How to Write a Good CV
Now more than ever it's vital to create the right first impression when applying for a job.
You often only get one opportunity with a company so make sure you give it your best shot. Our candidates don't usually need to be told how to write a CV - but it helps to observe these points.
- The goal is to stand out from other candidates - but by having a good CV and showing your expertise, not through unusual formatting or vibrant colours. Focus on content and readability.
- Keep your CV to two or three pages. Imagine you're a busy hiring manager and you have 50 CVs to read: do you want them to put your long CV aside for if/when they have more time to read it? If your CV is long, edit ruthlessly, focusing on more recent details.
- Be sure to give your degree grade, and grades of your A levels (or equivalent). If you don't state them, people tend to assume the worst.
- List your academic and work experience back to age 18 in reverse chronological order.
- There should be no unexplained gaps - if you were unemployed, travelling, or if you returned to full-time education, please say so.
- Give dates to the nearest month, eg March 2015 - July 2016. (If you put just 2015 - 2016 this could mean two weeks or two years.)
- For each job, include the company name, city and country, industry sector, and your job title.
- Consider stating why you moved jobs, and if possible how each move advanced your career.
- Most importantly, focus on what you personally did in each role. Our clients want to know what you've done and how you did it.
- If you've used specific technologies, that's great - but do include details of what you did especially where relevant to the job you're applying to.
Top CV Howlers
Some of these might sound a bit implausible, but in our time at ecm we have seen some truly creative mistakes in CVs. Hopefully you’ll avoid these pitfalls...
Getting off on the Wrong Foot
Most people think it’s not necessary to put "CV" or "Curriculum Vitae" at the top of the CV. But if you do choose to do so, for heaven’s sake don’t (as applicants to ecm have) put "Curriculam" or "Vita". And please, please, don’t mistype your own surname; it has happened.
Your job title won’t be "Principle Engineer", it’ll be "Principal Engineer." This is another one where a spell checker won’t help, I’m afraid, although a dictionary might.
Hostages to Fortune
You might get away with the odd mistake – we’re all human after all – but try not to compound the error, or set yourself up for a fall. At ecm we’ve been particularly struck by one CV littered with typos, where at the end the author listed his hobbies as including "profreading”, and another where the applicant claimed “excellent attention to detrail”.
"I was a qualified meths and science teacher..."
"I understand the concepts of object oriented programming including massage passing..."
"I have excellent social kills..."
Okay, there are some amusing mistakes here, but the bottom line is this: We know you are a great candidate. You know you are a great candidate. But you still need to convince the hiring company. Or at least give them enough evidence to invite you to interview. Some companies might not care too much about grammar, spelling, punctuation and consistency – but why give them a reason to reject your application when all that’s needed is a little extra care?
In conclusion, if you remember nothing else, remember this: do not rely on a spell checker.