Your guide for writing a good CV

Are you sending out job applications? Master the art of marketing yourself through the perfect CV. A well-articulated CV is sure to increase the chances of you getting hired. Take a look at things that should be mentioned in a CV and things that should be avoided.

Are you procrastinating on your CV, and hoping that at the last minute you will be able to somehow put it together? Writing a CV can be a daunting task since not only do you have to be creative and concise, but you also have to be much focused and be able to target your audience very clearly.

A lot of the problems people face when writing a CV after university have to do with not knowing what is acceptable. But the most common challenges include trying to draw the line between what to include and what to leave out. Some of the common questions are: Should you send a cover letter? Sometimes it is difficult to know whether your CV will reach a hiring manager (who reads cover letters) or a recruiter (who does not). Also, how should you quantify professional achievements?

All of these challenges can be cleared up by keeping some things in mind.

Step 1: Think about what the job requires

Before compiling, plan the direction of your CV by considering the job you are applying for. You have to keep your CV to 2 pages, which can pose structural challenges. You do not want your CV to look like a generic catalogue. At the same time, you do not want to over-embellish. The idea is to find a balance between bare facts and highlighted strengths and achievements. It helps to carefully consider the job that you are applying for and to think about what it is that employers are looking for from candidates.

When you have found these – they can be anything, from customer care to problem-solving to teamwork and leadership- you should highlight those areas of your CV that focus on these strengths. The idea is not to invent facts but present facts in a suitable way.

Step 2 Choose a format

There are different CV formats used commonly by job applicants.
  • The chronological or reverse chronological format is the most widely used, in which the CV begins with your most recent work history and goes backwards chronologically. However, only use this CV if you have a strong work history with little or no gaps in employment, and if the job you are applying for is related to your last job. This format will not be suitable if you are looking for a career and industry change from your most recent job.
  • The other popular type of CV is the skill-based CV, in which you emphasize your skills first. It is harder to put together than the chronological CV, but it does not highlight gaps in employment. For this type of CV, pick the top 5 skills that are required for the job you are applying to. Look for demonstrable examples of these skills in your work, educational and co-curricular history. This type of CV is however, ideal for applicants with some experience.
  • If you are a fresh graduate, you have neither the experience to list in a chronological CV nor enough demonstrable professional skill sets to list. Of course, employers already know this. What they are typically looking for in a fresh graduate is ambition, good performance, a fresh mind and future potential. It is best to start your CV with your Education in that case unless you have an impressive work record. Show off your writing and communication skills, and display your understanding of the employers and your target industry. Keep your CV to 1 page.

Step 3: Build content

Whatever the format you have chosen for your CV, there are some things that should be standard. Your name and contact details should be at the top of the CV. This may be followed by a brief (2-3 lines) of your personal statement, but this is optional. Include sections on Education, Main Achievements, and Employment History, adding relevant recent experiences in all sections. This means you can leave out experiences that do not directly relate to the job. Look at the examples you have selected from your past to demonstrate achievements or skills; highlight the key skill involved. A brief section on personal interests at the end can help portray your personality better.

Defining qualities of a perfect candidate

What is it that employers look for in a candidate? There are traits that go beyond work experience that employers scout for in candidates. Expand on the following qualities in your CV and you'll never be without a job -
  • Teamwork
  • People skills
  • Leadership
  • Communication skills
  • Analytical mind
  • Problem solving ability
  • Ability to think on your feet
  • Commercial awareness and industry knowledge
  • IT skills
  • Multi-tasking
  • Academics
  • Extra-curricula accomplishments
  • Commitment
  • Enthusiasm

Overall, keep your CV readable, and the fonts and formats consistent, sentences crisp and clear, backed up with skills, and free from proofreading errors.

Once you've made an impression with your CV you'll find yourself facing interview panels. Prepare well for the tough job interview questions. Most interviewers pose a standard tell me about yourself question in a job interview - learn to say the right things.

Good luck!

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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