A CV is the first impression that a prospective recruiter or employer has of your education, experience and skills. A good CV does much more than simply list out qualifications, education and experience. It also helps convince the recruiter that you are a suitable candidate for the post. Regardless of interview and communication skills and other added positives, a CV remains an inevitable part of the recruitment process. It remains a foundation stone because in the absence of a strong CV, you may not cross over to the interview stage at all. The employer has not seen or met you at this stage and the CV is the only document that represents you.
Recruiters of large companies and agencies sift through hundreds of CVs each day and, as a result, they may not spend more than a minute or two perusing yours. Hence, your CV has to be impressive enough to make a favourable impression within that time. In fact, research shows that 75% of candidates are eliminated on the basis of their CV alone. This is your one and only chance to capture the interest and attention of a potential recruiter or employer. If you miss this opportunity, your CV is going to be tossed into the pile of rejects. In this competitive day and age where hundreds of candidates may apply to the same company, you need a professional and impressive CV that has a good chance of being seen.
You have spent a lot of years studying and working and you want all that effort and achievement to be properly showcased in the CV. Not only is the actual information important, how it is relayed also plays a crucial role in standing out from the rest of the pack. Seen in this light, we are able to perceive that the CV has actually transformed into a personal brand and reflects who you are. With a little thought, creativity and meticulousness, the CV can encapsulate who you are and why you are special.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the different types of CVs.
There are basically three different kinds of CVs: Reverse-chronological, functional, and combination. Each is associated with its own set of features, advantages and disadvantages. Read about each and decide on the one that seems right for your requirement.
(Reverse) Chronological CVs
A chronological CV (also called a reverse-chronological CV) shows your most recent employment history and then earlier experiences. This type of CV is the most common and it emphasises job titles and history rather than skills and attributes. This CV is perfect for individuals who have worked steadily in one or two fields or have had very few breaks in their career. This kind of CV is ideal for a job profile, where your job placement titles and designation match potential job vacancies. These CVs are also recommended for situations where you are aiming for upward career mobility or are looking to work in the same field.
As a mother returning to work, you may wish to opt for the functional or combination CV.
If you want more emphasis on your skills and achievements and the value that you can bring to the company, this is the right kind of CV. Functional CVs are perfect for those who wish to highlight their abilities, skills and knowledge and especially if you are re-entering the job market after a gap. It’s also recommended for those women who want to consider changing their career or who have had unrelated work experiences (or lack transferable skills). This would probably not be the correct choice if you are entering the job market for the first time.
As the name suggests, a combination CV combines the features of chronological CVs and functional CVs. This kind of CV works extremely well for those who have a lot of experience in a specific industry. A combination CV is usually split into two parts: one part highlights your skill set and achievement and the second one communicates your work history in a chronological format.
Now that you’ve learnt about the different types of CVs, let’s learn how to write an attractive, legible and interesting CV.
Just so you know, there are numerous CV templates available online. A template is a pre-designed format where you have to simply enter the information that it asks you to enter. If you want to rewrite your CV in a hurry, templates may be useful, but a personally written CV is usually more impressive.
How to Rewrite your CV
Font Styles, Layout and Sizes:
CVs should preferably be no longer than one or two pages long. Allow for margins about 1 inch on the right and left and ½ inch on the top and bottom. Use a simple, legible font like Arial or Calibri. Avoid choosing very stylised and curvy fonts as they are difficult to read. In particular, avoid fonts with tails. The size should be preferably 12 and you can use sizes 14 to 16 for headings and titles. Keep the style uniform and consistent.
Ensure that you mention your name (preferably in bold and capitals), address, telephone contact numbers and email address. Put your name prominently on top of the CV. The contact information is very important because prospective employers often search for your social media profiles using your name. Do not give nicknames.
Make sure you provide a phone number that you answer at all times. Check your voicemail messages so that you do not miss any calls and please do call back in case the recruiter calls for you. Your email should also be straightforward and acceptable, ideally first name.last name@ ________.com. Using an inappropriate email address may give a negative impression, for example, lovepartying@……..com would not be suitable.
Value statements or core strengths:
Describe (use effective language) what you can bring to the job role or company. Remember to use industry specific keywords and skill sets that will capture the attention of the recruiter or employer. Creating an interesting value statement can help your CV stand out. If you are a mother returning to work, focus on emphasising your skill set rather than your job title. For example, you could consider writing, ‘A dedicated worker who offers excellent customer service’. If you do not have experience in the field that you plan to join, emphasise your adaptability instead. Highlighting your transferable skills is an excellent way to promote your candidacy.
