A CV is much more than an overview of your skills and education. It’s part of your effort to convince a prospective employer that they should hire you – and not someone else.
Whoever has a look at it should know three things right away, namely who you are, what you can do for them, and why they should hire you. Make sure that these three points are featured right at the top.
Typically, you start a CV with your personal data. And that’s what you should do – it’s a formal point that’s expected. Imagine what you’d do in the place of a recruiter with a large company – you get dozens, if not hundreds of applications to look at. You simply don’t have time for quirks and special features.
Open with your name. Don’t just call the page “Curriculum Vitae”, rather make it “Your Name: Curriculum Vitae”. Follow this up with a centered and ruled text block, very briefly detailing things like your date of birth, nationality, and so on.
Immediately follow this up with a longer headline that tells the reader why it’s you they should choose.
If this sounds overly straightforward to you: It really isn’t. What you want to do is read up on the company you’re applying with, read up on the position you’re going for, and let them know about the most important qualities you bring in right away.
Similarly, take a moment to think about the doubts they might have about you, and then address them. For example, if you have a great academic record, but no relevant practical experience, and if that could be a problem, find a way to demonstrate to them that you’re a quick learner, and that this part of your personality can be relied on.
Most importantly, make your CV about them, not about you
What they’re after is someone to do a job for them – like it or not, they really aren’t looking for you.
And because they aren’t, the worst thing you can do is go on and on about yourself. Read up on the company. Read up on the job. Tell them directly what you can do for them – use “you” and “your” instead of “I” and “my”.
Next, follow this up with relevant experience and relevant education. They likely won’t expect you to list every school you’ve been to since age 6. Start the list with the most recent and most important bits for this single job you’re applying for.
Treat every section of your CV this way. When it comes to language, promote what you’ve got that you know they need. The same goes for computer skills and other, similar points.
Yes, your CV is about you – but its job is to present you in the best possible light to the single prospective employer or recruiter reading it. It’s not about you, it’s about what you can convince them you’ve got what they need.
You also need to be aware that your information will be entered into an ATS, an applicant tracking system. This is why despite all your efforts to present yourself in the most relevant way possible, anyone reading your CV needs to be able to find relevant information very quickly.
This affects the design of your CV as much as the order of its content. Make sure you clearly designate what kind of information is where, and bring this out in the typefaces you use, with category titles e.g. printed in bold letters.
Include a proper cover letter
Also, no matter how good your CV is, it won’t get you very far without a properly written cover letter. If you send it in by email, make sure the message you send it with says more than “Please see the attached CV”. Write a proper letter. If the company or recruiter you write to discards it, you’ve lost nothing. But often as not, especially if you’re going for a more challenging position, the cover letter can make all the difference, especially if it’s a job that requires writing skills.
If you have the time, and if your interest in the job is sufficient, write a motivational letter as well. This is the third part in your little chain of persuasion.
The purpose of the cover letter or email is to convince people that your CV is worth a look. Your CV’s purpose is to convince people that you’re a contender, and that they should have a look at your motivational letter as well.
You won’t bore anyone into hiring you, so think about them when you write your CV, and not just what you’ve got. With a CV set up like this, you’re guaranteed to get more attention than the vast majority of the other candidates.