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Why is a CV important?
Almost every time you apply for a job, you will have to submit a CV, usually along with a customised cover letter. But why is a CV important? A CV allows you to highlight all of your relevant professional and academic experience, and show an employer that you’re a great fit for the job. A well-crafted CV will:
Outline your skills and experience
Your CV should clearly show a potential employer your most relevant professional experience, skills and qualifications. Since employers may have a large number of CVs to look through, making this information stand out is vital to ensuring that your CV ends up on the ‘yes’ pile. A good CV might use formatting elements such as colour and layout to make sure the employer sees the most important information.
Highlight your value
Instead of simply listing your previous roles and the responsibilities you held, you should make sure you mention 2-3 concrete things you achieved for your former employer in each role. For example, you might mention targets you hit or new processes you implemented. This shows your potential employer the value you’ll bring to their company.
Catch the employer’s attention
The most important information on your CV should appear towards the top of the page. This might include your profession, any relevant qualifications or a short personal statement that succinctly tells the employer why you’d be a great fit for the role. You may also choose to add a headshot or a professional logo or to use visual elements like colours or a creative layout to grab the employer’s attention.
Position you as the right person for the job
You may think that since you’re sending your CV along with a customised cover letter, you can get away with sending the same CV with every job application. However, in order to show the potential employer that you are the right person for the role, it’s a good idea to edit your CV each time you send it. Study the job posting carefully and consider what the company believes are the most important attributes for a candidate to have, then edit your CV so that it highlights the qualities they’re looking for.
Land you an interview
A CV is just the first step in the recruitment process—but if it’s not well-written, logical and professional, you’re unlikely to get any further. If you do it right, there’s a good chance your potential employer will offer you an interview based on what they’ve learned about you from your CV.
Different types of CV
If you’re crafting a new CV (or your first CV) you’ll need to think about what type of CV you want to make. This will depend on your experience, circumstances, industry and personal preference. The different options include:
This is the most traditional type of CV, and is what most employers expect to see. A chronological CV lays out your professional experience in reverse chronological order so that your most recent job is at the top of the page. Ideally, a CV should go back around 10-15 years, or cover your last 5-6 positions.
Although most CVs are chronological, in certain situations you may decide to order them differently. For example, if you are changing careers, you might prioritise education and experience that is most relevant to the role you’re applying for, moving less relevant experience further down the page. However, ensure that your CV is as clear as possible for potential employers.
Creative CVs heavily use visual elements such as pictures, graphs and colours to represent skills and experience. Creative CVs are common in fields such as marketing or design, but may not be a good idea for more formal industries like banking or law. You can get an idea of whether a creative CV would impress your potential employer by studying their job advert and website—if it’s written very formally, it’s probably best to stick to a traditional CV.
Many large companies use software for the initial sorting of CVs. This software searches electronic CVs for keywords, previous job titles and other information and decides whether they should get through to the next stage. This means that you need to present information in your CV that a computer can understand to increase its visibility.
What should you include on your CV?
There are some elements that should always be included on a CV as they provide important information to a potential employer. Other things are not obligatory but may give you an edge over other candidates. You should always include:
- Your name and contact details
- Your previous work experience
- Your qualifications, education and training
- Your most relevant skills
You could also choose to include:
- Your social media accounts. Be careful with this—only share accounts you’d be happy for a potential employer to see!
- A personal statement. Although it’s not a requirement, a brief personal statement (not more than 2-3 sentences) is a good opportunity to highlight why you think you’d be a great fit for the job. Write something specific that shows how you add value to a company, using any achievements. For example “During my time at Fortons, customer satisfaction grew to 98%.“
- Membership of professional bodies. You should only include these if they’re relevant to your field.
- Any awards. If you’ve received awards that are relevant to the position you’ve applied for, why not highlight them?
- Your hobbies and interests. This allows the employer to get a quick idea of who you are outside of work, and may help them to understand if you’ll be a good fit for their team. These don’t have to be relevant to the job, as it’s about you as a person—but do keep it to a brief list.
Tips for writing a great CV
We’ve covered the importance of a CV in helping you to stand out to a potential employer, showing off your credentials, and (hopefully) getting you an interview—but how do you write a great CV that employers will notice? Here are our tips:
Think about layout and fonts
A potential employer will notice the layout of your CV before they even start to read it. It’s important to choose a layout that presents the most important information first and leads a recruiter logically through the best information. For example, it makes sense to have your contact details at the top so they notice them easily. You can leave less important things, like your hobbies and interests, at the bottom of the page. You should also take care when choosing fonts for your CV. Use something readable and professional, like Arial or Times New Roman.
Before creating your CV, it’s a good idea to look at examples of CVs in your industry, and even for the role you’re applying for. This will give you an overview of the layouts, design and vocabulary that people tend to use, and what information they choose to give prominence at the top of the page.
Remember that your future employer may only have a few minutes—or even less—to look at each CV and decide if the candidate is worth pursuing. Make sure that every word you put on your CV positions you as the best person for the job.
Quantify your achievements
When you list your key achievements for each job, be specific and tell the reader exactly how you brought value to your previous employer. If possible, use concrete achievements with numbers. For example, don’t say ‘increased sales for the company’. Instead, say ‘increased sales 24% over a 12-month period’.
Proofread, proofread, proofread
Before you send your CV off to an employer, you need to make sure it your grammar and spelling are accurate. This means you should proofread your CV very carefully, several times. A great tip to help you spot mistakes is to read the text out loud to yourself or have a trusted friend check it for you.