How to Write a Winning CV 

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A good CV is vital when you’re looking for work – especially in today’s competitive job market. The challenge is writing a CV that catches the employer’s attention. Some organizations receive hundreds of thousands of CV’s every year. So if you want that interview then it’s important that your CV stands out and actually gets read.

What is a CV?

The term 'Curriculum Vitae', commonly abbreviated to CV, literally translated means 'course of life'. Sometimes referred to as a résumé, it's a summary of your skills, competencies, qualifications and career history. And it’s often the first phase in getting yourself noticed by potential employers.

Your CV/ résumé is your chance to highlight your accomplishments, and communicate how you are able to use your skills and expertise to help someone else. So you must make sure that it's clear, concise, and up-to-date. 

Getting Started

So, what's the best way to create your CV? A quick online search yields literally millions of results telling you how to write a good one. Which approach should you use?

In this article, we'll show you the secrets to creating a good, compelling and engaging CV in a few simple steps. Below are the best resume writing tips to create a winning CV.

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Step 1: Think Like the Employer

Our first resume writing tip is to think like the employer. Before applying for any job it’s important to understand exactly what type of person the prospective employer is looking for. 

This is important for two reasons:

  1. Firstly, job hunting is a lengthy process and it’s important to invest your time wisely. Before applying for a position, determine whether or not you will be a good job fit for the role and; 
  2. Secondly, if you are a good fit for the position understanding exactly what the prospective employer is looking for will help you to better position yourself for the job. The key is to show a close match between the skills and competencies you have and those that the employer is looking for. The better you are able to do this the more successful you will be at securing an interview. 
CV Writing Tip Think Like the Employer

Whether you use:

  • The job advertisement description;
  • A candidate/ person description;
  • Information gathered from conversations with the prospective employer/ organization;
  • Information gathered from a recruitment agency;

…your goal is to use the information to create a “blueprint” for your CV.

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Step 2: Get the Facts Straight 

Our second resume writing tip is to get the facts straight. The prospective employer will undoubtedly use your CV to structure the interview. If your job application is successful, it could also be the foundation on which the job is built. 

What you say on your CV matters. It’s important to be accurate, honest and not to exaggerate your qualifications or experience. Why you may ask? 

If you don't tell the truth it could come back to haunt you - either before you get a job offer or in the future. There have been plenty of people fired years after the fact because they lied on their CV to get a job.

So instead, use your CV to give yourself the edge. Do this by accentuating your true skills, competencies, achievements and successes.

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Step 3: Be Contactable 

Our third resume writing tip is to make sure you are contactable. You may be thinking that this is an elementary fact – but it’s a small detail that’s often taken for granted. If your CV captures the recruiter’s attention, then it would be a pity to lose out by being un-contactable. 

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Different people have different communication preferences so include the following information on your CV:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone/ Cellphone Numbers
  • E-mail address
  • Website address (if you have one that you think will add value to your application)
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Step 4: Make it Flawless

Did you know… Grammarly.com recently conducted an audit of 50 active CV’s on Indeed.com. They found that there are 5 errors on a typical job seeker’s CV, and most of these issues (nearly 60%) are grammatical.

Which bring us to the next resume writing tip – make it flawless. Always check your CV for spelling, language and grammatical errors. At the very least, mistakes could create a negative perception of your attention to detail and accuracy. At the very worst it could cost you the job.
For example, take the executive who claimed he was "Instrumental in ruining the entire operation". What he intended to write was, “Instrumental in running the entire operation”.

If proofreading isn't your forte then consider using a professional résumé review service.

The Best Way to Make Sure There are no Errors

Sending out a CV without proofreading is asking for trouble. But a big problem is that we are blind to our own mistakes. That’s why it’s important to get a third party to review it. Obviously using someone you work with is not a good idea. Use friends and family who are good at editing and you trust to pay care and attention. 

But for the best result use a professional service. It costs money but the benefit is the professionals know what a good CV looks like. You can be guaranteed that they will take the care and attention. And you don’t have to wait a long time or ask for favors. For more on the benefits of using a résumé review service click here. 

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Step 5: Stand Out From the Rest 

Our next resume writing tip is to make sure your CV stands out and gets noticed.

Emphasize Value 

Recruiters are looking for indicators or signs that identify a “star performer”. Because top performers are worth their weight in gold.

