Career Change's aim is to help both adults and school students to set clear career directions to give you a sense of purpose and direction.

What Makes A Good CV?

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Russell Booth
Adults, Career Planning, School Students

Over the last few years the format of CVs has changed and people seem to have become confused about what they should put in and what it should look like.  Common sense should prevail when writing your CV.  Apart from the obvious personal information all that needs to appear on your CV is well structured information about your experience, skills, qualifications, knowledge that is relevant to the level and type of role you will be applying for.  The key word here is relevant.  By keeping the content of your CV relevant you should be able to keep it the current accepted length of a CV of two or three pages. 

Your CV is written with the purpose of getting you through the screening process and to the interview stage.  Your CV gets you the interview and the interview gets you the job.  However, most people don’t get that far for one simple reason and it’s one of the major gripes of those reading the CVs.  The layout of many CVs makes it difficult for a prospective employer to find out who a candidate is, what they can offer and what exactly they have achieved at work and in life so far. 

On average, an employer will spend no more than two minutes (usually less) reading your CV.  They may only read the first page or the first few points of your CV to get a feeling of who you are and what you can do for them so they are looking for points that show them you can do the job and do it well.  Make this difficult for them and your CV will be filed in the round out tray in the corner of the room – if not physically certainly mentally. 

Start your CV with the obvious as they need to know who you are and how to contact you (include your mobile number and your email address) but it shouldn’t be the main focus of the first page.  If you put a mobile phone number down, make sure you can and do access your voicemail regularly.  You don’t need to put Curriculum Vitae as the title, that’s too obvious.

As you draft your CV, keep rereading the advert or job description so you’re clear about what the employer is asking for in terms of qualifications, experience, personal qualities and skills.  The time consuming part of writing your CV should be relating the information in your CV to the requirements of the job you are going for.  Depending on what stage you are in life and what type of positions you have had will determine whether you outline your qualifications or your skills and experience first. 

Remember, employers want to employ people who will add value and make a positive difference so clearly show how your achievements relate to your prospective employer’s needs.  They want to know that you can do the job and do it better than anyone else they are looking at.  Emphasise your achievements by using bullet points and not lengthy paragraphs.  Include responsibilities from your past jobs but again make sure they are relevant to the proposed position and not just a regurgitation of a past job description.  Cite where possible specific results when describing previous accomplishments in the workplace e.g. ‘In charge of 3 staff; Sold 30 machines, worth $100,000 each; Reduced labour costs by 18%.’  Ensure all the dates in your CV link up and leave no suspicious gaps. If you were out of work for a period, or travelling, include it as a stage in your history.

Under leisure interests state what books you like reading and which sports you play.  If you have an unusual hobbie put it down as it might be a good opening question at an interview.  Don’t fabricate interests as you may well be quizzed on them, particularly if the interviewer shares those interests.  Keep the interest list short: one artistic, one sporting and one unusual interest.  Don't put 'socialising' which is taken as drinking!

Only list referees if they have said they would speak for you. With their permission, give their telephone numbers so that employers feel encouraged to make contact with them.  It might be better to put ‘available on request’ if you want employers to contact you first before talking to your referees.

The accepted convention today is to keep your CV to two or three pages at the most.  It has got to be neat and tidy and written using a computer and using a sharp-looking typeface such as Bookman, Helvetica, Arial or Times Roman.  Use italics, CAPITALS, underlining, boldface, indentations and bullets to emphasise your content.  Print it out on good quality white, ivory or light coloured paper so it’s easy for the interview panel to read the photocopies of your CV.  Too many employers complain of ‘dog-eared’ CVs that look as though they have been photocopied time and again.  Test and check your new CV out on friends and partners and have at least one person proof-read it as there is no room for error and spell-checkers do not find every mistake.  Switch off your grammar and checker because it does not apply to CVs at all.