Before I jump into the dos and don’ts of writing a CV, it’s useful to cover some of the basics. What is a CV? What does CV stand for? Why do we need a CV? What is the difference between a covering letter and a CV?
- A CV, or Curriculum Vitae (Latin, translation – ‘course of life’), is an overview of your experience including: work history, key skills, training and qualifications, education, and personal interests/hobbies;
- We need CVs because they are a key aspect of most job application processes. For most jobs, you will be asked to submit a CV and a covering letter;
- A CV covers your experience and key achievements. A covering letter is your opportunity to expand on your experience and demonstrate how it links with the job description/job specification of the role you are applying for. For example, if a job specification asks for a creative individual, you would write a sentence or two about your creative skills and your experience that supports this.
Before I go any further, I want to put a quick disclaimer out there that I’m not a CV expert, but I have done the following:
- Developed a strong CV with the support of mentors, recruiters and CV writing professionals;
- Applied for lots of jobs and developed my CV from the resulting feedback, whether it be positive or negative;
- Researched and educated myself on good CV writing practice;
- Taken advantage of free CV review sites such as TopCVReviews;
- I’ve also had a strong track record of getting interviews so hopefully I’m doing something right!
Therefore, if you disagree with any of my advice, that’s fine; take whatever is useful and disregard anything that isn’t.
Take this advice forward! Whenever anyone reviews your CV and gives feedback, you don’t have to take everything they say as gospel just because they are or seem to be more experienced than you are. There is no one way to write the perfect CV. But there are definitely some things to avoid and some things to include.
Now… Some dos and don’ts
- Include a contact number and contact email address;
- Reference your key achievements: the things that you are most proud of;
- Adapt your CV to each application where possible. Even if this is just altering a few words to link your experience to the job specification;
- Keep the structure clear and simple – make sure the person reading it doesn’t have to guess at anything. Make it easy for them to follow what you have done;
- Sell yourself (be proud of your achievements). As long as you don’t overdo it, your CV is the one place where you’re allowed to boast!!!
- Keep your CV updated – don’t leave it to gather dust. It’s important to update and improve your CV regularly.
- Include your age or address on your CV (companies aren’t allowed to discriminate, so they don’t want this information);
- Use slang or make spelling mistakes. The best way to avoid spelling mistakes is to ask someone to review your CV. A fresh pair of eyes works best! If you’re not sure who to ask, just reach out to any member of the You Press team;
- Lie about your experience. It’s just not worth it in the long run!
Frequently asked questions
- How long should my CV be? Ideally, 2 sides of A4. If it’s a little under or a little over, don’t worry.
- Do I need to add my references to my CV or write ‘References available on request’? No, you don’t – it’s assumed that you will provide references when asked, so you do not need to state on your CV that you will provide references.
- Can I get can creative with CV visually? Yes and no. Sorry to be difficult! There’s a fine line between a creative CV that looks great and one that looks unprofessional. If you’re talented creatively and you want to use your creative talents to show an employer what you can do and also tell them about yourself through your creativity, go for it. It can be a great way to stand out from the crowd. You just need to be confident you can stand out in the right way! If you really want to have a creative CV, but you’re not creative yourself, research companies who can help you.
An example structure
- Executive summary – 1-3 sentences about yourself e.g.
- Career highlights – 1-5 achievements
- Key skills – 1-5 skills (these should be relevant to the role you are applying for)
- Employment history
- Role title, company, dates worked (e.g., 01/01/2020 – present or ‘01/01/2020 – 09/11/2020)
- Bullet points – short simple sentences about your experience: what you did in the role.
- If you’re not sure what to write, think about these two areas: what were your responsibilities and what did you achieve?
- Voluntary experience
- Relevant training and qualifications
- Personal interests/hobbies (this is a good chance to tell your potential employer about what you like to do outside of work).
A lot of young people worry that their CV isn’t good because they haven’t got much on it. A few bits of advice on that:
- This comes with time. If you apply yourself, you’ll quickly go from not having enough to say to experiencing the dilemma of choosing what to include and what not to include;
- The best way to build a strong CV is to gain experience. For a long time, my CV was only part time work and volunteering experience, because that’s all I had. The more I did and more I took advantage of opportunities, the better I felt about my CV;
- Every interviewer and CV reviewer at one stage had a blank CV. They will remember that!
I hope that some of the points I’ve outlined have been useful and that they help you build or develop your CV.
- Do your own research – there are lots of free courses, articles and useful videos on CV writing. Take the same approach: if the information is useful, use it. If it isn’t, don’t use it!
- Send your CV to a member of the You Press team. We’ll gladly review it and give you feedback.
If you have any questions about anything in this article/blog, drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org