How to write a successful CV

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You may think you already know how to write a CV, but do you know how to write a successful CV? These days, many CVs are scanned by software before ever reaching human eyes. This system is called the ATS or Automatic Tracking System. It's scanning for relevant keywords related to the job you're applying for. That means you need to be very targeted in your approach. Make sure to use exactly the job title and skillsets mentioned in the job ad. Using synonyms or similar words will only confuse the tracking system and may well discard your CV.

In addition, you don't want to get too fancy in your design. Microsoft Word and Text files (saved as a .doc or .docx or .txt ) are best, although you can save as a PDF file if that's all you have available. Do not add graphics, or page headers and footers. A simple layout is best. You want to impress with your experience and abilities rather than the appearance of your CV - although obviously it should look neat and tidy and be easily understood.

Writing a great CV is essential during your job search. Your CV is often the only opportunity you have to make an impression on a prospective employer when job hunting. It can make or break your chances of securing your next role, especially when there are large volumes of applicants for each job. Here are some additional tips on how to write a successful CV:

Download our basic CV template 

What must your CV include?

Personal details and contact information

Make sure you clearly state your name, email address, telephone number and home address. Also provide a link to your LinkedIn profile if you're keeping it up to date.

Education and qualifications

List your qualifications, including the year and the grade you received. List any training that you’ve completed while looking for work or in previous employment.

Work experience

Start your list with the most recent role first. Include the job title, employer, dates in the job role , your responsibilities and your achievements in the role, if appropriate. The prospective employer would like to see the experience you have gained in previous roles to see if you are qualified for the new role. There's no need to include work history that's over 10 years old if it will make your CV too long.

Skills

This is a perfect opportunity to sell your skills to the employer. List all relevant skills to the job in question and how you could apply these to the new role. Use skill keywords to get the recruiter to notice you. Remember to highlight specific skills that were identified in the job advertisement or description. 

Interests and achievements

Use this section to tell the employer a bit about yourself and include any personal achievements that you feel could be of benefit to your new role.

References

The employer will want to take references from ideally previous employers, colleagues or the place where you took further education. Do not feel obliged to list your references on your CV but you should make a note that references are available on request.  

Writing your CV

  • Ensure your CV is well structured and looks professional
  • Use keywords that were used in the job ad including the job title 
  • Keep the design simple with no graphics
  • Save in .doc, .docx, or .txt format, if possible
  • Your CV should be kept to two sides of A4. To help you keep your CV short enough, only include relevant information
  • Don't include experience over 10 years old if it will make your CV too long
  • Use clear headings and neat formatting to help guide the recruiter’s eyes over your document 
  • Double check your finished CV for spelling and grammar and ask someone to proofread the document for you too

Make sure that you’ve read and understood the requirements of the job that you’re applying for. Tailoring your CV for each individual application will not only give you the opportunity to highlight why you would be suitable but shows the employer how much you want the opportunity to impress them.

The main thing to remember is that the content is much more important than the design. As long as you’ve included all the main points and presented it clearly you’re on the right track. 

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