Top CV writing tips

By Sophie Mackenzie, AdMore Recruitment

With the New Year looming and positive news regarding the economic outlook, many of your thoughts will undoubtedly be turning to your career and how you can move it forward in 2014.

Time, therefore, to get your CV up to date. But where do you start?

Here are our top tips for writing your CV – for more detailed advice, please see my previous blog How to write a CV

Beware the over-use of boxes, lines, tables and borders. All of these may cause issues when your CV is sent via email or loaded onto a system. Using a simple Word format with the use of Bold and bullet points to break up the text which will make your CV easy to read.

It’s all about you

In my opinion, CVs should be written in the first person and from your perspective rather than in the third person. This I’m sure is open to debate however as it is a personal synopsis of your career, who better to ‘narrate’ it than you!

Get the length right

As a general rule, a well-written CV should fill 3 pages and only go beyond this if you are at a very senior level. If you are at a senior level and have a CV of two pages, I would bet your bottom dollar that you are selling yourself short. Tips to maximising space:

  • Keep flowery prose to a minimum
  • Use clever formatting (font size, narrow margins etc.) and bullet points to avoid large blocks of text.
  • Be economical with your language without missing any salient points.
  • Leave out the words Curriculum Vitae at the top of the page. Your name will suffice and this will save you a valuable line of text!
  • Keep address details in the Header or Footer or at the top of the page.
  • Keep personal interests brief – one line is fine to give someone a flavour of your interests outside work.

Go back in time

Your CV therefore, should always be written in reverse chronological order. That is, your current or most recent role should appear at the top and descend backwards in time as the readers progresses down the page. Equally, as you go back in time to your more junior roles, the level of detail should also decrease and you can revert to list format. You need to make sure you prioritise space for your most recent and relevant roles.

Contact details

There is a worrying trend of people not including their contact details. I won’t go on about this. Suffice to say that if you don’t include your telephone number, you are unlikely to receive a call inviting you to interview!

Also, a word of caution, if you have a particularly ‘cheeky’ email address, for example [email protected],  you may want to reflect on what message that sends out to prospective employers!?

Give it substance

Layout and format is nothing without decent content. Ensure that you give sufficient detail about your role, remit and responsibilities. List your achievements but make sure you back them up with tangible facts eg. figures, awards, testimonials etc. Using the STAR/CAR format will help – click here for more information

Beware of clichés and repetition.

Cliched CV phrases crop up time and time again. For example “Passionate, hard-working and results-oriented team player with strong communication skills.”

Try to avoid generic adjectives listing soft-skills like this. Instead, make an impact through using interesting language in particular using ‘action’ words like demonstrated, initiated, supported, motivated to describe your experience and achievements.

Be wary of over-using the word ‘I’ particularly at the beginning of each sentence/bullet point. Try to vary the construction of sentences as follows:

  • Having worked collaboratively with head office project teams, I was instrumental in the launch of a new store format, having full accountability for the critical path in relation to its delivery in stores.
  • I initiated a new best practice for stock-control across the region which resulted in a 15% decrease in stock loss.

Accuracy and integrity 

  • Ensure that any dates listed are accurate and if there are any gaps in your work history, that they are accounted for eg. June 2011 – Oct 2011 Travel to India with Oxfam.
  • Note also that lying on your CV is likely to result in issues further down the line – there are numerous examples of people having lost their jobs after it has been discovered that they lied or ‘embellished’ their CV.

Education and Qualifications

Education should be listed in reverse chronological order starting with your highest qualification. Ensure that if you have a Degree, it is visible.

Check and check again

Please check and double-check your CV for spelling or grammatical errors. I cannot stress how important this is. Cue previous rant in my blog It’s really not that difficult.

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7 thoughts on “Top CV writing tips”

  1. IanViner In retail 2-3 pages is considered the norm at the job level this blog and template was aimed at. As a CV writing expert I imagine that you would agree that CVs are industry specific and there is no one size fits all approach. Is this not the case?

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