When it comes to writing a CV/resume, there’s so much conflicting information available. Today, I want to talk you through the structure of a winning CV so that you can cut through the noise and start pursuing that dream career. Plus, head to the footer for the GOLDEN RULE of CV writing.
Disclaimer: These are general guidelines so it’s always worth checking with trustworthy colleagues in your field about particular practices or expectations.
1) How should I structure my CV/resume?
Your CV should be broken down into easily digestible parts. This will make it easier for your recruiter to navigate your information quickly. The sections should be as follows:
- Header: containing personal information (name, location, contact details, LinkedIn)
- Professional Profile: a short bio about yourself
- Career Summary: a list of your previous positions
- Education: a list of your qualifications
- Competencies: a well-presented list of your core skills
We’ll be looking at these individual sections in future posts, but for now, you can start to consider what you might want to include in each of these sections.
Top Tip: Focus on what will be most relevant for the specific job you are applying for.
It may even be worth having a master copy that you then trim down for each position you apply for. This will ensure your CV sounds bespoke and relevant to that particular job.
2) How long should it be?
A CV should be no longer than two pages. The only likely exceptions to this rule are medical CVs, federal CVs (in the US) and portfolios of work. There may be others that I have not thought of, so if you know of any, please leave them in the comments.
The general rule however is that a CV must be limited to two pages. Even if you fill more than this with amazing content, no one will read it. Recruiters just don’t have the time or inclination. They want the essential and relevant details.
Remember: A CV is about getting you through the door.
3) Is it enough to just put my job titles?
While we want to try and stay brief, a list of job titles and companies is no good to an employer either. They will expect some insight into what you’ve been doing in these jobs. Now, most people fall into the trap of listing their responsibilities.
This isn’t always enough.
While it’s important to include these pieces of information, it’s not going to separate you from other candidates who may have similar experience. We do this by highlighting your key achievements.
Again, this will be covered in more detail in a later post, but for now, just make a list of all the key achievements you think you accomplished for each role. Examples could include:
- Exceeding expectations
- New practices you implemented
- Ways you innovated
- Or even just some things you were particularly good at
Highlighting these achievements will not only help you stand out, but will also make employers see in practical terms how you might be able to contribute to their organisation.
4) Do I include a photo?
This is one of those areas that will depend on where you are based, so make sure to check local advice and opinions.
In general, photos are not used in the following:
- New Zealand
In general, photos are used in the following:
- Most of Central Europe
- South America
If you are unsure, then do not include a photo. It’s much better to assume one is not needed than vice versa. Employers should be hiring you on your background and skills, not appearance.
5) What style of language should I use?
There should be no first person in a CV/resume. ‘I’ and ‘we’ should be saved for LinkedIn profiles and cover letters. It’s also not advisable to use ‘he’ or ‘she’, as this may sound pretentious. Instead, use concise, efficient and well-structured sentences to convey the key information.
So for example, in a professional profile, you could take this idea:
I am a hard-working strong all-rounder, and I work well both on my own and with other people.
A consummate professional who works well both independently and as part of a team.
This can also be used in key achievements, so this:
I innovated well and created a new system for digitalising our company’s filing system.
Championed innovation and the creation of a new digitalised filing system
With this style in mind, you will sound professional in your CV, while reserving your more informal tone of voice for your LinkedIn profile and the cover letter you will invariably write.
The GOLDEN RULE of CV/Resume Writing:
Make the Recruiter’s Life Easy
As the recruitment industry evolves, it’s becoming easier and easier for people to apply for jobs with the click of a button. This means recruiters could be getting 100s of applications for a single job. This is a lot of work to do, and so you want to make their life easy, even when you don’t always feel like doing so.
This is where a well-structured and professional sounding CV/resume comes into it. You have made all the information easily available and digestible. They have your contact details and a clear list of not only your previous jobs, but how you helped improve and develop those companies. This is only going to increase the likelihood of them putting you through. So bear this in mind for any job you apply for.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and be sure to check back soon for more content! Let me know if you have any questions or requests!