Focus on positioning yourself as a “must have” employee by highlighting how you will add value to the employer:

  • Focus on how your involvement with projects and teams showed a positive return on investment. Instead of just saying, “I managed a team of five,” draw attention to what your management did for the team and the organization. Did productivity increase? Did your management of the team result in cost savings?
  • Where possible, support the statements that you make with numerical data. For example, instead of just saying, “I reduced customer churn,” see how much better it is to say, “I reduced customer churn by 25%.”

Customize It

A generic CV won’t give you the edge. Your CV should be a working document that you are able to customize for specific job applications based on each positions blueprint.

Remember that employer’s and recruiters don’t have time to read between the lines. They don’t have time to make assumptions about your skills. So to get ahead of the game, you need to clearly define your suitability for a specific job in order to increase your chance of success. 

Make it easy for the employer to recognize you as a good job fit by:

  • Molding your CV around the employer’s requirements;
  • Matching your skills to their needs - sit down with the job description and pick out the key points they’re looking for and highlight these in your CV;
  • Emphasizing the value that you will bring to the organization.
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Mind Your Language

  • Keep your copy clear and concise. Think report style and not novel;
  • Use short, bulleted sentences that get to the point. There will be time for more in-depth explanation and discussion in the interview;
  • Avoid the use of jargon;
  • Avoid using the “I” pronoun, such as, “I did this,” or “I did that.” Instead, make your sentences more direct using verbs or nouns on their own. For example, “Top achievements include...,” or “Increased sales by ...”;
  • Quantify achievements in numbers rather than words to make them quicker and easier to read and scan. For example, “25% revenue growth.”; 
  • Use the past tense to describe your career. For example, “Project managed a team of…”; 
  • Use the present tense to describe your transferrable skills and competencies. For example, “Have experience in…”
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Positive Words to Describe Yourself:

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•    Able
•    Creative
•    Dependable
•    Energetic
•    Experience
•    Flexible
•    Hardworking
•    Honest
•    Imaginative
•    Innovative
•    Motivated
•    Organized
•    Reliable
•    Sense of humour
•    Team player

Positive Words to Describe Your Achievements:

•    Achieved
•    Competed
•    Delivered
•    Directed
•    Helped
•    Identified
•    Managed
•    On time
•    Participated
•    Savings
•    Supervised
•    Under budget
•    Won

Layout and Design

How you present your CV is just as important as what you actually write in it. Making sure that the content and information is displayed in an easy to read and concise manner will help the potential employer reading your CV.  Furthermore, it will also impress them with your presentation and communication skills.

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  • Use a clean, organized layout with a lot of white space;
  • Allow for wide margins. Don’t reduce your margin size to fit in more copy. If you’re tight on space then insert another page;
  • Choose your fonts wisely. Your goal should be legibility, so it’s a good idea to stick to simple, readable fonts such as Arial, Time New Roman or Calibri;
  • Keep to one side of an A4 and number your pages;
  • PDF it because it allows you to create a good-looking document that’s easily readable across any platform;
  • Keep to the best practice font size – 10 to 12 for the body text and a maximum of 16 for headings;
  • Avoid writing in upper case. Especially for internet-based CV’s where capitals are perceived as SHOUTING.

Structure 

There are 9 Key Sections to Winning CV:

1.    Covering Letter
2.    Personal Information
3.    Profile Statement
4.    Work Experience/ Employment History
5.    Key Skills and Competencies
6.    Technical Skills: Qualifications, Education, Training and Development
7.    Personal Characteristics
8.    Interests
9.    References

1.    Covering Letter

Here are our best cover letter tips:

  • When it comes to cover letters, the personal touch is really important. Find out as much as you can about the company and the hiring manager. If possible, address your letter to the individual responsible for hiring. We recommend that you do research online or make a phone call to find out who the hiring manager is;
  • If you know someone at the company, mention their name in your cover letter. Name dropping works - your cover letter will get a closer look if it mentions someone who works at the company;
  • State the job/ position you’re applying for e.g. editorial assistant;
  • Where you found out about it (advert in newspaper XYZ etc. - organizations like to know which of their advertising sources are being successful);
  • When you're available to start work;
  • Why you're interested in that type of work;
  • Why the company attracts you (if it's a small company say you prefer to work for a small friendly organization);
  • Summarize your strengths and how they might be an advantage to the organization.
  • Relate your skills to the job requirements;
  • Thank the employer and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.

2.    Personal Information

Yes, we’re saying it again – name, address and contact details are a must!

Put them on your cover page and even add them to the header or footer of each following page in case any pages go missing.

