmicky layout and multi-coloured paper is more likely to irritate than impress. It suggests the style of the C.V. is compensating for the inadequacies of its content.

So What is the Standard Format? It can vary slightly in different industries, but a rule of thumb would be to keep it to one page. Put your name, contact details and date of birth at the top. Then detail your educational background. Follow with your employment history with current or most recent job first. Then it’s special skills and attainments and hobbies and interests.

Should I Mention My Salary? In the U.K. it’s not customary to put your current salary or what figure you’re seeking on a C.V. That’s something to be discussed at interview. If you do mention amounts you run two risks: if your present salary seems too low to a prospective employer you may be regarded as not worth the job on offer. On the other hand they may not feel able to match your current income and don’t give you the chance at interview to explain why you merit that kind of money.

Use Key Words. Don’t forget the difference language can make. Put a positive spin on all aspects of your experience. For example when describing your duties at former employers, don’t simply say you “did” this, that or the other. Instead use phrases like “undertook responsibility for…” and “played a key role in…”

Say It How They Want To Hear It. This means matching your language to the job description. If the job advertisement asks for someone with experience of selling at director level, then don’t mess about with irrelevant detail about how you once sold an insurance policy to a vice-chairman over a chance meeting in a pub. The fact is you’ve done what they’re asking for, so tell them in their own terms.

Relate the C.V. to the Position You’re Seeking. This goes back to number one and is of prime importance. You must prioritise those aspects of your experience which will be of most value to your new boss. Maybe you only did a tiny bit of export documentation in a previous post and you’re applying to a firm specialising in that field. Write a C.V. that makes those relevant skills immediately clear and more prominent than anything else

Blow Your Own Trumpet. It’s not immodest to mention any particular achievements in your C.V. If you don’t tell a prospective employer about your added value, who else is going to? Alongside each former job description, list any sales awards, prizes, nominations or special attainments.

The Honesty Factor. A recent survey found that a high percentage of people gave false information on their C.V. Though how do we know the respondents were telling the truth! If you’re tempted to be economical with the truth on your C.V. in order to land a job remember this: You may not be found out immediately, but if (when) you are, the negative effect on your career may be serious. If you accentuate the positive in your C.V. there is no need for dishonesty.

Short, Sweet and Persuasive. C.V. writing like anything else is an art. A minimalist art. If the definition of poetry is “saying something important in the shortest number of words” then a good C.V. fits this description perfectly. In an ever-changing world, with busy companies trying to keep pace and fill the evolving demands of the workplace the C.V. has almost become the equivalent of a business card.

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