Your CV is your ticket to your next career opportunity. If you don’t have a good CV, then regardless of how strong your background is, you may struggle to find your next opportunity. Your CV’s job is to communicate your skills, experience, and goals to ensure you get an invitation to interview.
You have probably read a statistic that goes something like “a recruiter will read your CV for an average of five seconds.” This is surely not the case, but it does make the point that your CV needs to be very user friendly for whomever is going to read it.
Recruiters aren’t world-class speed readers; we can’t scan your whole CV in five seconds. However, we are practiced at getting a general idea of your background fairly quickly. Depending on the role, we may spend as little as 10-20 seconds looking at a CV before deciding whether to read it again more closely.
Your task when producing your CV is to enable a recruiter to understand your background as quickly and easily as possible. You could have the ideal background for a role, but if the recruiter has to really scrutinise your CV to figure that out, the chances are that your application will not progress.
Writing a good CV is not difficult if you know what you are doing. Spending a little extra time making your CV as good as it can be will be well worth it. Here are our tips for writing your CV:
Make full use of formatting
One of the easiest ways to add clarity to your CV is to use the full spectrum of word formatting options available to you. Strategically use a combination of regular text, bold, and italics, and use different font sizes to your advantage. You can absolutely use colour, though do so sparingly. You can even experiment with line spacing. Importantly, you need to keep your formatting consistent across your CV.
The big three – job title, employer, and period of employment.
For each of your previous roles, you should always outline your job title, employer, and the period of employment. Typically, these will be the first things a recruiter looks for, so they should be very easily identifiable (use formatting appropriately). This is also a good place to say if you were a temporary employee, or on a fixed-term contract – if you leave this information out, and have a lot of short periods of employment, you may appear to lack commitment and dedication.
Tip – it is a good idea to present your work experience in reverse chronological order.
Include all of your experience
You really should include all of your experience! Even if some of your previous work is not directly relevant to your current career path, it is often indicative of important soft skills. An interviewer once asked me specifically about the guitar tutoring I did during high school; this may seem strange, but it showed that, even at a young age, I had great communication and people skills, as well as a good dose of patience!
If you have moved to New Zealand from another country, include your overseas experience. Sure, it is often the case that Kiwi businesses have a bias towards New Zealand based employment experience. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t include your employment from outside of New Zealand – it is still valuable experience.
Avoid too much detail
Your CV is your sales pitch to get you a phone call or an interview, it does not need to be a full treatise of your work life. Yes, you should include the entirety of your work experience. However, if you have a long career, we don’t need to read (and we probably won’t read), pages and pages about your past responsibilities and achievements.
Explain in depth your two or three most recent roles, or the roles most relevant to the job for which you are applying. For everything else, much less detail is okay.
Tailor your CV to the job
You may be worried about conveying your eligibility for a particular role if you follow the previous step’s advice regarding conciseness. This is where paying attention to the job ad and the company is critical. This is especially important for scientific and technical roles which often require working knowledge of a particular type of analysis, software, or machine, for example.
Tailoring your CV can be as simple as ensuring you have used the correct keywords. If you pay attention to the job ad and customise your CV appropriately, the extra time will likely be well rewarded with the chance to further explain your experience in an interview.
Don’t limit your page length
You may have read somewhere that your CV should only be one to two pages long. For some this may be true, but many will need another page. Try not to limit the length of your CV if it means not including important experience, or cramming everything into a too small space. Your CV should be just as long as necessary to communicate your skills and experience to the reader.
Use white space
Visually busy CVs are not nice to read. A great way to improve the layout of your CV is to use white space strategically. A wall of text is not good; it doesn’t look very nice, but it also makes it more difficult to identify different sections. So, spread out your content appropriately. In conjunction with smart formatting, using white space to separate different components of your CV is a valuable tool for making your CV easier to read, and a more readable CV is a better ticket to a job interview.
Make your CV search-friendly
Both internal and agency recruiters are extraordinarily busy. They speak to a large number of candidates every week, and receive countless more CVs. The reality is that they cannot remember everyone they have spoken to, let alone every CV they have read. Often recruiters will use applicant tracking system (ATS) software to help them manage their talent pools.
Recruiters will search their candidate database to find someone with particular skills or experience. You should optimise your CV to be search-friendly so that your profile will be close to the top of the list when a recruiter is looking for someone like you. Aim to have at least five keywords that appear early and often in your CV to maximise your job hunting success.
Check out the next article in our resume writing series: Resume Writing 201: Know Your Two Key Audiences, to get a really good understanding of optimising your CV for applicant tracking systems.
Include a resume summary
A resume summary is a small paragraph (think 4-5 sentences) that gives an overview of your key skills, experience, and your career goal. You should place it at the top of your CV, below your name and contact details.
As with the rest of your CV, this should be tailored to the job. For example, if you are applying for a microbiology analyst role, but your summary says you are looking for a different type of job, in an entirely different industry, you are not likely to progress.
Include your hobbies
A list of hobbies doesn’t take up much space – you can write them out on a single line – but it can sometimes be the difference between receiving an interview invitation and not receiving one.
Your hobbies may seem irrelevant to your ability to perform a job. However, they are often important indicators of how well you will fit within a company’s culture. For most jobs, there will be multiple applicants who are qualified and experienced enough to do that job. Of these candidates, the person who aligns best with the culture and values of the employer will be the one to get the job.
Ask a friend or colleague to check it over
You have just spent a lot of time perfecting your CV, and you know it like the back of your hand. To your eyes, your prior experience and your skills are easily identifiable. However, a fresh set of eyes may struggle to read it as easily.
Ask a friend for feedback on the clarity of your CV. If you are applying for a technical job, perhaps ask a colleague who will understand your industry’s vernacular and know its conventions.
We know that looking for a new job can be difficult and stressful, but we are here to help! Update your CV with the advice given above, and join our Talent Pool today.