Valuable core competencies (that also double as transferable soft skills) could include positive attitude, ability to work well with others, flexibility, strong work ethics, self-confidence, time-management and ability to accept criticism and use it constructively, etc. If you know a foreign language, please remember to mention it as well as the level of your proficiency (beginner, intermediate, advanced, fluent, etc). Keep in mind that in many companies, soft skills are highly valued and highlighting them in an appropriate manner can land you the job of your dreams.
This section often forms the heart of the CV. Even if there has been a gap in your CV, talk about previous experience. For example, ‘Six years of offering after sales support for X company’. Companies always look out for experience; its value is likely to override any time-gap in your CV. Ideally, you would want this part of your CV to show growth in responsibilities, skills and knowledge. It does not matter if your experience is zigzag instead of linear. Experience in unrelated fields can also translate into solid growth; in fact you’d be interested to know that some of the best candidates often show zigzag growth patterns in their CVs. It all depends on how well you can present the information.
The best way to write the experience section is to list your different experiences with different companies along with names, duties, responsibilities and achievements. Feel free to add experiences as a volunteer, temporary jobs or summer jobs, etc. Work-at-home jobs also count as experience so please do mention details. For jobs that you may have done at the very beginning of your career (that date back to more than ten or fifteen years) can be mentioned in a truncated format under ‘additional experience’. It’s not necessary to get into too much detail, but you can mention them. Be selective about the skill set that you want to include and choose those that pertain to the job profile that you are applying for.
(At this point, we should mention that one CV should never ever be used for different job profiles). Try and quantify your accomplishments as far as possible. Something that can be measured has more effect and is more believable than something merely stated. Also keep in mind that many applicants may provide a lengthy work history; what will help you stand apart is your ability to emphasise your accomplishments. As a general norm, it’s a good idea to provide 2-3 bullet points to describe your duties and 3-5 lines to describe achievements.
Writing ‘action-benefit statements’ is a good way to describe work experience. An action-benefit statement explains the action you took in the face of a challenge and the benefit that it provided to the organisation. Begin action-benefit statements with empowering verbs, including organised, managed, resolved, spearheaded and implemented, etc.
Education should ideally be listed after experience since you are returning to work. For fresh graduates, it may be a good idea to describe education before experience because they have yet to gain experience on the job. You must mention the university, date, name of the course and academic honours (if any) in reverse chronological order (listing the most recent one as the first). Also describe any projects and publications. If there is a lack of education, emphasise your experience and skills. You must also remember to include any seminars, conferences, training workshops or apprenticeships. If you have currently enrolled in any course, make sure that you mention it, along with commencement and finish dates.
You can either write out any degrees and qualifications in full form, for example, Masters in Science or simply use the abbreviated format ‘MSC’. If you have obtained certification in communication or business writing, etc., make sure you describe the coursework in your CV.
This section is optional and you may wish to mention recreational hobbies or extracurricular interests that are related to your job. For example, if you plan to join a food company, you can mention your passion for cooking. While you can describe your pastimes and general interests, keep it short and concise. When you tell your employers about what you do in your spare time, it reveals a lot of important insights about your motivations. Social work, volunteer or community work experiences are great hobbies to mention.
CVs may contain a branding statement that summarises skills and suitability in a few short lines. In the next section, we shall understand what it means to customise a CV for a particular job profile.
Please note that references should be included only if the job requirements ask you to include it. If the job description does not mention it, refrain from including references. If you need to include references, mention the name, title, position, organisation name, email and phone number. It’s better to leave out the physical address as it’s very unlikely that the recruiter or employer will contact them through snail mail. Besides, your reference may not like you to share too many personal details. The best references are former colleagues, managers or bosses who can vouch for your skills or experience.
Customising your CV
It’s ideal if you can tailor your CV to correspond to the requirements of the job that you are applying for.
- First, read the job description properly and understand the job duties and profile. You cannot tweak your CV unless you’ve understood what the job involves and how you can correlate your experience and skills. In general, it’s a good idea to get one more pair of eyes to view your CV before you upload it onto a job board or forward it to a recruiter.
- Read through your CV and make the first point relevant to the job application at hand. For example, if you are applying for the post of ‘customer service executive’, highlight your communication skills as the first point. On the other hand, if you are applying for the post of ‘Online Maths Tutor’ you may wish to emphasise your knowledge and skill in maths.
