How to Write a Killer CV
I recently did a post about writing a stand-out cover letter, which got a fantastic response. I thought it was only natural therefore to write a post about writing a killer CV.
So, what are the things you need to remember when writing a CV? This has to hold all of the relevant skills that make you a stand-out candidate for any job.
I think of the CV as the cheat sheet and the cover letter as the explanation. The CV holds all of your kills and the cover letter explains why these skills are relevant to the job.
How do I format my CV? This is a question I’m asked a lot when people come to me for advice. It’s very simple: keep it as simple and clean as possible.
The only people that need to create a fancy-looking CV are artists and graphic designers. Everyone else can keep it to 1-2 sheets with bullet points and in Times New Roman at 12pt size.
At the top of your sheet needs to be your personal information, i.e. your name, address, contact information.
Then add your qualifications working backward from the newest to older.
I wouldn’t go into details about this. Instead, include the details of the university you attended (if you attended uni), the degree you got and the time you were there. Then mention your A-Levels – i.e. I have an A-Level in History, English Literature, Drama, and French all A*-C grade. After that briefly mention your English and Maths GCSEs.
You don’t need to share the ins and outs of your education, it’s just best to share that you have qualifications.
The more senior you get in the role the less call there is for A-Levels and GCSEs, but you should always include other qualifications relating to your job i.e. University degree, Masters’s degree, Ph.D. or any additional courses you did on the side.
After that comes your work experience. Start with where you’re currently working, or your last job, and work backward.
I recommend writing bullet points for the first 1-3 jobs and after that just include the company name, your job title(s), and the timeframe for your working there. There’s not much point in sharing the intimate details about the work you did there as this is mostly years old and not as relevant as your current skills.
After work experience comes the additional skills and anything you want to highlight.
For example, on my CV I added that I was a freelance journalist with bylines in Glamour, Huffington Post, and Happiful, highlighting my writing, pitching, and pro activism skills. I also shared the fact I had a blog, which I had been running for five years via both blogger and WordPress, doing my own coding and design work. And that I was very active on social media in both the industry I was working in – publishing – and in other industries through my side hustles.
Showing these additional skills not only allows me to highlight my extra skills but also informs them a little bit about me. I clearly have side hustles, I’m proactive and I’m interested in writing, design, and networking.
Remember though that this section is for skills, not interests. There’s no point sharing that you go to the cinema every weekend or are a fan of pop music. This isn’t relevant to the job – unless you’re going for a film role or a position in the pop music industry. Keep it relevant to work at all times.
Remember to proofread your CV – every time you send it! You’ll be surprised by how many skills you miss out, or how many times you don’t talk yourself up. Proofreading will not only help you to make sure your spelling and grammar are on point, but also allow you to fill in these gaps.
Your CV is about showing off your skills – the keywords being showing off. So show off! No one is going to criticise you for saying you have excellent blogging skills if you have the evidence to back it up. Just don’t start saying you’re the best at what you do – unless you can legitimately prove this in your interview.
When writing a killer CV it needs to be professional and confident and therefore you need to use certain buzzwords. These are more often than not adjectives to boost your point.
For example I worked as a PA for John Doe for seven months and in that time developed my ability to multi-task and network, by not only making sure his calendar was in order at all times but also ensuring that his objectives were met at each meeting. I did this by clarifying with the event’s host in advance exactly what Mr. Doe’s priorities and time frames were. Through this, I was able to position myself as not only his PA but a trustworthy and well-organised member of a wider team.
Obviously, this is made-up – I’ve never been a PA in my life – but the buzzwords in this paragraph include:
- Member of a wider team
This made-up PA is really shouting about their abilities in that paragraph, using one example of their job to highlight all of the above skills. They’re independent and show initiative but can also work with a team. They’re dependable trustworthy and well-organised and if they’re looking to grow their PA skills then these are a pretty good place to start.
Things to avoid
Try not to use the same words over and over again. i.e. don’t constantly call yourself dependable or well-organised. Use other synonyms to describe yourself this way, or better yet find another skill to highlight. You have limited space on a CV so make sure you utilise all of it.
Don’t go over two pages. Unless you’re super senior and going for a CEO role there’s no need to go over two pages. That makes you look unprofessional in fact, as it suggests you don’t know how to be succinct or how to edit. It also looks a little desperate for some reason.
Two pages is the absolute maximum as then the potential employer can print it double-sided on one page. It makes it easier for them and in turn that helps you.
When you write your killer CV you must not have spelling mistakes. Get someone else to proofread it for you to catch any additional strays you might miss.
Don’t mention any jobs beyond the ones you’ve already had in the CV. This is not the cover letter. The CV should only be about you, not about anyone else.
Try not to oversell or undersell yourself. This is hard to get down but once you do it’s a bit like riding a bike. Never oversell yourself – unless you have the evidence to back it up – but never undersell your abilities either. Just because you worked in a team on a project doesn’t mean you weren’t integral to that project. Really shout about your involvement and what your skills brought to the table and what you achieved.
I hope these snippets of advice help you to write a killer CV! And I hope it helps you get the job or jobs of your dreams.