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Four Simple Rules for the Perfect CV

It may be a simple two or three page document, but even in today’s hi-tech digital age, the CV remains the most important tool at your disposal in landing a new job. Here are four simple rules to follow to ensure that your CV is working hard for you.

Your CV needs to be clear and simple

The most important feature of your CV is the content, because ultimately that is what you are going to be judged on. The design and layout should be simple and not distract the reader. You may have fantastic graphic design skills and really want to show them off by utilising an edgy design full of colour, but this will only make it more difficult to read. Keep it simple and with a layout that is easy to follow and logical. Think of it from the hiring manager’s perspective. What would you rather read? Your CV should have the following sections:

  • Contact Details: Name, address, telephone number and email address.
  • Statement: A one sentence statement summing up what you are and where you want to go.
  • Skills: List five or six skills or attributes that you have that are relevant to the role.
  • Experience: Start with your most recent job and include the dates you were there and what you did. Focus most on the skills that you used and learnt there that they are looking for in this role. Then, repeat this process for your previous roles.
  • Education: Starting with your most recent and highest level of education, state where you studied, when you studied, what you studied and the qualification you gained. You may then list other courses or awards that are relevant, such as work-based IT training or team building courses.

You don’t need to include your hobbies, likes and interests

Many people think that a ‘likes and interests’ section of their CV is essential. It isn’t. The fact is CVs are simply a way of shortlisting candidates for interview, so anything that falls out of the criteria they are using is pointless. The company may well want to know more about you on a personal level, but that is best left when asked in the interview stage.

Explain any gaps in your career

The purpose of a good CV is to tick off all the criteria that the company you are applying to is looking for leaving them with no option but to invite you for interview. What you shouldn't be doing is giving them a reason not to! If you’ve got gaps in your career that you haven’t explained, then it is easy for a hiring manager to discount you, especially if they are faced with a pile of good CVs. The gap in your employment history may be perfectly innocent such as travelling, illness or unemployment. By not being upfront about them however, the hiring manager could draw other, more negative conclusions.

Produce a specific CV for each role you are applying for

This is a common mistake amongst job seekers who try to use just one CV for every job they apply for. Recruiters and hiring managers will often receive hundreds of applications for just one role, so it is vital that you ensure your CV stands out. The best way to do this? Read the job spec fully and optimise your CV to highlight the specific skills and attributes they are looking for in the role. It’s not as time consuming as you may think as much of your CV will be the same (personal details, places worked, dates etc). By optimising a separate CV for each application in this way you will find the amount of interviews you are offered will rise significantly.