First impressions count and your CV is the best way to let prospective employers know just how good you are. If you get this right you have a real opportunity to demonstrate why you’re the obvious choice for the job.
Every CV should be tailored to the role you are applying for and accompanied by a covering letter or email.
Top CV writing and cover letter tips
Poorly written or badly constructed CVs and covering letters can be detrimental to your chances of being selected for a role. To help you compile a first-class CV, we've provided you with some best practice hints and tips.
A well-written covering letter or email stands out. Here are some simple rules:
- Address the contact mentioned in the job advert and quote the reference
- Give a positive appraisal of your current job situation and imply why you wish to move on positively
- State briefly why you wish to join them and why they should consider employing you
- Reference relevant experience, as appropriate, in relation to the job role, but avoid repeating information from your CV
- It should be concise, neat, and sense and spell checked
When writing the covering letter and CV, it's vital to match your qualities and experience to the selection criteria:
- Ensure you read the selection criteria carefully - make notes of exactly what's required
- Preparation - provide examples of how your experience and skills match the job criteria
In a market where your CV may be up against some well-written CVs, it's important for it to be clear, succinct, memorable, and have immediate impact. It should also include the following areas, but not limited to:
- Personal profile
- Roles and responsibilities
- Results and achievements
Regardless of how well-qualified you are for the role, if your CV is badly laid out, difficult to read or has too many pages, you may still fail to secure an interview. Follow these simple guidelines and your CV will give your skills and experience a chance to highlight that you are well suited to the role.
Avoid unnecessary personal details
Information, such as age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, race and marital status are superfluous, and clutter what should be a concise document.
Make it easy to read
- Do not use multiple fonts, different font sizes or long rambling sentences to illustrate points, as it will only make your CV far more difficult to read, particularly if you don’t use punctuation properly. Just use short sentences or bulleted examples
- Highlight sections in bold and use bullet points to outline skills, achievements and responsibilities
- Reverse chronological order is the accepted way to list your career history
- Ensure that there are no unexplained lapses or gaps
Use appropriate language
- Don't use excessive jargon or technical speak if you don't have to
- Do use recognisable key words appropriately throughout your CV
Use a clear format and labelling system
- Use Word or a similar common software that can be opened easily – no-one wants to have to download software to open a file
- Label the file simply, including your name in the filename, to make it easily identifiable when received
Finally, most CVs are too long, and the longer they are the less likely they are to be read. Always read through your CV several times and edit out content that doesn’t add anything. If in doubt, consider the following:
Keep jobs from the early part of your career, computer and language skills, any relevant training and any pertinent hobbies in, but keep them short. People are often advised to take these out but they can add important depth to the overall picture people paint of you.
Remove executive summaries or positioning statements, unless you can keep it short and to the point. These can be useful, but are unnecessary and too often paint a false picture of you. Most are filled with buzzwords and many are little more than fabricated waffle.
CVs should be a concise summary about you as a candidate. Positioning statements can only be useful if they are accurate and informative.