How to prepare outstanding CV in 2020
A CV – the tool designed to market yourself on a glance and get you an opportunity for the interview. A recruiter spends seven seconds, on average, deciding whether they are interested in your CV or not.
Are you starting a carrier from start-up than you might have to face these problems? In many cases, the most difficult part of a job application process is even getting an interview, and knowing how to write a CV can be big trouble for anyone of us.
When it comes to job hunting, your CV is paramount. Get it right, and you’ll have an interview in no time, but get it wrong, and you may face rejection after rejection.
In the mass competition of various industries – particularly in entry-level or junior roles – you’re up against hundreds of people. And, in those cases, you don’t have the chance to wow or catch an eye of the recruiter with your dazzling personality, it’s all by way of a CV – the tool designed to market yourself on a glance and get you an opportunity for the interview.
But, when a recruiter receives hundreds of those bulleted documents, that most probably look and read the same, it can be really difficult to know how to make yours, you, and your credentials for the job stand out among the masses.
James Reed, the chairman of Reed recruitment and the author of the new book The 7 Second CV have to tell to media, a CV “is not a summary of your life, but a marketing document designed to attract employers to you”.
According to James, a recruiter spends seven seconds, on average, deciding whether they are interested in your CV or not.
The experts (aka recruiters and hiring managers) who have seen thousands of CVs over their time what is guaranteed to make them take notice, keep reading on and then hopefully contact the person for the next stages of the job application:
One of the slightly more tedious pieces of advice we’ve heard (no offense, contributors) is to tailor your CV to whichever company/role you’re applying for, which can obviously be quite a longwinded process if you’re applying for dozens of roles.
Reed says given how quickly recruiters decide whether to carry on reading, “it is critical you show on your CV how keen you are for that specific role. The same generic CV sent out for multiple job applications limits your chance of making the cut.”
Likewise, a recruiter from Indeed, says the one keyword to remember when editing your CV is “relevance”.
“A single page of relevant detail is far more likely to be successful than four or five pages listing everything you’ve ever done,” he said one of his interviews. “Aim for a concise and focused CV that contains only relevant skills and experience; this will always trump pages of waffling.
"Ensure you highlight the skills you gained in past roles that will be required in the role you are applying for – even if the work was different. Give particular focus to previous roles that were similar to the one you are targeting. If you have done other roles in the internship that were not relevant, don’t leave gaps, but a small mention will be sufficient."
"Try to include what you have achieved rather than listing duties you are responsible for," an HR manager at the John Lewis Partnership says.
To make these achievements more readable, he suggests using "bullet-pointed lists and shorter sentences".
"When you’re writing about relevant skills, qualities and experience, try and give some short examples to bring your CV to life," HR at Barclays tells to media. "Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a career change, think about all the things you’ve done over the last few years – whether it be education, previous jobs, or even activities such as volunteering."
"Try to pick at least one specific example per job you've held and explained briefly how it improved the business. It can't be stressed often enough that your CV is designed to get you the interview, not the job, so remember not to delve into too much detail. Provide enough information to entice your potential employers to call you in so you can explain face-to-face the exact details of the tasks you've undertaken and the skills you have learned... Always keep examples relevant to the role you are applying for."
Obviously the first place a hiring manager is going to look at is at the beginning of the page, so make sure that features something which is going to be memorable, quick, easy and gives them a clear idea of who you are.
This guide will show you how to write a great CV that’s ready for 2020 and beyond.
What is a CV?
Your CV, short for curriculum vitae, is a personal marketing document used to sell yourself to prospective employers. It should tell them about you, your professional history, and your skills, abilities, and achievements. Ultimately, it should highlight why you’re the best person for the job and you are keen serious for the role.
What to include in your CV in 2020
While the structure of a CV is flexible, bending to your unique skill set and experiences, there are particular sections that employers expect to see on your CV regardless.
Name, professional title and contact details
The first part of your CV, positioned at the top of the page, should contain your name, professional title and contact details. Under no circumstances should you title your CV with ‘curriculum vitae’ or ‘CV’ as it’s a waste of valuable space. Treat your name as the title instead.
When it comes to your contact details, your email address and phone number(s) are essential. Once upon a time, it was customary to include your full address on your CV. Today, you simply need to list your town and county.
If you like, you can also include a link to your LinkedIn profile in this section – but only if it’s up to date!
Here is an example of how your name, professional title and contact details might look:
Forename Surname | Professional Title
Location: Town, County
A personal profile, also known as a personal statement, career objective and professional profile, is one of the most important aspects of your CV. It’s a short paragraph that sits just underneath your name and contact details giving prospective employers an overview of who you are and what you’re all about.
