If you’ve ever written a CV you’ll understand the struggle. It can seem like an impossibly difficult thing to do!
“I have to give enough information but not too much”
“I have to sound confident but not arrogant”
“I don’t know what to say about myself!”
I have shortlisted and edited hundreds of job applications during my time working in recruitment. Writing one is surprisingly easy if you do it correctly and I’m here to tell you the inside secrets on how to write a CV that will make employers want to meet you!
Essentially, a job application is a sales pitch to an employer. Sales is like anything when you first do it, it’s scary and you feel like a fool. But once you learn the techniques it gets so much easier!
You must treat it like a project if you want to be successful. Don’t expect to sit down for half an hour and bang out a perfect resume. It takes time, planning and a lot of editing!
If you follow the correct process the first time, even though that process is long, it will save you hours as you won’t have to rewrite it over and over again.
These CV examples are for both students and professionals. This can apply whether you’re looking for a change of industry or just need a job to put food on the table.
Here is my step-by-step guide on how the write the perfect CV.
Table of Contents
1. Do your research
This is the first and most important step – you must know the details of the job you are applying for! Research is so important for a real chance of getting an interview.
How are you going to sell your resume to someone if you don’t know what they want to buy?
Note down the specific skills / experience are they looking for. This can be found in the person specification or the ‘about you’ section in the advert. Please see the example advert below (left) and the list of skills you would need to note down (right).
This list of skills is the single most important thing for the rest of this job application process, so do not miss out this step.
2. Understand How Shortlisting Works
Before filling out a CV template (there is one available for free download in step 4), it’s important to understand what the recruiters want to know.
When going through applications for a job, most employers will have a shortlisting system.
Some companies, usually bigger ones, have a structured system that involves scoring your application on several different factors. Smaller companies do not always work like this but will judging you in exactly the same way.
How do you know what you will be judged on? Well, I guarantee that companies tell you this in the job advert! By doing the exercise in Step 1 of listing the key skills, you have given yourself a pretty accurate guide.
This list gives you the main points you need to focus on when you ‘pitch’ yourself in your CV.
3. Use The Right Language And Tone
Consider what type of role you are applying for. If it is a highly prestigious law firm, then you want your language to be very professional. However, if it is a modern and quirky marketing company, you might be able to use a slightly more relaxed tone.
Tip: Look at the company’s website and see what language and tone they use! Try to adopt this in your CV, this will show them that you will fit in well with their workplace.
This is one of the few things that you can’t get from any free template or CV example, you have to take real care on how the tone of your writing represents you as an individual. Click here to read an article that will help you control and change the tone in your writing.
Also, make sure you sound confident but not arrogant. For example, there is a massive difference between:
‘I am confident networking and speaking to a wide range of people’
‘I am the best at making connections, and your clients are guaranteed to like me.’
You want to sell yourself, but also be likeable.
4. How To Write A CV (Free Template in Word)
Now it comes to actually writing your CV. Here you can download a free template anyone can use for their CV, no matter what industry they work in. All you have to do is go through this layout and edit it to suit you.
The key to writing a good CV is describing your employment history in a way that is easy for recruiters to score on the points system.
Make sure that you mention every single ‘skill’ in your list from step 1 and add an explanation of how you learnt / used that skill. Examples of how to do this can be found in the template.
Key: Red = Examples
Italic blue = guidance information
Remember to delete anything in red or italic blue once you are done!
5. Make your CV Easy to Score
I have been in situations where I have had hundreds of candidates apply for one job role. Having to individually read and score each one of these can be lengthy and painful process; you’d be surprised how many people don’t know how to write a good CV.
By making how you reach the criteria clear, it will make the recruiters job much easier and therefore will leave a great impression.
This can sometimes be slightly more difficult for students and academics who are used to writing long papers and putting in loads of detail.
By following the rules below you’ll be able to make sure that your CV is just the right balance between detailed and easy to score.
1) Make sure it is no longer than three pages at the very most.
2) Go through and make the key skills bold. Using our example for a Commercial Assistant in Step 1, we would make these phrases bold: ‘Itineraries’, ‘Meeting schedules’, ‘Inbox management’ etc. This means that when the recruiter is scoring your CV it is easier for them to find the topics. They will appreciate you taking the time to help with this.
3) Once you have filled in your CV, save it and do not look at it for an hour. Then, come back and read it through to check for mistakes.
4) If you can, send it to a family member or a friend you trust and get them to read it through.
6. Look and Feel
Once all your content is on your CV, the last step is to make it look professional.
Keep this simple!
Just like the free template in step 4, make sure you use a generic font. Extra colours and strange fonts will just make you look a bit childish.
Remember, if you get this job the employer needs to know anything you send out on the company’s behalf will look professional!
Please remember finding a job is difficult no matter how qualified you are. Use this guide to write the best CV possible but remember that sometimes there is just going to be someone who is a better fit than you are.
My number one tip is to just keep applying to lots of job vacancies with resumes that are tailored to that company. Although it may seem like hard work changing your CV each time, it will be worth it.
No employer will expect their candidates to know the job inside out; this is why they provide training! Just use your CV to prove that you have some of the skills already, are willing and excited to learn. Employers will value enthusiasm and passion in their company over anything else.
Not sure what to write in your job application? Are you never getting through to interview stage? If you have any questions that you want me (someone with a professional background in recruitment) to answer, leave them in a comment down below!