How to write a successful CV that will get you a job

Robert Schlesinger/PA

Amid the current highly competitive job market, a well-written CV has never been more important.

From the font and layout to the content and language - here's how to write a winning CV and improve your chances of bagging an interview.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%


Keep it clear
CV layout is subjective so there is no single method to create the perfect format. However, there are several factors to help make your CV appeal to as many people as possible. "Try to read your CV through the eyes of a recruiter in 20 seconds," advises Lottie Unwin from graduate recruiters Instant Impact. "Too much clutter, too much information or too little, all gives a really bad impression. Be selective and take time formatting."

Use your name as the title - there's no need to write Curriculum Vitae or CV - and steer clear of graphics, borders, colour and photos. "Keep it clear using a font like Ariel or Times New Roman at size 10 or 12," advises Dan Kirkpatrick, client services director at JAM Recruitment. "Keep it concise, ideally on 2 pages, and use bullet points and bold or underlined headers to help each individual section stand out."

Logical order
Employers want to see relevant information in a logical order. Kirkpatrick advises structuring your CV in the following format: name and contact details; profile; key skills; key achievements; career history (starting with most recent role); education/training; other skills (such as IT, driving licence, languages), followed by interests and references as optional extras.

"For recent graduates and career changers, it may be more appropriate to place education and training above career history, but only where it is relavant to the role you are applying for," explains Kirkpatrick. "And always be open about redundancies, otherwise having several jobs in a short time frame will make you look like a job-hopper and someone lacking in commitment."

Utilise your profile
"Profiles are rarely used to give any valuable information with people throwing in terms like 'hard worker' which don't really mean anything to an employer as you are hardly going to suggest otherwise," says Kirkpatrick.

Avoid a string of wooly terms and instead use this valuable space at the top of your CV to concisely summarise your experience and career goals in no more than five or six lines. Take time to tailor your profile to each individual role you apply for as this sets the focus of the CV and encourages the recruiter to read further.

Stick to the point
Keep your language clear and free from waffle and redundant words. Avoid the overuse of industry jargon – particularly if you are changing career direction. Where job titles are ambiguous, consider including a brief one-line desciption in brackets.

"I like to see sentences started with verbs as it is much more efficient and looks proactive," says Unwin. "So for example, go with "Marketed X to Y" as opposed to "I did the marketing for X when I was at Y."

Use key words
Make sure to list all of your relavent skills – even if they don't appear particularly interesting. "Recruiters tend to use key words to search through the candidates on their books using a content management system," explains Unwin. "So for example, if they are looking for a marketing candidate with basic excel skills - lots of candidates would have basic excel, but if the word isn't on their CV, then they won't come up in the search."

Unwin adds to elaborate on your experience by using key words to cover a breadth of functions. "In a marketing scenario, include 'sales', 'promotion', 'analytics' and 'social media' for example, so the search system would pull your CV up for a range of tasks."

Check and check again
Yes, it is obvious, but the importance of double checking your CV for spelling mistakes, typos, grammar and overall accuracy cannot be overestimated. There is no excuse to let mistakes slip through - it shows laziness and lack of attention to detail.

"Don't rely on spell-checkers as they can ruin an otherwise well-prepared CV," warns Kilpartrick. "Instead ask a friend, college or recruitment consultant to read it through and always check that your name and contact details are included: you'd be surprised at how many people forget to include their phone number."
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