- Show your CV to a friend or mentor and see if they are able to identify why you are applying for the post. If your reason for applying is not clear to a friend, it may not be clear to a prospective employer.
Brief Side-Note on Social Media and Job Success
Tweak your social media posts and comments to support your application. Preserve photos and images that present a positive image about you. This is not to say that you must falsify your social media account (presenting false information to prospective employers is the worst possible thing to do), but keep the mood upbeat. For example, photos of graduation, travel photos and other images of you at company events, etc. can serve to strengthen your application.
At the end of the day, you want your rewritten CV to be as perfect as possible. The following checklist describes the salient points of a good CV:
- The CV should appear and read as original and not as contrived or based on a template (sometimes, using a template can lead to disastrous results so it’s better to type it out from scratch)
- Make sure that you incorporate a lot of white space and demarcate sections clearly so your CV is legible and neat. Use bullets, bold fonts and underlines to help the recruiter navigate your CV with ease
- Keep the length of your CV proportionate to the job level that you are applying for. Include a career summary so that the employer is able to read your experience at a glance
- Label the different sections clearly in order to highlight your strongest credentials and check to see if your CV content supports your career highlights
- Read the CV again to ensure that it is geared towards the current job application. If there is a career change, then check to see if you have managed to connect past experience to suitability for the current position
Please check to verify that there are no spelling or grammar errors lurking in your CV. A single typo can ruin the overall effect of a well-written CV.
Once you’ve rewritten your CV, it’s a good idea to update it every six months or so. Eliminate any mentions of outdated terminology (for example, the ‘objective’ is no longer mentioned in CVs), obsolete software or weak verbs. Your language should convey passion, interest and enthusiasm for the current job. Increase your chances of getting selected for an interview by including links to your social media and web pages.
CV Mistakes that can ruin your Chances of Landing an Interview Call
- Your CV is stuffed full of stereotype, corporate jargon just like everyone else’s CV
- It contains reams of irrelevant information and is too lengthy as a result
- The CV fails to highlight your accomplishments and only talks about duties
- It contains incorrect or falsified information
- You are sending the same CV to every recruiter and employer
- Omitting to include facts, figures and quantifiable information
- Including excessive information onto a single page
You will invariably have to write a covering letter along with your CV for each job that you apply for. Cover letters are often underestimated, but, written properly, they can help generate interest in your CV. Cover letters differ from CVs in that they are geared specifically towards the job at hand. A well-crafted cover letter can help highlight your personality and objectives and what you can bring to the company. It’s an absolute must to include a cover letter with your CV. In addition, it’s an important tool that helps you tailor your application for the job post in question.
How to Write a Cover Letter
Cover letters should not exceed half an A4 sized sheet. Keep the content concise, short and snappy. Further details can be viewed in the CV. Include your name and contact details (even though these will be mentioned on your CV) and also remember to mention where you found the job vacancy advertised
How to Address the Letter and Salutation
Make sure that you find out the individual person to whom the covering letter should be addressed. Call the recruiter or the company to find out the name of the hiring manager. In case you are unable to find out the name of the right person, you can use a general salutation such as: Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Hiring Manager. Sometimes, if the name is non-gender specific, you can leave out the ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms.’
For example, you could write: Dear Taylor Brown.
Describe the reasons for your interest in the job and your suitability for the role in question. Include closing statements and thank the employer or recruiter for their time.
Deciding to return to the world of work and career opportunities after a gap can be an intimidating prospect. You may be wondering about how you would go about marketing yourself and find a suitable job in the process. The very first step towards searching for a job involves rewriting your CV. For one thing, formats of writing CVs have changed from earlier years. Secondly, you may wish to re-create yourself and present your skills and experience in a polished and effective manner. Your CV should be an accurate representation of who you are, what you have accomplished and what you can do. It’s alright to mention the gap in a straightforward manner instead of trying to hide it. Log in to any job board and update yourself on the best ways to rewrite your CV in order to make the best first impression that you can. Eliminate boring language, obsolete technology mentions and update it with snappy links to your social media accounts and web pages.
Rewriting your CV is the first key step that marks your return to work. It’s a very important document that should contain transparent and honest details about yourself, career, employment and education. Please note that stating false information on your CV is illegal and may lead to being blacklisted. So keep it upfront and honest.
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