Top ten tips to write the perfect CV

Did you know that an employer will spend on average under 30 seconds reading each CV they receive?

With so little time spent reading each application it makes sense that writing the perfect CV is a must. With so many job seekers all applying for just the one position the competition is very fierce, and even the smallest of errors will result in rejection.

In less than 30 seconds you have just the one shot to make a great first impression. Here are our 10 tips on how to write the perfect CV…

Make no mistakes

We’ve all covered how just the one mistake can result in rejection – and it’s true! The most popular reason why a CV is thrown in the bin is because of a spelling or grammatical error.

But a mistake can be made with the formatting too, so write a CV that is easy to navigate and has adequate spacing between each section. Have someone else check over your CV before you apply for that additional safety net.

It has to be relevant

Writing a generic CV that you can use to send to any employer is not going to make a lasting impression. It is not possible to write a CV that will offer the right skills and experience to every role you see.

The only way to make your CV relevant to the job is to tailor it with the needs of the company in mind. Try to match keywords from the job advert and make sure the skills, qualifications and relevant experience have all been covered as much as possible.

Show performance

An employer has to try and guess how you will perform in the role based on your CV and the subsequent job interview. Most applications won’t provide any indication of past performance and will only list the skills and job titles to date.

This is of course a big mistake, and to get ahead of the competition you need to provide examples of outstanding performance and achievements. Consider creating an ‘Achievements’ section and provide examples under relevant roles in your work history.

It can be anything from customer service excellence to project management. Give the achievement and explain how you created the outcome.

Hobbies can help

Your hobbies can add value to your CV if you choose wisely. A creative or sporty hobby can further demonstrate certain skills and personal attributes. If you are applying for a management or supervisory position then being the captain of your local cricket team could be worth shouting about.

Lots of hobbies require passion and dedication, and in some instances will align with the company’s interests. Don’t be afraid to go into more detail if you have an interesting or unique hobby. But avoid the mundane and more traditional type, like going to the cinema and walking the dog.

Write a cover letter

A cover letter can add another dimension to your CV and act as a great introduction. Some managers pass up on the chance to read cover letters, but that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t write one.

There are also some employers out there that value the cover letter highly, and would be disappointed if it wasn’t present. It certainly won’t damage your chances if you write one, and with so much to gain you should give it serious consideration.

A cover letter will also give you the opportunity to create a more personal application and address any concerns or aspirations directly with the manager. An employment gap can be explained, and you can further explain how your skills and qualifications will benefit the company if hired.

Use a CV template

If you want to save a lot of time and ensure your CV content looks great, then consider using a CV template. There are literally hundreds to choose from, and some are even created with a specific role or industry in mind – teaching, accountancy, medical, and so on.

We would always recommend using a CV template to any job seeker. It’s the perfect template for a school leaver writing their very first CV, and should also be considered with an old CV that’s in need of a revamp. The presentation is just as important as the content.

There are plenty of places to pick up a free CV template online, including:

Research the company

If you want to write the perfect CV you should not underestimate the value of knowledge. To get the upper hand on your competition you should try to find out as much as you can about the company and even the role if possible.

Start by reading every word of the job advert to make sure you fully understand what’s required of a successful candidate. You should then move onto reading the company’s website and any social media pages they have, along with reviews and forums.

Make it ATS friendly

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System, and is now being used by larger companies to filter applications down to a much smaller number. When large companies advertise for a role they will receive a huge amount of applications and struggle to find the time and money to read them all.

When a computer is going to do an initial review of your CV it needs to be ATS friendly to stand a chance of feeding through to an actual person. With that in mind you need to consider removing any graphics and images that might confuse the system. Keep things simple and ensure each section is adequately spaced and titled.

The filtering software will obviously be looking for certain keywords as advertised in the job posting. This means you need to match the terminology and make it easy for the program to recognise you are not spam and deserves to be read by a manager.

Demonstrate soft skills

A soft skill is not to be confused with a hard or specific skill. Machine operation is a hard skill, whilst a soft skill covers things like communication and problem solving. Both hard and soft skills should be demonstrated on your CV.

To help you decide which soft skills you want to demonstrate, here is a list of the most common:

  • Communication
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Time management
  • Organisation
  • Negotiation
  • Leadership

Show – don’t tell

Avoid using cliché statements as these do not add any value to your CV. An example of a cliché statement is – ‘I am great at building up a rapport with my customers’.

The problem with this is that you are telling the employer what you can do, but are they really meant to take your word for it? Instead of telling the employer you should show them instead. Provide lots of examples that clearly demonstrate you have a particular soft skill, and avoid using obvious cliché statements that can easily be dismissed.

Related articles:

  1. 2 reasons why you need a new CV
  2. The 5 skills your CV must demonstrate
  3. An interview isn’t won with a CV or cover note!

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