How to Write a CV That Wins You an Interview

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How to Write a CV

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Remember, your CV has one function only – to get you to interview! It is to entice employer to make them feel that you are worth seeing.
In this section we aim to demystify the process as far as possible but with an emphasis on a systematic approach for how to write a CV for a job. In this part of the site you will find resources on CV format, how to tailor your CV in 10 minutes, CV templates, cover letters, and the words that should be used in your CV. You can download CV templates. Achievements based template or a skills and achievements mixed template. You will also find a CV Template in the right-hand information bar.

How to Write a CV – Advantages and Disadvantages

How to write a CV and plain coloured textThe advantage of a CV to employers is that most senior applicants are likely to have one ready-made. This will ensure a higher response rate for senior roles (application forms roughly halve the response rate). They will also contain most of the primary information that an application form requires. However, the disadvantages for the recruiter are:

  1. They are often produced professionally by a third-party. This will mask the individual’s own style.
  2. They tell the employer what you want to tell only – weaknesses are hidden and strengths over-played.
  3. As there is no fixed format. Some will be one page whilst we have seen them over 20 pages in length.
  4. As there is no fixed format, computer skills may be the determining factor to placing one in the ‘interview’ pile.
  5. No fixed format means that it will take the recruiter could take far more time finding the pertinent facts to compare against the person specification. The reality is that research shows most recruiters take between 5 and 30 seconds to read a CV. Therefore, if they cannot find the information quickly enough, the CV becomes a rejection.
  6. If it is being electronically screened, then if the right words do not show, it will receive an automated rejection.
2 Page CV in the UKThese disadvantages for recruiting departments are also advantages for you! It is all part of the dance.

Remember, your CV has one function only – to get you to interview! It is to entice employer to make them feel that you are worth seeing. What’s it not?

  1. It is not a place to log everything about you
  2. It is not a standard script suitable for all roles
  3. It is not a pure historical document
  4. It is not a place to add certificates, personal written references or to add a photo
  5. It is not something to demonstrate your design creativity (unless you are going for an artistic/design role)


How to Write a CV for a Job: A Reality Check

When thinking about how to write a CV for a job, put yourself in the shoes of the HR professional or line manager. Imagine 200 CV’s in a pile and 2 hours to sift through. If the person screening does not see what they are after in the first few seconds or so and on the first page, they will have little choice than to reject you. Those who screen the CV’s may have up to four piles as they sift through:

  1. The ‘no’ pile – rejected candidates. By far the largest pile where there are high volume applications.
  2. The ‘maybe’ pile – not sure about them. Reality dictates that the person screening typically has a tight deadline and despite good intentions of reading the CV’s in this pile, time dictates that they end up on the ‘no’ pile.
  3. The ‘read later’ pile – too long a CV, could not easily find the information, or the format was written in such a way (too small font, too much italic, too text-condensed, and so on), that they didn’t feel they had the time at that point to read the CV. And, again, given the time pressures on the person screening the CV, these will tend to end up in the ‘no’ pile.
  4. The ‘yes’ pile – much smaller and with those they are willing to interview. So, how do you format your CV to get into the ‘yes’ pile?
How to write a CV and the achievements numbers trickIn learning about how to write a CV, there are some generic good practices in preparing your CV which will help you achieve the aim of getting an interview. And things have changed significantly over the past decades. In the old days, this type of CV was simply a reverse chronological factual account of the roles undertaken with the main areas of responsibility (almost like mini job descriptions). Now, the fundamental issue here is that whilst it may tell the reader what you have done and where you have been, it does not tell the reader how well you have done it. And past performance is the best indicator of future performance! So when you are thinking about how to write your CV, think more about what you have to sell. You will find sections on this site to help you with this. A good first port of call are your achievements.

In this part of the site we aim to demystify the process as far as possible, and show you how to write a CV that wins you an interview. Remember, your CV has one function only – to get you to interview!

How to Write a CV: Some General Principles

No subjectivity when writing a CVPeople often tell people to reflect your personality within a CV. The problem with that is simple. Personalities are subjective. Different people like different types of personalities. So, remove any subjective information. Here are some researched general rules that will help you succeed. Please note that CVs are largely put through word recognition processes. It is a game, so play the game. Here are some general principles to obey on how to write a CV.

List of General Principles on How to Write a CV Template

Use plain fonts – clever fonts are tough to read: read later pile. some fonts are also difficult to pick up if it is screened electronically. Use a thesaurus – every time you put a word in your CV, the next time you want to use that word again, change it to another that means the same thing. Maximise your chances for electronic screening.
2 pages only – any more and the reader will put it on a read later pile. White space is good – if it appears daunting to read, we know where it goes!
Make it objective – your height, weight, health, marital status are less relevant today. Anything subjective will be treated subjectively. Use white paper only if it is paper-based – photocopying other colours can lead to a messy grey.
Black & white – coloured fonts may be difficult to read, especially if it is being scanned electronically! It is also subjective and people (even recruiters are people) have subjective opinions about colours. Justify or align your CV – make it look easy to read and it will be read. Speed readers who scan, do so in a single straight line vertically down the middle of the page. Having alignment unjustified to the right makes it harder to speed read.
Use your name at the top – we can tell it’s a Curriculum Vitae and it wastes space to put those words at the top. Only have up to 3 font sizes – any more seems cluttered and confusing.
Group common areas – and have white space on each side of them. No photographs –  subjective.
Underline is for schools and italic slows reading by up to 70% Use bullets – but not at the sacrifice of meaning
Grammar – misspellings, typographical errors, poor grammar: proof read Entice – don’t tell the whole story: that’s what the interview is for!
Load with achievements – lots of people have run at the same track: but you won! Trick 1 – all numbers (achievements) make the font 0.5 larger in size.
Trick 2 – list all your achievements in a separate document. Cut and paste those relevant to the role into the CV for that role. Trick 3 – order your achievements based on the adverts needs, job description or person specification.

Voice Your Splendour

When writing a CV justify the textDoes this title make you nervous? That is the main issue with most people’s CV’s – their inability to market their true splendour. When we talk about how to write a CV, we are talking marketing and sales.. It is the simple fact that you have a unique configuration of skills, competences, knowledge, experience, achievements, interests and energy that makes you different and splendid. And this is precisely what must come across in the CV.

Related Pages

These pages directly compliment and add further information to this area.

CV Format Link

CV Format and Anatomy

How to tailor your CV link

How to Tailor your CV or Resume

CV Template Link

CV Template Achievements Focus

If you are following the pathway, move on to the anatomy of a winning CV.

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