How best to write a CV? Advice on this topic is everywhere. Much of it contradictory. So how do you choose which advice to follow?
Firstly, accept that the skills required to perform a job are not the same as those required to write a CV. So, ignore those who try to minimise the effort required. Each job has different requirements, so knowing them is the first step. Regardless of how experienced you are, some level of adaptation is always going to help you.
Lots of great candidates miss out on roles because their CV does not accurately reflect what they offer.
Also, remember that you have the option of getting help. So ignore those who say you are best qualified to write your CV. A good writer will have the ability to clue themselves up on your career, by asking the right questions.
Other than meeting the criteria for the job, there is no single thing that is going to easily transform what you do. So, avoid clichés and gimmicks (‘The killer line that will always get you selected’). If it sounds like a gimmick, it probably is.
Monitor whether or not your approach is working. Those who have applied for multiple jobs without success (especially if you have reached 50) are doing one of two things: You are either applying for the wrong jobs, or you are not maximising your CV for that particular role. If you want to continue applying for ‘unsuitable’ jobs then you need to get some training or experience in that field. You could do this by volunteering, or by taking on new responsibilities in an existing job, or by taking a different job in the interim, to support your existing skillset.
It is worth saying that getting the basics right is a prerequisite. Spelling and grammar are basic mistakes that are amazingly common and give such a bad first impression. This applies to any type of profession, anything that involves communicating with partners or customers or any writing role. But for any role, such mistakes could give the impression that you don’t sufficiently care.
One piece of advice that I really hate to see is the suggestion to write your CV in the third person narrative. Quite simply, this just sounds odd. And I have seen and heard recruiters laugh at people who do this. Third-person for me would be ‘Graeme is’ / ‘Graeme has 15 years experience ..’ etc. If you want to, you can draft your CV in third person, but just avoid the pronoun i.e. don’t write your own name at the beginning.
The tendency for even senior people to resort to lazy clichés is amazing. For instance, being a ‘team player’ is probably not your most unique skill.
When it comes to proofreading your work, there is no such thing as doing it yourself. Effective proofreading is done by someone else.
Make sure you tailor your approach to the company and the region. For example, although I don’t usually suggest including a photograph on your CV, many European countries outside of the UK and Ireland fully expect this as part of the document. Don’t be persuaded by someone without experience in that region.
For more of our thoughts on this please see our blog page.
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