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CV Writing Tips

This article was produced by Alec's free CV advice.

Writing a CV: what to do and what not to do

There are many ways to approach your CV; this article will serve to help you make a start towards creating a document which will get you the interview you want. Remember, your CV gets you the interview, not the job itself. This is often the mistake made by so many people when writing their CV which is why they end up with a CV more than two pages long. So if you have an existing CV which is ten pages long, you need to change your approach.

View your CV as your personal marketing vehicle and then once you have an interview, you then become your own marketing person to your potential employer.

There are thousands of ways to write your CV so the main thing is to produce a document which represents you and what you have achieved. It's also important to produce a CV which can set you apart from other applicants. So it's not advisable to just copy a standard CV template found on your computer or book or website; it's best to ensure the CV can be easily read and that the content is second to none.

Before you start putting together your CV

Before you start writing your CV, you'll need to get all the relevant information to hand. Unlike application forms, you are in complete control over the information you put into your CV. So it's vital to put the right information in!

If you're including sales targets you've achieved, then have them to hand. Likewise if you've recently graduated or finished your studies ensure you have all the details regarding education.

Before starting your CV, also have in mind what type of job you're going for. If it's a permanent role, then highlight your career development and if it's a temporary role or contract, then it's advisable to bring out your skill set and adaptability to change. Print off a few examples of jobs for which you are going to apply so you can easily to refer to them while writing your CV. Better still, research the company you're applying to and see what buzzwords they use on their website or company literature as you can then apply them to your CV.

What to Include

These are obvious pointers but you'd be surprised at how many people do not or forget to put their name on their CV. Plus you need to ensure you can be easily contacted so always include your phone number, email address and even your home address. If you're a student, put both term and home addresses on the CV.

Employers and recruiters want to see what you can do for them so it's advisable to include your major achievements which relate to the job for which you are applying. Feel free to add or change the major achievements to make them as relevant as possible for each job application. Your individual responsibilities for each role in your career are important but you don't want your CV reading like a job description. So do emphasize what you've managed to achieve as well as your tasks.

A concise history of your career is essential and the most important thing here is to present it in reverse chronological order so your most recent position first can be read first. If you have worked for one company for a length of time, put your most recent position at the top of this section, moving backwards so your first job with them is last.

Include your most recent employment history as it's not usually relevant what you did over 20 years ago.

Do include relevant training courses and awards you may have especially if you're applying for permanent roles. Employers like to see that you have an ability to learn and some sort of career development also.

What Not to Include

There could be a very long list of what not to include but here are a few pointers which are the most common things not to include when writing your CV.

The first is not to write or emphasize anything negative or critical about you in the CV. Your CV is your personal marketing tool so use it to enhance the positives about you and your abilities. This can apply to poor grades which you can simply leave off or it can also apply to bad employment experience. You will normally need to say that you worked for a company despite negative experiences but bring out the good parts. If you leave it out, a gap on the CV will automatically raise questions and doubts. You cannot lie on your CV either.

The second thing not to include is a list of references and you don't even need to say that 'References on request' as this is obvious. This is not the case in some public sector applications as references may be taken prior to interview but then usually you are completing an application form and not sending your CV for public sector roles.

Photographs on CVs are a big no-no. For many reasons you do not need to include a photo on your CV; the first is because it's your experience and skills which get you the interview not your appearance so you don't want to prejudice your application. Unless of course you're applying for modelling or acting jobs, leave your photo off. Plus these days, databases are increasingly used by recruiters and employers to store CV applications and if you have a photo on yours, it may not scan well into the database and therefore corrupt your application (or your photo) before you even get a chance for someone to read your CV.

In most cases, listing your hobbies and interests is not necessary. If you are a graduate or have little employment history and have some interesting hobbies, then think carefully about which of your past-times you wish to include. And if you decide to include them, don't just list them but perhaps think about saying what level you're at or how it can help your application e.g. playing golf regularly off of 12 handicap; improves concentration and patience. Parachuting or anything which involves risk is an absolute no-no regardless of what stage of your career you're at.

There is no need to put your age, date of birth, gender, marital status or list how many children you have. This applies to all CVs regardless of where you are in your career.

Finally there is no need to write CV or Curriculum Vitae on the document. It takes up valuable space and recruiters will know what the document is!

CV Mistakes

Anyone not using the Spellchecker on the PC is immediately putting their application at risk of being thrown straight in the bin. Any spelling mistake can cost you an interview invitation and therefore the job!

Too many fonts and font sizes are also another way of turning off the person reading your CV. Remember employers and recruiters will give each application between 30-60 seconds and if in that time they're put off by too many font types, then you've just ruined your chances and they'll put your CV in the bin and move onto the next CV in a large pile.

It's a very common mistake but CVs should only be two pages long even if you have a long career history or indeed no employment details at all. Recruiters and potential employers will give each CV on their desk or in their Inbox a quick scan initially so anything more than two pages will get binned.

Repetition of your name throughout the CV is also a very common mistake. Best to avoid 'Bob did this…' and 'Bob did that…' It's easier to read 'Achieved …' and 'Developed …' Bullet points are the easiest way for the reader to easily see what you can do and have done in the past. They're also an easy method of keeping your CV down to two pages.

Handwritten CVs went out of fashion years ago so always use word-processed CVs.

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