How to Write an Effective CV

Anyone can write a CV, but writing a good CV is an entirely different matter. Here we provide a step-by-step guide to crafting a CV that genuinely showcases your talents to potential employers and helps you steer clear of common oversights.

What is a CV?

The term CV or Curriculum Vitae can be traced back to Latin origin and means “path of life”. It sums up a candidate’s strengths in brief and provides the first opportunity to impress an employer.

Constructing a CV

A CV is worth getting right so that it sells you to an employer. An employer will typically spend 10-15 seconds scanning a CV, which means it is of paramount importance to use positive language and emphasize your key skills concisely. A CV should be no more than 2 pages long. The basic format of a CV ought to include:

  • Personal details: include name, address, phone number and email address
  • Personal profile: outline your special skills and experience. Make it clear to the employer why you’re the right person for the job
  • Career history: list your employment history in chronological order, starting from most recent to oldest and give short descriptions of each, highlighting commonalities with the job you are applying for.
  • Educational qualifications and training: include the most recent qualification first and mention names of colleges or universities with dates attended, plus grades unless poor!
  • Additional achievements: mention traits and key competencies that could be relevant for your desired job, such as computer languages.
  • Interests: it’s up to you whether to include this but it can be helpful to demonstrate that you possess the qualities required for the role, such as teamwork or leadership, through actual examples.
  • References: it’s good to have two or more, including a recent employer, though it is not necessary to provide their details; instead simply state that references are available on request.

CV Presentation

Regardless of your experience or the role you are applying for, employers expect to see a certain standard of presentation. Silly mistakes are a big no-no in CV writing. Here are some pointers to make your CV stand out:

  • Stick to a straightforward font like Arial or Times New Roman in black, 11 or 12 points
  • Be consistent with formatting and use bold type and italics sparingly
  • Check and re-check your spelling and punctuation. Do not always rely on a spell checker
  • Succinct sentences are easier to scan for recruiters who may spend only a few seconds reading it
  • While accentuating your abilities, use bullet points to break up blocks of text. Of course you have a lot to say, but leave some white space on the page. The fewer words you use, the more impact they’ll have
  • Follow up your claims by adding figures to support facts wherever you can, i.e. be quantitative as well as qualitative
  • Focus on how the employer would benefit from hiring you rather than simply listing what you have done. This job market is about the company, not the candidate
  • When emailing your CV as an attachment, include your name in the file title to prevent it from getting lost in a folder with hundreds of other documents labelled “CV”
  • Consider customizing your CV for a job you are keen on by matching its requirements

What NOT to do

  • Never lie on a CV. Even if you get the job, it’s probable that you will not be able to live up to false claims and risk being sacked if found out
  • Don’t write in the first person. Avoid using self-referential pronouns as much as possible
  • It’s not necessary to allocate the same space to each position. Relevancy must be considered first
  • There is no need to list every employer you have ever worked for, especially if you have been working for a long time
  • Don’t use a funny email address. Instead, create one which sounds professional
  • Stay away from using unsubstantiated superlatives to describe yourself, such as “greatest”, which can be difficult to uphold
  • Do not put a photo on your CV unless it is extremely presentable and neat with a clear background

We suggest you seek feedback from an expert if you are not getting invited for interviews and if you feel that your CV does not play to your strengths.

7 Steps To The Perfect Cover Letter

Always include a cover letter while applying for jobs as it provides an overview of your suitability for the role. It is a tool that can be leveraged to set yourself apart from the competition and state why you are sending the application. You could also provide a reference point for where you learned about the organization and the vacancy.

  • Employer details, Company name and address
  • Applicant details, Your contact details including your name, email address, telephone number and address. 
  • The current date
  • The Salutation.  If you don't know the name, stick to “Dear Sir/ Madam”.
  • Introduction.  You should instantly engage the employer. State your reason for applying and where you heard of the vacancy. Try to show a genuine interest for the company.
    What you can offer them. Indicate what you have to offer. Summarize relevant experience and skills related to the position.
  • Closing paragraph. Thank the employer for their time and consideration; say that you look forward to hearing from them.
  • "Yours sincerely" if you are sending the letter to a named person, otherwise use "Yours faithfully".

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