Having a great CV is important to every job search…
Your CV is the initial chance to grab an employer/recruiter’s attention and could make or break your chances of finding a new job. But how do you write a great one? Here is our step by step guide to writing a great CV which includes expert advice, a free CV template and brilliant tips for winning at CV writing.
This is what we’ll cover:
- What is a CV?
- When do you need a CV?
- What can a great CV do for you?
- Why do you need a great CV?
- What should a CV include?
- Common CV Mistakes
- How long should a CV be?
- How do I make my CV look good?
- Free CV Template
- What To Do With Your New CV
- Get Some Real CV Advice From An Expert
What Is A CV?
The definition of Curriculum Vitae according to Wikipedia is a summary of academic and professional history and achievements. According to the Oxford dictionary, it’s a noun. A brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application
Leonardo da Vinci may have written the first-ever recorded CV and things have moved along a lot since 1482 but when he wrote to the Regent of Milan to tell him of his work experience and ask to be considered for work, there were, however, a lot of things he did right.
- He wrote an accurate and detailed overview of his work to date
- Emphasised his core skills
- Gave examples of what he’d achieved with these skills
Whether a school leaver or with 40 years of professional experience behind you, you will still need a document that summarises your skills, experience and achievements you’ve made. The CV is your shop window. Your chance to show the reader what you’ve done and the potential you bring with you.
When Do You Need A CV?
It’s highly likely you will need an up to date and accurate CV when applying for any job. You’ll either be asked to complete an online application (on which, you can cut and paste many elements from your CV). Or, you will be asked to submit a CV and cover letter.
Note: this is also relevant for school leavers when making UCAS applications. The online process will require much of the same information laid out in your CV.
You may need a CV for an internal promotion, for HR/line management to ensure you have obtained the level of experience they require for the role you will be undertaking.
Maybe you need a CV if you are working with external stakeholders, perhaps clients or 3rd parties. You could need the CV to demonstrate the level of skills and experience you bring with your services.
Run your own business? You may need your CV for your insurance provider or investors.
If you’re a freelancer or contractor, every time you pitch for new work you will want to show the client evidence of your value. By having a great CV to hand you already have this in one place.
Once your career is underway, it’s important to ensure your CV is always updated. You may need this for consideration of promotion or review by your clients.
What Can A Great CV Do For You?
Having a great CV can be the variance of being put in the ‘yes, please!’ pile. As opposed to the ‘Nah, not good enough’ pile. If you’re lucky, you might get a ‘thank you for your interest but not quite right for this opportunity’ response.
CV writing is relatively simple but you do have to remember this is your only opportunity to make that first impression. It comes even before you step into a room for an interview. The CV is what the reader will know as you and is an opportunity to showcase your best assets!
If there are 2 CVs, both with the same location, skills and professional experience, but one highlights the achievements made in each role, I know which one I would choose to meet!
The one who has clearly made a very positive impression, show me they go above and beyond expectations in their role. There are lots of clever ways to make this clear in a CV, which we share with you later in this blog.
With an awesome CV, you can communicate your skills and experience to a potential employer. If you’re clever, you’ll have adapted your CV for specific jobs ensuring you highlight the relevant experience in line with that specified in the job advert. But, the first step is to create a great generic CV which can be used for all occasions, whether a job opportunity or other.
Why Do You Need A Great CV?
Ultimately, you need a CV to showcase your skills and experience. To show the reader what you can do, what you’ve learned, what skills you have, what tools you can use and of course what you can achieve if given the opportunity. You need a great CV to differentiate yourself from everyone else’s application. Job seeking and career progression are competitive and a good job is hard to get. You need to be ready from the get-go.
According to Robert Meier, President of Job Market Experts ‘98% of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening and only the top 2% of candidates make it to the interview’. It’s statistics like these which spur me on to share knowledge on how to write a great CV.
Here at clockworkTalent, our conversions are significantly higher than that, but this is because we are specialists both in Recruitment and in the Digital Marketing industry.
Almost everyone I speak to struggles to write their own CV. I hear excuses like ‘It’s hard to write about yourself’, ‘I don’t know where to start’, ‘I don’t know what to write’ and more. Yes, I know it’s hard, no one finds it easy but once you’ve got a great CV saved when you do see the perfect job, there will be no mad scramble to write a rushed CV.
To get started, here are some quick changes you can make to improve your CV instantly:
What should my CV cover?
CV’s are subjective and everyone has an opinion on what they should / should not look like. Over the years we’ve developed a recipe which seems to cover all levels of experience, seniority and industry sectors.
Firstly, the CV needs to be headed up with your Contact details: Contact Details: name, address, mobile and email along with website/blog if you run one. We tend to put this centred in the header at the top of a page. It is essential you have your contact details. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have a CV with no telephone number!
The 5 headings you then need to write your CV under are:
We recommend writing this as if you were telling your parents or your headteacher where you are in your professional career. A synopsis of your qualifications, achievements, core skills/strengths and ambitions. This could include your industry sectors, customer verticals, sales deals, where you’ve been published and more. Whatever it is, make sure it’s relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.
