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Three top tips for writing your CV

Sitting down to write your CV can feel quite daunting and if you search online for advice, there is so much, often conflicting, information. There are no strict rules as such, but professional CV writers keep up to date with best practice and there are some common guidelines. Here are my top three top tips to get you started.


Tailor, tailor, tailor!


This cannot be stressed enough – your CV must be tailored to each and every role you apply to. How can you provide that particular employer/company with what they are looking for? How do you fit the bill specifically?


Highlight all the key words and skills in the job advert, job description and person specification. For every one of these, prove how you have that skill/experience. Use their terminology and back up with examples. Too many CVs read as job descriptions, but it is crucial to prove what you can do by highlighting your achievements.


Keep this all succinct to ensure your CV doesn’t run over two pages – keep everything relevant to the role you are applying to. Remember, this is your advert, not your life story. This can be hard as there is a lot of emotion tied up in your work history and this makes it hard to decide what to put in, what to minimise or leave out. This step is important though as illustrated in the next paragraph.


There are many sources that quote recruiters spend 6 to 20 seconds looking at a CV e.g. according to Telegraph Jobs, “Research shows that most employers spend less than 30 seconds reading a CV. Even this may be overstating it. According to research carried out by The Ladders.com in 2012 the average time spent reading a CV was just 6.25 seconds.”

This statistic illustrates how important your approach to writing your CV is. You might be rightly proud of an achievement, but if it is not relevant to the role you are applying to, leave it out.


I suggest keeping a “base” CV on your computer, and tailoring it for each role so you always return to the original CV. For the profile section, you can have an unlimited list of bullets which build up over the time of your job search – then pick and choose which ones are suitable for a role and tailor them specifically to that role using those good old key words.


Beat the ATS


According to the CIO magazine nearly 40% of employers use ATS before a human eye even sees your CV for the few seconds, if at all.


ATS refers to Applicant Tracking Systems – these save employers time; it is their dream software. These systems collect, screen and sort thousands of CVs. You can have the best experience, the most amazing achievements and be the perfect person for the job – but your CV will not reach the next stage (human eye) if it’s not written in the right way.

ATS scans your CV for key words that match the job description. So actually, ATS is not necessarily the dream software for the employer as they might have missed out on the better candidates. Despite this, it is being used and you need to be aware of it. This makes the section above re tailoring your CV extra important.


Your CV also needs to be presented in a way to beat the ATS e.g. some systems cannot read all fonts such as serif fonts, don’t recognise certain bullets such as arrows, and they dislike colour, tables and PDF formats.


Spellcheck


This sounds so simple and obvious but is often the one thing that lets a CV down, despite impressive content. Rightly or wrongly, if a recruiter has a pile of good CVs on their desk, this can be one way to eliminate a handful.


Run spellcheck but don’t rely on it. It won’t pick up on errors such as manger for manager.

Print off your CV and read it.


Ask someone else to read it.


Read it backwards (sounds odd but it works!).


Have a night’s sleep (or at least an hour or two break from looking at it), then read again.


Finally


There are many more tips on how to write your CV to increase your chances of securing an interview. These three will help you on your way to securing the job you want and deserve!


Laura Harmsworth of Caversham CV Writing provides expert advice on CVs and applications. View Laura's recorded webinar covering CVs, cover letters, Applicant Tracking Systems and LinkedIn here.

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