CV writing can be an onerous task.

However using the simple guidelines in this article can eliminate a lot of the burden.

Imagine when composing your CV that you are putting an advertisement in the newspaper and paying per word. When this is the case, only words that are adding value are used.

The same applies to your CV.

Only add something that sells your skills and experience to a potential employer and omit anything which is not.

The rationale for this is due to many recruiters having to screen large volumes of CV’s under tight time constraints. A recruiter may only glance at a CV for minute and sometimes only seconds, the average is estimated at 20 seconds. This leaves only a limited time frame to get your message across and be selected so you need to make each second count!

Formatting

There are no set formatting rules, however do not waste space on unnecessary formatting. Include sufficient formatting to make the CV look clear, succinct and palatable for the reader and keep the CV’s formatting consistent throughout. For example: if the dates are all kept on the left hand side, followed by company name and then details.

Decide which CV type is right for you

There are 3 main CV types. You will need to choose the one which is right for you depending on your career stage and on what you want to do next.

Chronological CV

This is the most common CV. It will display your work history, plotting how you have continued to gain knowledge, skills and possibly qualifications in the same or similar industries. It is used for career ladder climbers – people looking to progress further.

Qualification based CV 

This CV would be for graduates, return to workers (after some time of absence from work) and specialist career changers (recently completed a course in order to try a new career). This format showcases any qualifications which are specifically required for your next step.

Skill-based CV

This CV format will highlight transferable skills and knowledge which are relevant to your next role and would work well if you decided to change career or industry without getting any new qualifications first, taken a short break, or seen a specific project you would like to apply for but do not have direct industry specific experience in.

Introduction

Kick off with your name; using “Curriculum Vitae” as a heading states the obvious and is a waste of space. This can be written as footer on the left hand side and place the page numbers on the right hand side. You can add a bit of formatting flare at this stage around the writing of your headings such as career history etc. – some subtle colour might help your CV stand out from the crowd.

Personal statement

A CV should ideally start with a personal statement. This is your opening pitch to your prospective employer and an opportunity to convince a recruiter the rest of the CV is worth reading.

This opening pitch should mirror the strong selling points you will raise during the interview stages. Your personal statement should ideally be under 50 words and describe how you can help an employer to prosper. Look at what is your unique selling point if you can and avoid clichés such as a team player and strong interpersonal skills.

Career History/Career Summary

List your employment history in chronological order, starting with your most recent job first. Many people write “Work Experience” – this should only be used for recent school leavers or those still in school.

Your last/current job title Dates from and to Company name
Job title two Dates from and to Company name

Key skills

Focus on the skills and experience that supports your personal statement and the job specification outline of the role you are applying for. List up to five examples; explain what you did, how you did it and what was achieved.

Education and Qualifications

List any relevant courses and qualifications with the level or grade if appropriate. Place education in order from highest level down – i.e. professional qualifications, followed by master level, followed by degree level and then Diplomas, Certificates and other courses. It can also be done on date order.

Dates from and to Course/qualification Education institution Grade

Interests & Achievements

This section gives you an opportunity to show your personality. Highlight that you’re a well-rounded individual. This could include sport if relevant as this indicates that you are health conscious and a team player. Charity work or community based work would also demonstrate you’re a team player and a conscientious member of society or generous with your free time. If relevant you can also list all relevant awards and memberships and how you keep up to date within your particular field for example – read Irish Broker Magazine, Member of Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

Referees

Either provide two referees (usually people you used to work for) or state “Available on request”. When adding referees make sure these are as current and have given permission to be contacted.