Keep it simple
A CV is nothing more than a shorthand sketch of your academic and professional history. Use it to draw attention to your strengths without cramming in too much irrelevance. You can always explain to an employer the intricacies once they invite you for an interview.
Lead with achievements
Make frequent use of active verbs, ie: achieved, set up, managed, attained, responsible for, led. Use bullet points to emphasise the key successes in your life. Don’t write lengths of prose for job descriptions.
Work reverse chronologically
Start with your current employment and work backwards, remembering to include the name and country of your employer, start and end dates, your job title and a brief description, plus your accomplishments. If you are looking for your first job, list any RELEVANT work experience first, paid or unpaid.
Tailor your CV to the individual company
Employers can spot a mass mailing a mile off. So if you are applying for a job in Information Technology make sure that aspect of all your jobs is emphasised.
Lying on your CV is a waste of your time and that of your prospective employer. Adding six months to your time in a job can seem like a good idea, but if you are caught out you will have lost the job. Don’t sell yourself short. If you think the three summers you spent working for a charity in France show your knowledge of the country and its culture – then say so.
If you have been in the job market for less than two years, give equal attention to achievements while at University. Captain of the debating team, student union rep, set designer for the university play all show you to be enthusiastic, a self-starter and full of initiative.
Don’t overcrowd your CV
Make sure your CV is well presented and readable. The prospective employer needs to be able to find the key information quickly. Bullet points can help in summarising achievements that can be expanded on at an interview. If your prospective employer has to work hard to read your CV, they will quickly lose interest.
Typing mistakes and grammatical errors can mean your CV goes straight in the bin. No employer will want to hire someone who can’t be bothered to check their own work. Don’t rely on the spell check to pick up any mistakes. Read it over thoroughly when you think you have finished.
Two pairs of eyes
A fresh eye is useful to spot mistakes or offer suggestions. Get a trusted friend to read through the CV when you think it is ready. Once you’ve read and amended your CV three or four times, it’s difficult to stand back and look at it objectively. Never try and finish your CV in one sitting – always go back to it after a couple of days.
Check with referees before you use their names. There’s nothing worse than using someone who has either moved on or holds a grudge against you. The best people to use for references are your current employer or a professor or teacher at your college/university – someone who knows how you react in a working environment.