Writing a good CV can be tricky, even for experienced job seekers. How do you sum up your entire professional life into a few pages? What information should you include, and what can you leave out?
To help you write an eye-catching CV that improves your chances of landing a job, here’s a list of 10 CV do’s and don’ts.
10 Do’s for writing a CV
Here are 10 tips for writing a CV that lands you a job:
1. Pick the right CV format
Formatting your CV correctly is crucial, because it ensures that hiring managers get a quick and clear overview of your background and your greatest strengths.
For most job seekers, the chronological CV format is the best choice because it’s easily recognized by hiring managers and easy to read.
Additionally, the chronological format emphasizes your work experience by listing your roles from most recent to least recent.
2. Write an attention grabbing career objective
A good CV introduction catches employers’ attention by highlighting the qualities that make you the best candidate for the position.
Your career objective is the first section of your CV, so focus on your most relevant skills and accomplishments to convince employers to read the rest of your CV.
3. Incorporate CV keywords
When you read through a job description, make note of keywords that describe the ideal candidate for the role. These keywords can be hard or soft skills, personality traits, certifications, or anything else that the employer is looking for in an employee.
Then, include these keywords throughout your CV to show that you’re a good match.
4. Tailor your CV to each job
One of the most common mistakes job seekers make is reusing their CVs for multiple job applications.
Employers can tell if you’ve done your research and thought about how you can contribute to the company, or if you’re sending out the same generic application every time.
Tailoring your CV to each specific position can be time consuming, but it maximizes your chances of getting invited for an interview.
5. Focus on accomplishments, not duties
While your CV should inform employers about responsibilities you’ve held in your previous roles, it shouldn’t be a comprehensive list of all the job duties you’ve ever had.
Instead, you should focus on work-related accomplishments that demonstrate skills that’ll help you succeed in the position you’re applying for. This will help hiring managers see why you’re right for the job.
6. Include hard numbers
Quantifying your achievements with numbers and percentages adds credibility to your CV. It also shows employers that you know how to measure and track your performance, a highly sought after quality employers look for in candidates.
7. Use examples for inspiration
If you’re not sure what you need to include on your CV, there’s no shame in looking at what other people have done for guidance.
In fact, many industries have specific requirements for what information you need to list on your CV, or expect a certain format or level of formality.
To get more familiar with what your CV needs to look like and what information to include, review some CV examples from other candidates in your industry before you start writing.
8. Use action verbs
Hiring managers see phrases like “responsible or” and “tasked with” on resumes all the time. Not only are these phrases generic, they also aren’t very good at communicating what you actually achieved at your job.
Instead, start each of your work experience bullet points off with a strong action verb. Using action verbs help grab attention and demonstrate what you accomplished while at work. Some examples of action verbs are “supervised”, delegated”, or “coordinated”.
9. Include additional sections
Sometimes, adding information that doesn’t fit into your work experience or education section to your CV can improve your chances of landing a job.
This could be hobbies and interests, volunteer work, or personal projects you’ve worked on in your free time.
It’s okay to add additional sections to your CV, however, only do so if it’s relevant to the job you want.
10. Proofread your CV
Always, always proofread your CV.
Even if you have a PhD in English, you should still proofread your CV. Not only does proofreading allow you to catch spelling mistakes or punctuation errors that are otherwise easily overlooked, it helps you make sure you don’t repeat yourself or leave out any important information.
10 Don’ts for writing a CV
Below are 10 examples of what not do do when writing your CV:
1. Use cliches
Overused buzzwords like “team player”, “hardworking” and “go-getter” makes your CV generic and cliched.
Anyone can claim to be results-driven. You’re much more likely to impress employers if you’re able to point to specific examples of when your efforts at work yielded positive results.
2. Include grammar and spelling errors
Even if you tick all the boxes in terms of skills and experience, grammar mistakes on your CV could cause you to get rejected in favor of a different applicant with similar qualifications.
Employers look for candidates who put thought and effort into their application documents, and spelling errors give the impression that you’re not serious about the job because you haven’t taken the time to carefully proofread your CV.
3. Pick an illegible font
You want to make it as easy as possible for hiring managers to quickly determine that you’ve got the skills and experience needed to be successful in the role you’re applying for.
While decorative fonts might make your CV look nice, they also make it difficult to read and can ruin your chances of getting hired.
4. Make your CV too long
When you write your CV, keep in mind that it takes recruiters less than 8 seconds on average to decide whether a candidate is qualified for the job or not. Hiring managers are busy people, so the more compact your CV is, the more likely it is that they’ll read it to the end.
In fact, most CVs are no more than one to two pages long. An additional benefit of sticking to this length is that it helps ensure that you focus on including only highly relevant information, rather than going into detail about your entire work history.
5. Lie to employers
Figuring out how to write a CV that makes you stand out from the crowd isn’t easy, and it might be tempting to embellish it with skills you haven’t fully mastered. However, unless you’re prepared to do the job interview in German, don’t claim to be a native speaker.
Even if your lies aren’t revealed during the hiring process, your manager will likely begin to suspect that you exaggerated your abilities when you start your new job and can’t perform the duties you were hired to do.
6. Include graphics
Including graphics on a CV isn’t just unnecessary, it also increases the risk of it getting rejected by applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Many companies use ATS software to scan job applications and automatically reject candidates who don’t meet the basic requirements of the position. If the ATS can’t read your CV, it’s likely it won’t ever make it into the hands of a hiring manager.
7. Choose a flashy CV design
While it’s important to make your CV stand out among the competition, it’s best to let your qualifications speak for themselves. Extravagant designs are a distraction from the information you’re trying to convey.
Unless you’re applying for a job in a creative field such as fashion design or photography, stick to simple designs and avoid bright colors.
8. Mention personal information
While many countries have laws protecting job seekers against employment discrimination based on age, religion, or sexual orientation, it still happens.
Avoid disclosing personal information that isn’t strictly related to your ability to do the job, because it puts you in a position where you’re at an increased risk of being discriminated against.
9. Use an unprofessional email address
Because your information section is usually placed at the top of your CV, your email address is one of the first things hiring managers see. If you’re using an unprofessional email address, it could end up costing you the job.
A professional email address should just be your name separated by a period or dash (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org)
10. Include references
While including references on your CV isn’t necessarily a mistake, it’s not required.
Besides, it takes up valuable space that could be used to provide insight into why you’d be a great addition to the team.
Employers assume that you’ll be able to provide references upon request, meaning there’s no need to put them on your CV.
Ida is a Content Writer who enjoys supporting job seekers as they plan their next career moves. She graduated from New College of Florida with a double major in Philosophy/Chinese Language and Culture. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, reading, and gardening.