CV Tips

A Curriculum Vitae or CV is essentially a document created to promote or ‘sell’ your expertise for a particular job opportunity. In the vast majority of cases this should be a straightforward document to prepare – nevertheless in a ‘Personal Career Management Survey of 500 CV’s ranging from senior managers to graduates, 98 percent of the CV’s were clearly heading for the reject pile’[1]

So how do we minimise the risk of this happening to your CV? Firstly, let’s take a look at the essentials every CV should include.

CV Essentials:

Personal Details – include your name, residential and email address. Be sure to include your phone number; if you are nervous about being called while at your current place of work be sure to mention your availability to speak (e.g. please call before 9:00am or after 5:00pm)

Personal Profile – it can be useful to include a short paragraph (no more than 4 sentences) highlighting your personal qualities and professional expertise. Tailor this section towards the role you are applying for.

Career History – starting with your most recent jobs first, outline your professional duties and responsibilities; use this section to highlight any pertinent career achievements. Career history should be ‘front loaded’, by this we mean more information should be provided for the most recent jobs with less information dedicated to positions you held earlier in your career.

Qualifications – use this section to provide information on your academic and professional qualifications. Include any relevant professional training courses you have attended. Use common sense – employers are unlikely to care which primary school you attended or whether you are a qualified lifeguard if you are applying for a position as a Java Programmer.

Skills – include a concise overview of your professional skills. For example if you are an Accountant you can mention the Accountancy software you have used (e.g. SAP. Pohoda) and the Accounting standards you have worked with (e.g. GAAP, IFRS).

Interests – feel free to include a sentence mentioning your extra curricula interests, particularly if you feel they may strengthen your candidature for the position. Remember to avoid mentioning interests/activities which may provoke a negative reaction – e.g. political party affiliations, ‘partying with friends’ or hunting defenceless furry animals!

Once you have the basics right there are still a few areas you will need to consider when creating an impactful CV. Here are our top five tips.

Top Five Tips:

  1. Presentation is Key – when you are preparing a CV it might be tempting to use a number or fonts or colours to make it ‘stand out from the crowd’. This is rarely a good idea, use no more than two standard business fonts (e.g. Arial) and also stick to black text on a plain white background. There are advantages and disadvantages to adding your photo to the CV. The picture will make an impression on the future employer, and it can be a positive or a negative one. It’s a personal decision. If you decide to add a picture, maybe sure you look professional and presentable. 
  2. Less is more when it comes to writing your CV keeping things clear and concise is always the best strategy. Typically employers and recruiters will, on average, spend no more than 8 seconds reviewing a CV. Consequently your CV should be no more than two A4 pages in length – the purpose of the CV is to persuade the hiring company that you are worthy of an interview. When you have the opportunity to meet with them you can expand on your experience if required.
  3. Tailor it – when you are applying for a job, be sure to read the job description thoroughly. Once you have a good understanding of the position tailor you CV to emphasise your skills and experience to the requirements of the hiring company. If for example you are applying for a Project Management role highlight your previous Project Management experience and any relevant certifications you may have (e.g. PMP, PRINCE2). The personal statement section of your CV is a good place to ‘sell’ your relevant expertise. 
  4. Keep keyword friendly – most companies and recruitment firms use databases to store candidate applications. Typically if they are searching for a candidate with a particular skill set they will employ an initial key word search – the CV’s with the most occurrences of their chosen key words will be at the top of their search results. For example if you are a skilled Java Developer make sure this is clear on your CV (rather than talking about programming experience in general terms). Equally, it is important to avoid referencing skills that you do not possess (e. g. passive language abilities or technologies you barely know). Only include a skill set on your CV if you actually have it. 
  5. Tell the Truth – everyone lies on their CV right? Wrong!! Embellishing the truth or adding skills or experience you don’t possess is never a good idea. Companies are increasingly thorough when it comes to conducting reference and background checks. In short it is simply not worth the risk. 

If you need assistance in preparing an impactful CV a good place to start is with a professional template. Microsoft Word has several free standard templates and your Hagen consultant will be happy to assist you if required.