How to write a great CV

by Donna Lund

A CV contains a lot of information about you – your educational background, work experience, achievements, and career aspirations. Its purpose is to provide a summary of all these key elements for future employers to use to decide whether or not to interview you.

Your CV is often your first point of contact with an organisation, so remember that first impressions count. It should showcase your strengths and sell your background to the reader, demonstrating why you are the right person for that particular job. Think of your CV as an advert selling you to a potential employer, so it needs to reflect you; your skills, personality and experience.

Set aside plenty of time to write your CV, you may know all of the information you want to write but it will take longer than you think to articulate your points well and format the content so that it flows logically, can be easily read and is free of spelling mistakes or other errors.

The employment market is highly competitive these days so it’s more important than ever to get your CV right and to differentiate you from the crowd.

So how do you write a great CV? Here, we give you some guidelines on how to write a great CV.

Target your CV for each job you apply for

- Ensure every part relates to the current role
- Use the same descriptions for skills and experience as those required in the job description
- Make sure you meet the criteria required for the role and highlight the skills, experience and qualifications needed in your CV
- Use relevant examples to demonstrate the skills required in the job specification

Structuring your CV

Include the following areas:
1.  Personal information – name, address and contact details.
2.  Objectives – what your career aspirations are (this should tell the employer why you want this particular role).
3.  Skills – an essential part of your CV and one which employers will be keen to read. Use the job specification to reference as many of the required skills as possible (that are relevant to you!).
4.  Employment – a crucial area to focus your attention. This is where you can demonstrate with actual examples why you are an ideal candidate for the role. Be clear and concise in your descriptions and use the terminology used in the job description to reference the roles you’ve had. Demonstrate your level of experience e.g. manager or head of department and the number of years in a particular role. Use this area to really differentiate yourself from all other applicants. For example if applying for a sales role, give examples of sales achieved vs. target. Did you win any awards e.g. Sales Representative of the Year? For Medical Sales Roles – make sure you include details of the type of products you have sold and and what therapy area they are for. Also mention the type of customers you have sold to. With a large number of medical sales professionals looking for new roles, recruiting managers are able to be much more precise about the experience and skills they require.
5.  Achievements – this is an area where you can really differentiate yourself from the competition. Shout about the achievements you’ve had, particularly where they demonstrate an expertise in an area, anything which shows you in a positive light should be documented. These highlight to the employer why you would be an asset to their organisation and can provide interesting discussion points at interview.
6.  Qualifications – as a minimum list out the qualifications you have that meet the requirements of the job you are applying for. Arrange these in order of highest qualification first and list out the dates when they were achieved.
7.  Interests – what do you enjoy doing outside of work that demonstrates skills that a potential employer would be looking for? Have you done any volunteer work that highlights your leadership and team-working skills?
8.  Availability – it is a good idea to mention the notice period required by your current employer

Presentation and Layout of your CV

Plan and consider how best to present your information so that it is clear, concise, logical and spaced well.
Think carefully about your choice of font – consider the font type and size you use and ensure it is easy for anyone to read. Times New Roman and Arial are commonly used fonts for printed CVs and generally need to be written in point size 12 for the main body copy, and a larger size for headings. If you are emailing your CV or want it to stand out a bit more, try a slightly different font such as Tahoma or Verdana, these can also be used in smaller point sizes (10 or 11) – but don’t choose anything too fancy or calligraphic as this will be too difficult for the reader to scan through.
Use bold and italic fonts to highlight important information and ensure you use these consistently throughout your CV. For example, if you write an Employers name in bold and job title beneath it in italics, then do this for every role you’ve had.
Be concise – it’s important to want to include all of your experience but resist the temptation to recall all the qualifications you’ve ever received if they are not relevant to the role you are applying for.  Leave some of the detail to discuss at the interview!
Be consistent – if you use bullet points and start the sentence with a Capital letter and finish the sentence with a full stop, then employ this style throughout your document.

Other considerations

Email address – avoid using an email address that contains inappropriate or unprofessional language.  Nicknames are fine, but they don’t always convey the best impression of you.  Consider setting up an email account with a sensible address that you can use solely for job applications. 
Ask someone to proof read your CV before sending it. Having another pair of eyes to glance over it is useful to ensure no grammatical or spelling errors exist and that the information can be followed and understood.
Keep the language jargon free and be careful when using abbreviations as these may not be familiar to the reader.
Remember that employers often read hundreds of applications so you need to make yours stand out. Add colour and personality to your descriptions and use positive language even where roles and responsibilities may seem monotonous.
Think about the key points that you want the employer to know about you, does your CV reflect them?

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