How to Write a CV: CV Preparation Guidance

Knowing how to write a CV is key to any job application – here is some preparation guidance for writing a CV.

Job Application Process Includes:
Job Application Process     CV preparation     Job application letter     Online job application     Job interview     Interview etiquette     Online interview    

Writing a CV, curriculum vitae is a key part of the process of applying for a job. This could be a permanent job, a contracting position or even consultancy work. For all of these a good CV is essential.

Time invested in researching how to write a CV and in preparing it is well spent. A few extra hours spent on writing a good CV over cutting a little time and wring a mediocre one can pay big dividends.

Your CV needs to be well written and presented - it needs to present your skills and experience in the best possible light, whilst remaining totally truthful.

With many agencies and prospective employers receiving thousands of CVs, it is necessary that your CV is well prepared, written and presented if you are to stand a chance of even being considered for an interview.

CV preparation: what should it contain

When looking at how to write a CV, there are several key items that it should contain.

  • Personal details:   As the description implies personal details including your name, your contact details including address, telephone number or numbers and email address should be included. Other details including nationality, date of birth and whether a driving license is held may also be included.

    When providing your email address make sure the one you use looks professional - some of the more humorous ones may not be appropriate and will count against you.
  • Skills:   It is current practice to include a section that highlights your key skills. This section is often scanned by prospective employers looking for keywords and therefore it is a very important element in the CV preparation.
  • Experience:   The work experience section of the CV backs up the skills section – any employer will want to see what you have done. This can be a little tricky for new graduates, but include any relevant experience including vacation jobs.

    The work experience and should be set out in reverse chronological order, i.e. most recent experience first. This section of the CV should focus on achievements and successes and highlight abilities that were demonstrated. Again it needs to be truthful, but also put yourself in a positive light.
  • Education:   When preparing a CV it is normal to include a list of qualifications and brief educational details.
  • Other relevant information:   Sometimes people may want to include other supplementary information including hobbies, interests, etc. Sometimes this is thought to be a bit superfluous, but it can give the interviewer a fuller picture of the candidate. This section should be kept short, and if space on the CV is at a premium, then it may be decided to omit it.
  • References:   It is normal for prospective employers to take up before commencing any new employment. It has been known for this to be done before the interview, so be aware of this.

    Accordingly the names and contact details for referees are often included on a CV. Normally one is required from the previous employer. It is normally courteous to ask referees before including their names on the CV, although the previous employer one will normally be directed to the HR department of the company so requesting permission may not be applicable.

CV presentation guidelines

The presentation of the CV is of great importance and this cannot be over emphasised. With agencies and companies typically receiving thousands of CVs, ones that do not come up to the mark are easily rejected.

A well presented and complete CV will give the best chance of securing an interview.

One trend that has been apparent recently is to incorporate your photo into the CV. Whilst this may look good, it may not always be appropriate. It is worth taking advice from any employment agency about using this approach.

Another point to bear in mind is that slightly different versions of a CV may be required for different applications or situations. Accordingly it may be worthwhile to prepare different versions of your CV for different applications, emphasizing different skills, etc.

It is often worthwhile to be flexible. Small changes in the preparation of your CVcan sometimes make all the difference. It may even be possible to have two CVs ready prepared if there are two different styles of CVs that may be required to emphasise different aspects of your career.

CV preparation key pointers

There are several key points that should be adopted when preparing a CV.

CV preparation do’s

  • Use positive language
  • Concentrate on achievements
  • Be concise
  • Keep to two sides of paper
  • Check thoroughly for spelling and other mistakes
  • Review the CV and ask the opinion of another person

CV preparation don’ts

  • Don't say anything that is not true and you cannot back up
  • Don't leave any gaps in the career history - it will cause interviewers to question what is being hidden
  • Don't make the layout very fancy - keep it clean, simple and attractive

Common issues when wring a CV

When writing a CV there can be a few tricky issues that may need to be thought about so that you portray yourself in the best light, but without being untruthful in any way.

There are a few things that may generate uncertainty in the interviewers mind. Whilst it is necessary to be truthful, these points can be portrayed in a positive way, but thought is needed first.

  • Ensure it is consistent with other online platforms:   It is necessary to ensure that the CV is consistent with any online platforms where experience and CVs, etc are posted. LinkedIn is a prime example. Whilst they should not be exactly the same in terms of wording, they should have the same dates and basic facts, etc.

    It is likely that prospective employers will do a little more research on those they are considering for a particular position, so it is well worth ensuring they are consistent with each other, otherwise it may set off warning bells.

  • Career gaps:   In real life career gaps can often occur, but t is an issue that many people worry about when writing their CV. They can arise for a variety of reasons: raising a family, taking care of sick relatives, medical emergencies, sabbatical for travelling, global pandemics, etc.

    These can be addressed by adding a single line in the CV giving dates and stating the reason. By addressing it in the CV, it gives the interviewer the reason for the gap. Interviewers are real people themselves and they realise that life happens. By addressing it up front it takes away the impression that you might be hiding something.

  • Career not moved:   In recent years, people have been far more mobile in their jobs. In some areas, people can move every couple of years, whereas some people may stay with the same company for many years.

    Some people may look at the someone who has been in the same job for a long while as lacking dynamism. For anyone who has been in the same job or with the same company for a long time, it is worth highlighting how your responsibilities have grown, or how the job has changed, and how your contribution has increased.

    Successfully done, this can show reliability and loyalty, which are two good characteristics for anyone employing new people.

  • Ageism:   Ageism is an issue that many countries are trying to legislate against: it should not be a consideration when interviewing a candidate for a position. Despite this it can have an effect on people looking at CVs. They may put the CV to one side if they thing the person is older than they want.

    To help overcome this, there are a number of methods to help overcome the issue. Whilst it is not normal these days to put age and date of birth on a CV, there can be other tell-tale signs that recruiters or hiring managers can use to gain a good view of the age of the candidate.

    Accordingly it is wise not to put elements into the CV that may lead the recruiter to think that you are a dinosaur. Don't put elements into the CV that describe long forgotten technology, unless there is very good reason. Also emphasis skills that link to modern technology, and those that will be relevant in the modern environments.

CVs are useful anyone seeking any form of employment: permanent positions,; contract work and often consultancy work as well. Accordingly a CV is vital for many forms of seeking work.

As companies often receive vast quantities of CVs it always helps to make yours stand out and present a very positive first impression. This will help improve the change of being offered an interview. Even at the interview a well presented CV will give the interviewers a more positive first impression and this helps a tremendous amount. Following many of the basic guidelines for the CV and spending time presenting your experience well and formatting the CV well will always be time well spent.

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