How to write a great CV? Make it engaging.

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You might think you know how to write a great CV. But did you know it takes just seven seconds for someone to decide if you’re suitable based on your CV? That means it needs to work heroically hard to make a great first impression.

We’ve developed a great guide with CV templates and tips. But you’ll also need to make it engaging so a CV-weary potential employer reads on for as long as possible. Read our tips below on how to write a great CV and keep the reader engaged for more than seven seconds.

Use phrases from the job description

Reading through the job advert and job description will tell you what a potential employer is looking for. Chances are, the most important responsibilities are listed first. So they’re the essential ones to weave into your CV. Make sure to include some in your personal statement at the top of your CV. This is your chance to sell yourself, so make it catchy and relevant to the job and company you’re applying to.

Focus on highlighting the skills and achievements that show you can take the most important duties of the job in your stride. Don’t be afraid to lift exact phrases from the job description. That is, as long as you’re confident you can back up your claims with real work experience.

Be specific about remote working skills like ‘Zoom’, ‘Teams’ or ‘Slack’

The fact that remote and hybrid working have become the norm in many sectors means that video collaboration tools are more crucial than ever.

The job description might mention you’ll be using Zoom or Teams every day. Or it could say you’ll be communicating with teammates via Slack. If so, include those specific platforms in your list of skills. We’d recommend this over a vague ‘I’m tech-savvy’ or ‘I’m used to video meetings’.

Use action words like ‘achieved’, ‘created’ and ‘improved’

At HR GO, we see hundreds of CVs every day. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that phrases like ‘team player’ and ‘self-starter’ crop up in many of them.

These are both phrases that fit the picture of a strong candidate but they don’t actually mean much. Not to mention they’re vastly over-used.

Use an actual example rather than a clichéd term wherever possible. An example for “team player” could be: Liaised with two other departments to surpass sales targets over 4 years. Or, “Achieved project completion under budget on time in a 5-person team.”

Your entire CV should also be written in active rather than passive voice. This style conveys information more directly and is significantly more engaging and easier to understand.

One way to keep your potential employer reading your CV for longer than the average seven seconds? It’s by using powerful action words that show them what you’ve brought to your previous roles and what you could offer their company next.

So banish clichés and vague phrases and replace with action words like:

  • Achieved
  • Boosted
  • Coached
  • Created
  • Directed
  • Established
  • Improved
  • Initiated
  • Organised

How to write a great CV? Mirror their own company culture

Potential employers are looking for candidates who seem like a ‘good fit’. And the company’s website and LinkedIn pages can give great clues about the company culture and ethos.

Our advice? Study how the business talks about itself online and use some of the most relevant phrases for your CV. Adapting to the tone and style of the company you’d like to work for is a way to show how you’ll fit seamlessly into the team and contribute to your new employer’s long-term success long after they’ve read your CV.

Also, it’s OK to talk about ‘during the pandemic’

Yes, we’re all bored of thinking about the pandemic. But in many sectors, it brought about a huge shift in how we work. And potential employers are interested in how you were able to adapt to this new way of doing things.

A good place to start is our guide to what to add to your post-Covid CV. You might not have been working during the lockdowns. Perhaps you’d been put on furlough from a job or were made redundant. Maybe you took time away from work because of caring commitments or your own health reasons.

Whatever you were doing, think about what you learned. If there are any new skills or perspectives that could help you in a new role, see how you can weave them in.

Finally, check for errors

You could write the most amazing CV and leave a glaring typo in a header. Or you’ve ended up with an ungrammatical sentence after major edits. It's easy overlook this because you’ve already gone over it so many times.

The last thing you want to happen is that you lose an opportunity because of a careless oversight. Take our advice: ask a trusted friend or relative to read it over for you. They’ll most likely spot what you’ve missed.

Better yet, submit your CV to the experts. Recruitment agencies like HR GO read thousands of CVs and they know what to look for. In helping find you your perfect position, they’ll be checking over your CV to give you the best chance of success.

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