SKILLS & TOOLS
Bullet-point your core skills. Next, add the tools you are accustomed to using in your job. This is an excellent way of showing a decision-maker how deep your experience goes.
This is a chronological listing of all the work you’ve undertaken. Identify the employer, the dates and the job titles you’ve held. We want the most recent first otherwise I’ll get bored wading through your early newspaper rounds and 6 weeks work experience at the local nursery. Hit us with your most recent work. Hopefully, it’ll be really relevant for the job your applying to and I’ll be hungry to read more!
If you’ve been promoted within one company, separate these out with dates. It’s a good thing to showcase to a potential employer. You then want to briefly outline your responsibilities and list your achievements. These can include: budgets, client wins, industry verticals, where content has been published or reporting on KPIs, CTR, ROI, audience reach, engagement, conversions, ranking and campaign traffic.
EDUCATION, TRAINING & QUALIFICATIONS
Again chronological, most recent first… especially if you’ve had recent industry training or certifications. This demonstrates clearly that you’re still learning, keeping up to date and pursuing personal development. Bold the qualifications you obtain, not where you studied or the institutions. The lengthier your career the less detail you need to provide about your education i.e. if you’ve had 20 years in the industry, please don’t list out each and every O level you took.
BUT of the flip side, if you’re a relatively new entrant to the industry, list your education, all of it! Your 10 A* GCSEs are really interesting, especially if you didn’t go to university. Or, if you did go to uni, mention it in your personal profile, so the expectation from the offset is positive!
INTERESTS / HOBBIES
Here is your opportunity to show us who you are on a personal basis. If you can make it relevant to your career, great but actually it’s also interesting just to find out a little about you. Employers are hiring individuals not just bums on seats!
For instance, I will always remember one professional who collected Dolls Houses. She was great, we found her an awesome job and I will always remember her because of her unusual dollhouse collection!
Common CV mistakes…
- Not written in chronological order
- Having inaccurate information or lies featured
- Titling it as ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’, we know it’s your CV, don’t label it
- Poor spelling
- If stating when the CV was last updated in the header or footer, make sure you update this… nothing worse than seeing a CV listed as last updated 4 years ago
- Using an inappropriate email address
- Always account for the gaps between employment
- Too much focus on design instead of content
- An inconsistent tone of voice
There are so many reasons your job application could fail, we dedicated a whole blog post to it!
How long should my CV be?
To be honest, a CV shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages, although I have seen everything from a tiny ½ page to a spiral-bound 40+ page epic biography. Needless to say, I didn’t use either of these 2 CVs in their original formats!
Using our template, you should be able to write enough about your career to ‘tease’ an employer into wanting to meet you. It’s your shop window, not the whole department store!
If there are 1 or 2 jobs more relevant with exceptional achievements to mention, elaborate on these and pare down the descriptions for the irrelevant or early roles. Don’t dedicate a ½ page to your first ever job and 10 years later have a one-liner for your most recent role. Be sensible, an employer is more interested in your more recent work and achievements.
How do I make my CV look good?
CV design is really important, it can either draw a reader in or turn them off from the get-go. Make sure the layout is clear with strong headings and is concise.
Writing in 3rd person is a clever way to help a reader absorb many achievements and statements of strengths and results. This is psychological and tricks the mind into interpreting them as fact rather than ‘bragging’ or ‘arrogance’. We often see less experienced professionals uncomfortable with this style, so whilst it is very acceptable it is more common the more senior end of careers.
Consistency in CV formatting goes back to artistic principles of no more than 3 changes to the font in one document i.e. size, colour and font type. This allows the mind to absorb the content easily. The same goes for consistency with space, headers, bullet-point etc.
The rule of ‘proper’ writing can go out the window for CVs, but you do want to make sure it reads well, using correct grammar and spelling. You can abbreviate into clear and concise, punchy bullet-pointed sentences as you’re not writing your dissertation!
Top tip: adding a hyperlink for your personal blog or portfolio instead of listing the URL, makes it look at lot cleaner.
Free CV template
So now you’ve got an excellent CV, probably written in word format. We suggest saving a PDF copy, this is so you know when you send it, the effort you’ve made in creating the right visual impression will hold.
NOTE: some recruitment agencies and employers will require your CV in a specific format. Using graphic design software can mean that the recipient can’t open, save or consider the CV.
Whilst being different is great, sometimes you may hinder your application process by being too innovative. Hence having a traditional copy is always recommended! Especially as processes become more automated with Artificial Intelligence and in-house ATS used by employers.
Get some expert advice
If you would like one of our expert Digital Marketing Recruiters to take a look at your CV and offer some real, honest advice to improve it, you can claim a free CV critique!
Having worked your way through all of the above, you’ve now got yourself a great CV ready to send out!
If you’re a Digital Marketer or work in the Online industry and are looking for career progression or just an exciting career opportunity, why not get yourself registered with us, we’re a specialist recruitment agency hiring only Digital Marketing and eCommerce roles for Brands and Agencies. The companies we partner with vary greatly across the UK and some overseas, you can read testimonials from former projects we’ve worked on here.
Good luck with your job search!