Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
10 top tips for writing a CV 30/10/2012
Here are some punchy CV/resume tips.
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- 1. Keep it short
- 2. Keep it relevant
- 3. Include a brief profile
- 4. Quantify output not input
- 5. Talk like a business person
- 6. Don’t say too much about your interests
- 7. Don’t write in the first person
- 8. Don’t use a tiny font to squeeze in more content
- 9. Don't forget white space can be good
- 10. Don’t include a photo
1. Keep it short
In this world of soundbites and 140 character Twitter blogs, no-one wants to read acres of words. Keep it to two, maybe three pages at the most. It may be hard if you have a few years behind you, so just concentrate on the recent stuff, and summarise your early career with simply the dates, employer and your title.
2. Keep it relevant
If you're sending your CV for a specific job, tailor it to the advert as best you can. If you're struggling, call the consultant advertising and ask them more about it, then you know what experience to highlight. Include a section for each role you have held, starting with your current/last job.
3. Include a brief profile
If it's a generic CV that you're sending to a few recruiters, write a short five/six line paragraph at the top to summarise what you are and what you offer. Try not to be too generic, most people could say they are “hard-working, broadly experienced and a good communicator”. Try to be different and/or talk about specialisms if you can.
4. Quantify output not input
Yes you work really hard and yes people think you're great, but how was it measured? Tall about the Results you have achieved, not just a project description. Employers want deliverers not just doers.
5. Talk like a business person
We all know that HR can bring a genuine difference to the bottom line, but it can sometimes be difficult to quantify. But try hard – a CEO will sit up and listen if you describe projects by the £Xm savings you achieved, or the Y% reduction in attrition. Talk like a business person that is an HR specialist rather than an HR person that works in business.
6. Don’t say too much about your interests
Ask yourself, are people really interested that you like cooking? Participation and/or success in sporting events are an indicator of an achiever, and of someone that tries to stay in good health, so they are fine. Likewise charitable activities can show a balance to your commercial life which is potentially important. Just keep it short and relevant to a prospective employer.
7. Don’t write in the first person
Write it in the third person, or without any reference to pronouns at all e.g. “Introduced competency frameworks across the 3500 strong organisation delivering 30% reduction in attrition and 20% increase in productivity”.
8. Don’t use a tiny font to squeeze in more content
Select an appropriate font size to keep the document short, but do not go smaller than 9 or 10pt as it will become difficult to read. Use a font that is clear and simple such as Verbana or Ariel and always in black.
9. Don't forget white space can be good
Set out your CV effectively, with appropriate use of “white space”. Your objective is to get the maximum amount of information into someone’s mind in the minimum amount of time. Make it easy to read.
10. Don’t include a photo
In my experience the only people that include photos of themselves on their CVs are overseas applicants and attractive women. The former is understandable as it is clearly the norm in some cultures to include a photo on your CV. And frankly if I looked like Angelina Jolie I'd be straight down to the photo booth. But generally speaking, I ask myself, will it really make a difference with your application? I'd say probably not.
Helen Ackroyd, Starbuck James
Helen Ackroyd works for Starbuck James