11 CV writing tips to help you outperform your competition
17 May 2022 Sharyn Waterworth
When you’re applying for a job, pulling together your CV might feel like a tedious task. But making sure your CV is professional, clean, and includes the right information is what makes the difference when you’re trying to stand out from the crowd.
In my 20+ years as a recruiter, I’ve seen many job applications - good and bad. I know what makes a CV stand out from the rest of the pile and what leads to a CV being immediately disregarded. And I want you to know, too.
Here are the 11 CV writing tips I share with my candidates, to help them outperform their competition.
No more than two pages
It can be difficult to know what to include in your CV, especially when you have more than a decade of experience. Should you include every job you’ve ever had? Or only include the most recent and relevant positions you’ve held?
What’s most important is that your CV is easy to read. You don’t necessarily have to remove information but you need to make sure you’re highlighting the roles, responsibilities, and skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Your CV should span no more than two pages of an A4 document, so if you’re having trouble keeping it shorter, consider where you’re going into too much detail and trim those sections down.
Tailor your CV for the role you’re applying for
Applying for jobs can feel like a full-time job but it’s important you don’t skip this step. Your CV should include keywords from the job ad itself, particularly when it comes to required skills.
For instance, if the job description notes they’re looking for a ‘self-starter’, refer to yourself as a self-starter or something similar (i.e. proactive) in your CV. This ensures you’re positioning yourself as a candidate with the exact qualities they’re looking for.
Use keywords so recruiters can find you
Of all our CV writing tips, this is the most important. Did you know recruiters use keywordsto find ideal candidates? To make sure your CV shows up, include relevant keywords from the job ad (as I mentioned above).
These keywords include job titles, skills, and attributes. That way, if I’m searching for a “customer service representative”, your application will be shown.
Make sure it’s up to date
Before sending your CV out, make sure it’s up to date. That includes updating your contact information, adding your latest career moves, and any other forms of work you’ve undertaken (volunteering, education, and training).
Keep your presentation plain and digestible
Your CV should be a clean and simple document.
Keep your formatting consistent and easy to follow. There’s nothing worse than a CV that chops and changes - where am I meant to be looking next? Whichever layout you choose, make sure your dot points are all indented the same and your columns are in alignment.
Slimline your skills section & make it relevant
We all possess a myriad of different skills, but only include skills that are relevant. Create a skills section on your CV that clearly defines your winning attributes. But make sure they correspond with the job description, too.
Highlight key duties and achievements
What were your key duties and achievements in each role? Keep your overview succinct, but make sure you accurately highlight what you brought to the table in your current/past jobs.
Format your CV with your most recent job at the top
We’ve seen more than a few people get this one confused, but your most recent job should always be at the top of the page. Always use reverse chronological order to list your work history.
Include two points of contact
Why two? Some employers and recruiters prefer connecting over email, and others via phone. Plus (and this is important), if you change your number or email address, or accidentally input your details incorrectly, you have a backup.
We’ve certainly had experience with being given the wrong number and then being unable to contact a candidate. So, to be safe, always include both.
Have your referees available on request
We always recommend keeping your references off your CV. Why? Because if you include them, the recruiter may contact your references immediately, before you’ve had the chance to let them know to expect a call or an email.
Our suggestion is to write “referees available on request” at the bottom of your CV. If a recruiter or employer is interested, they’ll contact you and ask for their contact details. Then, you’ll be able to notify your referees to expect a phone call or email.
Edit and proofread
A potential catastrophe can always be avoided with proofreading before submission. In fact, because you’ve likely read your CV a hundred times, you might not even notice a mistake.
To be on the safe side, ask a friend or relative to double-check it for you. Nothing screams unprofessional like a typo.
When applying for a role through People in Focus, we always take the time to make sure our candidate's CVs are up to scratch. We always want our candidates to have the best chance possible of landing their ideal job.
If you’re on the hunt for a new position, take a scroll through our jobs board - you might find your next big career move.