You should tailor your profile to every job you apply for, highlighting specific qualities that match you to the role. Aim to keep your personal statement short and sweet, and no longer than a few sentences. To make the most of this section, you should try to address the following:
Who are you?
What can you offer the company?
What are your career goals?
If you want more on how to write your personal statement, it’s worth checking out our comprehensive guide.
Experience and employment history
Your employment history section gives you a chance to outline your previous jobs, internships, and work experience.
List your experience in reverse chronological order as your recent role is the most relevant to the employer.
When listing each position of employment, state your job title, the employer, the dates you worked, and a line that summarises the role. Then the bullet points your key responsibilities, skills, and achievements, and bolster each point with powerful verbs and figures to support each claim and showcase your impact.
It helps to choose the duties most relevant to the job you’re applying for, especially if it’s a long list. If you have many years’ worth of experience, you can reduce the detail of old or irrelevant roles. If you have positions from more than 10 years ago, you can delete them.
Here’s an example of how to layout each position of employment on your CV:
mmm yyyy – mmm yyyy
Company Name, Location
Education and qualifications
Like your experience section, your education should be listed in reverse chronological order. Include the name of the institutions and the dates you were there, followed by the qualifications and grades you achieved.
If you have recently left education, you may write your degree, A-levels or GCSEs (or equivalents) like so:
Institution name – Dates attended (from-to)
Qualification/subject – Grade
If you have a degree, you could list a few of the most relevant modules, assignments, or projects underneath.
For professionals that are a little further along in their careers, or have many certificates in their repertoire, you can lay your qualifications out in this way:
Qualification, grade – Institution – Year
There is a range of additional sections that may strengthen your CV and highlight your skills. Here are just a few you can include if you have the room:
Key skills: If you’re writing a functional CV, or have some abilities you want to show off to the employer immediately, insert a key skills section underneath your personal profile. You should aim to detail four to five abilities at most.
Hobbies and interests: If you feel that your CV is lacking, you can boost your document by inserting a hobbies and interests section at the end. This can help to show how well you fit into the company or the industry. For example, if you’re applying for an environmental job, why not include that you have a big interest in climate change activism?
Be careful though; avoid listing hobbies that don’t add value to your CV or are run-of-the-mill, like reading. Draw on interests that make you stand out or are relevant to the job.
References: Like including an address on your CV, adding your referees to the end of your CV is no longer standardized. You can include a line that reads ‘references available on request’, but if you don’t have room, it’s acceptable to remove it altogether.
Formatting and spacing guidelines
If you’re unsure of how to format your CV, it’s worth downloading a few CV templates to familiarise yourself. After all, formatting and spacing your CV is equally as important as the content.
Here are some formatting and spacing tips to bear in mind:
Length: The standard length of a CV in the UK is two pages. However, one size doesn’t fit all, and so for some professionals, one or three pages may be more appropriate.
Headings: Each section must be introduced by a big, bold heading to ensure an easy read.
Font type: Most employers will receive your CV in a digital format, so choose a clear font like Calibri or Arial. You can use a different font type for your headings, but keep it professional and easy-to-read too.
Font size and page margins: The body of your CV should be between 10 and 12 point font, and your headings between 14 and 18 points. Keep your page margins around 2.5cm, but never reduce them to less than 1.27cm or your CV will appear cluttered and hard to read. White space ensures clarity and professionalism.
Proofreading and consistency: Your formatting must be consistent throughout your CV to keep it looking slick. Don’t spoil your polished look by including typos and inaccuracies; proofread like a pro to capture every mistake or invest in intelligent spellcheckers like Grammarly.
Tailoring, keywords, and ATSs: It’s perfectly acceptable to keep a generic copy of your CV for your own records, but if you’re applying for a job, it must be tailored to the role. Not only will this show employers why you’re a match, but it will help your application beat the ATS robots too.
Saving the file: It’s likely you’ll send your CV via email or through a job board like CV-Library. Save your CV as a pdf file to ensure recruiters can open it on any device. A pdf will also maintain the formatting, so you can be sure that employers will see your CV as you intended.
What not to include
There are a variety of details that you shouldn’t include in your CV. Here are a few of the common ones:
A headshot: In many countries, it’s common practice to include a photo of yourself on your CV. But the UK is not one of them.
Age and date of birth: The only dates that should be on your CV are from employment and your qualifications. Your age doesn’t affect your ability to do the job, and it’s illegal for employers to ask about age under the Equality Act 2010.
Marital status: Like your age, your marital status and dependents don’t affect your ability to do your job. These details are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and it’s against the law for employers to ask about them, so don’t include them on your CV.