CV writing is challenging, especially considering the sometimes contradictory advice that is prevalent online. Recruiters will read dozens, or even hundreds of CVs a week, so making sure you capture their attention is vital to getting a call for an interview. See below some tips to improve the content of your CV:
Fix the formatting
Confusing CV layouts will leave a recruiter less likely to delve into the content of your CV, therefore cleaning up the format will increase their time spent looking at what you have to offer. First and foremost, ensure that your experience is in reverse chronological order to clearly demonstrate what current skills you have been developing in your most recent role. Depending on your cirumstances, ensure your Work Experience is placed above your Education to delineate to the recruiter what your current career trajectory is.
Many other simple format fixes can aid the clarity of your CV: ensuring that your fonts are consistent and the sizes are the same, making use of bolding and italicising for titles and subtitles, as well as ensuring no titles are at the bottom of the page with nothing underneath them until the next page.
Additionally, ensure no negativity about your abilities or your experience is present in your CV. Phrases like “this wasn’t for me” or “I wasn’t suited for this role” appear more commonly than expected, and create a negative impression. Although honest, this does not need to be on your CV. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of the role and how this relates to the current vacancy; did you develop your communication skills? Did you build strong relationships with your colleagues? Showing a positive attitude to jobs that may not be suited to you demonstrates a resilience and an optimistic view towards work.
Use active verbs and sentences
You are the person applying for a role, not your team. You need to highlight your responsibilities, your skills, and your impact; using less powerful verbs like ‘help’, ‘assist’ ‘participate’ etc will not demonstrate how you positively created change within your team, but instead reads as generic and lacking innovation. Stronger action verbs like ‘pioneered’, ‘undertook’, and ‘accelerated’ convey a strong sense of action, and are simply more interesting to read. Although initially challenging, this small change will bring to light the positive impact you made.
In a similar vein, the use of the passive voice can cause sentences to drag and can reduce your sense of agency. An example of a passive sentence is:
Comparing this to an active sentence immediately changes the punch of the sentence:
Aim for either a one-page or two-page CV
Although a CV longer than two pages is generally frowned upon, there is nothing amiss with curating a two-page CV to more fully delve into the specificities of your role and how they relate to the current job you’re applying for. One page CVs can also be suitable for entry-level workers or university graduates, as it can be a succinct way to highlight your skills without repeating the same information to fill the page.
Write an impactful personal statement
Writing a personal statement will make you stand out as an individual. As this is a very short section of your CV (around 50-200 words), your word choice will have to be precise to say as much as possible given the limited space. You want to describe yourself, speak of your achievements and primary skills, and briefly describe your career goals.
Tailor your CV for the role
Applicant Tracking Systems are a common tool used by recruiters. This software will filter through CVs and highlight candidates that match skills with the vacancy using keywords. In order to give yourself the best chance at being flagged up, using the job spec and choosing key items that are important to the role and industry are paramount. Understanding the role, and the specific skills it requires, will also allow your CV to have a tighter focus and will make you consider whether every aspect of your past experience is truly relevant.
Save your document as a PDF
Sending your CV as a PDF is recommended because Word documents may have altered formatting depending on the version of the programme used, potentially leading to odd formatting that may reflect poorly on you. Instead, saving your file as a PDF will ensure that your document will be viewed as intended. Depending on the software you use, you may not be able to save your document as a PDF, so uploading your document to Google Sheets is one free way around this. Once uploaded, select the ‘File’ tab, click ‘Download’ then select ‘Save as PDF’.