Top tips for a better CV

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At this time of year, many of us are looking to make changes, whether it be in our home life or at work. If your New Year's resolution is to get a new job, it's vital to have a good CV in your armoury.

Man handing over CV
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Your CV creates a first impression for any potential employer and, as such, getting it right could mean the difference between getting an interview and getting a rejection letter.

Layout and presentation
First and foremost, clear presentation is a must. Your CV should be as uncluttered as possible as a busy page is off-putting to employers who often have a stack to get through. Key points should be easy to spot and bullet points are an excellent tool for drawing the eye to the skills and qualifications required for the job. Ensure that there is plenty of space between sections to make the document easy to read. Avoid using 'I' and keep the tone formal.

Clear and concise
When laying out your CV, the most important information should always sit at the top of the page. This will usually include your name and contact details but it's a good idea to think about the specific skills the employer will be looking for ie. qualifications, IT skills or languages. If the information is prominent at a quick glance, it is more likely to catch the reader's eye.

Employment history should always be presented in date order, beginning with the most recent or current position. While you don't want to be going into ins and outs of the part time job you had 10 years ago, a concise list or paragraph detailing the duties required for each position is essential and, where possible, mention your achievements and the key skills that led to those results.

The facts about your employment history are essential, of course, but employers will often garner a sense of your personality from your CV. Where relevant point out areas in which you 'rose to the challenge' or were able to adapt your skill set to a particularl workplace scenario or problem. Are you conscientious and self-motivated? However, be careful not to repeat yourself and try not to get carried away with embellishing the facts... sooner or later, you will get caught out. When you get that interview, you'll need to be able to talk in depth about the things you included on your CV - another good reason not to lie!

Accuracy and adaptation
Send out a CV with spelling errors or grammatical mistakes and it will go straight in the bin. Check, check and double check before asking somebody else to check it again.

And there's no rule that says you can't adapt your CV to suit the job you are applying for. It's a good idea to keep two or three versions of the document enabling you to tailor the text or important skills and facts to a particular employer or position.

Include a covering letter
Always include a covering letter unless the advertisement advises that you shouldn't. Again this should be concise and clearly presented (not scrawled on lined paper) and highlight perhaps two or three points relevant to the position you are applying for. And yes... you'll need to double check the letter too.

A good CV really can make the difference when you're applying for a job, so take time to perfect yours.