Shape up your CV

There are countless agencies out there that each possess a different idea on how to write an absolutely breathtaking CV. What is important to remember here is that although none of these guidelines are necessarily incorrect, none of them are necessarily correct either. Everyone has a valid opinion on the subject and there will never be one specific way to do it that will guarantee success.

There are, however, things you should do that are almost universally agreed upon by experts. Your CV is, in many ways, the most important document you will ever write in regards to selling yourself as a valuable asset. A company will never hire you if your CV is a poor representation of what you bring to the table.

First, let’s get some of the CV basics out of the way. Forget content, forget expertise, let’s discuss format and appearance.

  • Do not use special paper. While you may feel expensive or differently coloured paper will set you apart from the rest, it will likely not do so in the way you intend it to. Many hiring managers have a specific way of doing things and often deal with stacks of CVs at a time. Something as simple as messing up their pile because you wanted to be special can make you lose points before your name is even read.
  • Use black or blue ink. Outside of design-based jobs, having creative freedom with your CV is generally not recommended.
  • A CV must be easy to read. Many CVs are read in a matter of seconds so making it as easy as possible to navigate ensures that whoever ends up scanning it doesn’t spend most of the time trying to figure out what it actually is that they’re reading. How can you achieve this? Read on.
  • Use no more than two fonts. Using a different font for titles is fine, but consistency is key.
  • It is appropriate to highlight keywords in your CV, and you can do so by bolding them. Do not bold phrases or sentences. Do not underline or use italics as they can either mess up the reader’s rhythm or be completely skipped over.
  • Use proper grammar and avoid unnecessary capitalization.
  • Structure your CV in chronological order. Your most recent position should be at the top.
  • Try to restrict the length of your CV to 2-3 pages. Highlight your best features and leave it at that.
  • Keep your sentences short and condense longer information into bullet points.
  • Ensure that the reader scans from left to right as opposed to simply down one side of the page. You can achieve this by utilizing employment headlines, like so:

January 2000 – March 2011 | XYZ Spa Company | Beauty Manager

With format and structure out of the way, you do need to pay special attention to the actual content of your CV. Right off the bat, you should never speak negatively about yourself and you can be liberal with your usage of positive words such as achieved, managed, and organised. Some people debate the legitimacy of this next suggestion, but it might be a good idea to speak in the third person as it makes it easier to give yourself credit without having a nagging sense of ego.

Of course, you cannot forget that it is a very high risk move to lie on your CV and during your interview. While it may get you the job, it can get you fired even if you’re discovered years after the fact. Providing a positive spin to your accomplishments is great but blatantly lying is a no-no.

In regards to information you should not include, the following should not be found on your CV:

  • Salary details – either your current salary or your expected salary
  • Your reasons for leaving your most recent employer
  • Information about your health – A possible exception for this is if you have a diagnosed issue that will affect your ability to work at times. Even then, it might not be a good idea.
  • The names and ages of your children.
  • References – These will be given during the interview process.
  • Detailed personal information – If it isn’t directly relevant to the job, it is best to not include any personal information on your CV. By law, companies cannot discriminate based on personal characteristics or circumstances.

But What About The Cover Letter?

It is recommended that you never send your CV to an employer without a cover letter unless otherwise stated. Without getting into too many details, there are a few basics of writing your cover letter that you should always keep track of.

  • If you can find the name of the hiring manager, address the letter to this individual.
  • In the first paragraph, introduce why you are applying to the job. The second paragraph should outline why you are the right fit for the job while the third paragraph should detail your contact information and inform the hiring manager that you will be contacting them by phone after you send in your CV.
  • Highlight the key features that make you a perfect candidate for the job. With that said, do not make your cover letter a copy of your CV. Introduce specific information that applies directly to the position you are applying for.
  • Don’t write a memoir, keep it short and simple.
  • Keep to your word. If your cover letter states that you will phone a week after you send your CV, phone after a week.