3.    Profile Statement

Your profile statement is your first important sales pitch. It should briefly summarize the kind of candidate that you are. 

The statement should be no more than 2-3 lines in length. It should also be filled with the kind of "attribute" words which will help the reader identify you as a potential candidate for the position they want to fill. For example:

  • A highly organized and experienced Payroll/Human Resources Administrator, with excellent communication and IT skills.
  • Self-motivated, committed software development team leader.  Over ten-years, experience developing large-scale, robust systems to high quality standards.  Experience using multiple platforms and languages.

You may want to make this statement bold, to stand out. Remember, the employer may have hundreds of CVs to sift through for a post. Well-chosen (honest) words, which allow them to picture you as a good fit to their requirements, will help them as much as you.

4.    Work Experience/ Employment History

  • Work backwards from your last job to your first;
  • Employers are usually interested in your most recent positions. So if your employment history is long then focus on your last two positions. You may occasionally like to highlight earlier positions if they are relevant to the position that you’re applying for;
  • If you’ve had a lot of jobs or a long career you could list these under the heading of “Previous Employers” or “Early Career”;
  • Treat promotions as separate positions;
  • For each job list the relevant responsibilities; duties, skills and achievements. Rather than just listing the job descriptions of each of your previous positions, rather describe the scope of your job and level of responsibility.
  • Bear in mind that not everyone has worked before. We all have to start somewhere. If you have just left full-time education don’t panic about listing previous employment. Employers are aware of this and will look at a CV for its merits.
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5.    Key Skills and Competencies

  • List all of your job-specific skills and competencies;
  • These are things you are good at in a business context. Skills that could be valuable to an employer and that make you stand out from the rest of the applicants;
  • Examples of competencies are:

- Problem-solving skills;

- Computer literacy; 

- Good writing skills;

- Attention to detail;

- Team player;

- Staff management;

- Communication skills and;

- Negotiation skills.

6.    Technical Skills: Qualifications, Education, Training and Development

  • List your relevant professional and academic qualifications;
  • Where applicable, list your university, college and/or school. Also list any executive programmes you attended;
  • List the subjects you studied, the grades you achieved, awarding body and year;
  • Give an indication of any on-the-job training you’ve received;
  • Include relevant training or skills acquired while unemployed, on sabbatical or doing temporary work;
  • Be honest as your credentials may be checked. 

7.    Personal Characteristics

  • List key characteristics that match the desired personal attributes for the position;
  • Examples of personal characteristics include: 

- Adaptability;

- Flexibility;

- Integrity;

- Accountability;

- Professional work ethic;

- Positive attitude and;

- Self-motivated.

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8.    Interests

Your CV will be read by people who have no other insight into your personality, skills or potential. Their only insight is what is laid out before them. The interests section makes it easy for the recruiter to understand you, your values and what motivates you. 

  • Include these at the end;
  • List any interests or hobbies that you may have outside of the workplace;
  • A wide range of interests always looks good. Employers like to see that you will easily fit into different environments.

9.    References 

  • Although you are not obliged to do so, you may want to list the names and contact details of your references on your CV. At the very least we recommend you ensure that they are readily available and willing to represent you;
  • Include any client endorsements or recommendations that you’ve received. For example, “Received the annual award for XYZ from company XYZ.”
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Step 6: Aim for Continuous Improvement 

Our last resume writing tip is to aim for continuous improvement. Remember that your CV should be a working document. It’s important to consistently update it even when you’re not job-hunting. Not only will this help you to remember important dates, details, projects and achievements but you’ll also be thankful for an up-to-date CV when you need it! 


Conclusion

Your CV is your first and only chance to make a good first impression on a potential employer. 

Remember – a good candidate with a bad CV will never get an interview. So it pays to spend a little extra time refining and polishing it. If you follow these simple steps you’ll have a CV that not only stands out from the rest, but one which also gives you the competitive edge. 

To make it easy for you to create a winning CV we've created an easy-to-use template for you. You can get your free download here...

Here’s wishing you good luck and happy job hunting!


The Interview Success Series

This is part of the Interview Success Series. This series covers how job seekers can get the job they want. This series contains inside information from experienced recruiters.

Topics include: 

·         How to interview better,

·         Resume Assistance,

·         Interview Questions and Answers,

·         Interview mistakes to avoid and more…


Interview Preparation Coaching: 

Are you a job seeker about to interview? Find out how to prepare for your interview here.


Comments:

Do you have any resume writing tips? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.


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