The Do’s & Don’ts of CV Writing

Steven Fulop - September 17, 2018

As a recruiter, I’ve seen thousands and thousands of resumes over the years – some great, some, well, not so great. People often underestimate the significance of their resume or CV needing to be clear, concise and providing a strong first impression to a prospective employer.

I’ve seen so many strong candidates not get interviews because their CV doesn’t accurately reflect their experience, their value, or their suitability for the job. To me, the CV serves one fundamental purpose – to get you in the client’s office, eye-balling them for an interview. The CV tells your career story to them.

Most clients know within the first 15 seconds of reviewing your CV whether they would like to invite you in for an interview. So, to land that interview and hopefully your desired job, there are a few golden rules that apply when writing a great CV.

Let’s start with the skeleton or the basics of the CV. Every CV must contain:
The Do’s:

  • Contact Details (Full name/address/email/phone-mobile number) – you would be surprised at how many people leave their contact details off CVs!
  • Career Objective (Indicate career goal and key achievements)
  • Professional Summary (Summary of specific and relevant experience)
  • Key Differentiators/Skills (Summary of your top skills, what makes you different and the value you can bring to the role)
  • Education/Qualifications
  • Work Experience (Listed in reverse chronological order starting from the recent experience – providing clarity in this section is critical)
  • Clear company information – don’t assume that the reader knows about your company. Always include a sentence or two to describe its size and line of business. Major products, services, projects, stock exchange listing etc. This information is readily available on the company website and can be easily altered for the purposes of the CV.
  • Clear dates – must be months – e.g March 2012 to September 2016. DO NOT just put years e.g. 2012 to 2016– as this can be misleading, ambiguous and the client doesn’t know when you started and finished. If the role is a contract role, it’s important to note this – as January 2016 to May 2016 as a permanent role will cause the client to question your reasons for leaving and lack of tenure in the role.
  • Clear responsibilities– think of your company job description, but also think about the projects and initiatives you have or are involved in.
  • Achievements – this section is critical, and so many people do not include it. Increasingly, our clients are going straight to this section. What have you achieved in this role above your basic responsibilities above? Always be working to build out this section of your CV. Keep these tangible!
  • References (Minimum two references)
  • Presentation of the CV is critical to successful outcomes. Your skills, achievements and experiences are to be clearly written in an engaging manner. Triple check for spelling and grammar.
  • Your CV should not be more than 3-4 A4 pages. Employers do not have the time or patience to go through a 10+ page CV. This shows a lack of emotional intelligence and awareness to the client’s busy schedule.
  • Remember to be to the point, clear and concise – no waffling! As a rule of thumb, most clients won’t get past the first page of someone’s resume. Our experience shows a CV hotspot in the upper middle of the first page. Some candidates put a Career Summary table in this section, which clearly highlights the last 15 years of experience. E.g. Dates, Company, Role. This works to entice the client to continue reading and provides a great experience snapshot.
  • Understand the job description. Read it thoroughly and list all the key requirements that you need to address. Remember to tailor the CV to the desired job by prioritising the key requirements that are needed to be successful in the role. There is no such thing as a generic CV for all jobs. Employers can always tell, if you are using a generic CV- this shows sloppiness and laziness. It must be tailored!
  • If you have a portfolio to show off or required to provide one, it is best to hyperlink it into your CV. Some candidates are attaching references to the bottom of their CV’s to provide third party advocacy for their skills/experience.
  • Once you have finished writing your CV, check it thoroughly and carefully. Then check it again. Spelling mistakes, typographic errors and inconsistent dates are so damaging to job prospects, especially at a senior level. Always get someone else to check over it. It’s always good to have another pair of eyes look over it. If you have contacts in the recruitment industry, it’s always good to reach out to them to get their thoughts and potential improvement areas.

Do not indicate your:

  • Religion
  • Race
  • Political Preference
  • Children
  • Marital status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Nationality
  • Do not leave time-gaps for work history. Always indicate an explanation as to why you did not work during the certain period. Again, this provides clarity to the client and answers a potential question they would have about your background. For example: March 2014 to March 2016 (Maternal Leave/Family Duties).
  • Do not provide your current salary details.
  • Avoid subjective cliché’s such as ‘good communicator’, ‘excellent self-starter’, ‘great team player’ and ‘a natural leader’.
  • Don’t use an old email that you used in high school – as much as I love Scuba Steve from Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy, it’s not appropriate for me to use that email in any professional dealings.
    In summary, brief is best. Keep it tailored to the job you are applying for. Include specific skills and achievements that are relevant to that job.

Take a pass on unnecessary information. Don’t waffle, get to the point. Make it clear and straightforward. As the saying goes, “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression”. It is no different with your CV.

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