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How To Write A CV


Posted on 17/09/2015 by Ngaire Wallace

I have worked in the recruitment industry for close to 11 years. Over the course of my career I estimate that I have read roughly 200,000 resumes, give or take. I have seen countless spelling errors and ‘creative’ applications (including photographs of candidates at parties, on safari, and one particularly memorable applicant who included a pic of himself dressed in a frog suit.)

Here are my top tips for writing a successful resume.

  • Spell check. Have a friend read it for you and pay attention to spelling in context, as some words will be missed by an automated spell checker (for example, you are applying for a  ‘role,’ not a ‘roll.’)
  • Stick to plain and simple. Recruiters and hiring managers are in a hurry, and may not read between the lines. Make it easy for us to identify that you have the skills and experience we are looking for. 
  • Use a plain font and avoid pictures, graphics, colour and borders, unless you work in a creative industry (and even then, remember that taste is relative and use your flair with caution). Avoid using tables when applying through a recruitment agency as these are difficult to reformat, and many agency recruiters will be required to amend your CV to match their company branding before sending to a client.
  • Where possible, tailor your CV to the specific vacancy that you are applying for. If time prevents you from preparing a new CV for every application, at least write a couple of CVs to suit roles in particular sectors. Do not send a CV to a marketing role that includes a profile stating your dream is to work as an accountant.
  • Do not lie. It’s not worth the risk. 
  • If you are applying for jobs globally, or you have relocated, check the standard format for CV writing in your new or desired location. For example, in the UK recruiters remove (or at least they should) photos from CVs in order to avoid bias in the recruitment process. 
  • Be sparing with superlatives. If you are a recent school leaver, stating that you have ‘extensive experience’ in any area will come across as naïve at best. Regardless of your level of expertise, use phrases that indicate measurability, such as ‘I have advanced Excel skills’ rather than ‘my technical ability is outstanding.’ Confidence should not be confused with arrogance.
  • Listen to your recruiter’s advice. They are likely to have an intimate knowledge of their client’s individual quirks and preferences and can tailor your CV accordingly. 
  • Do include a hobbies section, but try to keep it professional, truthful and take care with humour. Do not claim to have a keen interest in netball if you haven’t played for ten years, as you may find yourself, as one of our candidates did, in an interview with a leading netball umpire who will very quickly discover your exaggeration. 
  • Don’t reference a personal blog unless the blog relates to a professional topic and is written with the same care that you have used throughout the rest of your application. 
  • When you think your CV is perfect, read it again