The first thing you notice when you go shopping is how something looks. Later on, you worry about the rest (size, price, etc).
The busy employer!
You should first understand how employers look at your CV. You should also keep in mind they are usually very busy.
– First, they look at your CV
– Then, they do a quick scan of the layout, the spelling, the titles, etc… for a few seconds (5-8 seconds according to studies)
Employers only keep perfect CVs. The rest are quickly discarded!
Your goal is to make the CV eye-grabbing in few seconds.
You don’t want to end up with a poorly structured generic CV that will just end up in a bin.
Your CV is how you sell yourself.
It is an image of yourself: Your CV is how you want to portray yourself.
There’s no ‘average’ CV, it’s either good or bad.
A bad CV will only say this about the person:
“I’m lazy & I’m not worth your time”.
Do you really want to portray this message?
You spend time preparing your CV & sending it out, but spend the extra 10 minutes to polish it! Otherwise, the effort will go to waste.
At the bottom are a few examples of good & bad CVs for your reference.
Click here to download a few useful CV templates (+ useful template for students)
10 CV dos/don’t dos:
1. Be sexy😍! Presentation
Image is everything. The most important to keep in mind:
Your CV represents you!
If your CV looks bad or has any mistakes, the employer will automatically assume you’re not serious, unorganized, and careless.
Your CV has to be absolutely perfect.
– Be clear, concise, & error-free.
– Focus on a clear layout, nice font, & good spacing.
– Make it super easy to read.
The top center part is the most important: put your crucial information there (general info, objective & quick background, contacts).
– Don’t forget to revise properly
– Don’t use bad templates
– Don’t make your sections & titles not clear and properly spaced
2. Objective/Cover Letter😴
Most employers don’t have time for a lengthy cover letter, especially the ‘copy/paste’ ones!
Simply put a few lines as an objective that is directly related to the job you are applying to and let it be genuine & unique.
Show you have what they want.
‘I have experience in sales where I was required to meet monthly customer targets. I dealt with X customers on a daily basis making X amount of sales in a period of X months. I also exceeded my target by X%. This role taught me how to handle a busy and dynamic environment. I learned to adapt to different customer needs to meet my monthly goals.’
– Write a short summary of yourself for that position.
– Add real-life facts part of it (because everyone says they are “talented, critical thinker, passionate, organized, etc”. Add info that actually shows if you really are).
– For professionals: I am well-disciplined with 5+ years of accounting experience looking forward to being part of the accounting team of Company X, etc.
– For Students: I have a great interest in the X job position as I believe my long experience in team leading in scouts can be very useful for the position, etc.
– Never use a generic copy/paste objective that you send to everyone.
– Customize it for each job you apply to. Bad Example:
A talented individual with superb communication skills, can multi-task, and work in teams.
3. Avoid Mistakes🤦♂️
Employers get too many CVs and need the slightest excuse to throw one away. In addition to point #1 above, a mistake automatically means you do not care about quality, so the more reason your CV will be ignored.
If you cannot take 5 minutes to proof-read your CV or have someone check it for mistakes, then it’s not worth sending it in the first place! Make sure it is perfect.
– Proofread your CV with a spell checker.
– Have someone professional in the language double check it for you.
– Send it to few friends (preferably someone with experience) to make sure it’s easy to read and has no typing mistakes
– Don’t write a quick CV and send it because you’re in a hurry
– Don’t write and send directly, wait a day and re-check it so you can find mistakes
– Don’t read it quickly once you’re done. Go through it thoroughly word by word
If your CV does not get an employer interested in the first 2 pages, the rest probably won’t! Make sure it’s 2 pages max, let it be extremely clear and easy to read through.
Use spacing, titles, bold elements, etc.
– Make your CV straight to the point.
– Highlight important facts and skills.
– One page should be more than enough for someone with less than 10 years of experience.
– Don’t try to fill with space & extra words
– Don’t make the CV long so it looks important
– Don’t worry if your CV is half a page. If it’s clear, neat, and organized, it will give a good impression even if your experience is little.
5. Customize Your CV per Job👌
Each time you send a CV, you should customize it to the job you’re sending to. Highlight specific experiences, add/remove skills, update the objective, etc.
– study each position you are applying to, see what they are interested in
– adjust your CV objective & skills accordingly to each job
– mass send your CV to all companies
6. The Experiences😎
Writing about past jobs is relatively easy, but what if you haven’t worked before?
– List your experience from newest to oldest
– If your past experience is similar to the job you are applying to, make sure to highlight the relevant experience in detail to show that you have the skills for that specific job
– If you lack experience, you can start and focus your CV on your skills (make them relevant to the job you’re applying for)
If you haven’t worked before:
do not be shy to put in any personal experiences – anything that could have given you skills can be on your CV. Employers like to see candidates that are motivated & energetic doing things that demonstrate energy.
Could be volunteer work, personal projects you’ve done, community work, extracurricular work, etc.
If you have worked before:
Make the start/end date clear, your role, and focus what you did.
Very generic titles such as “team leader” are not always useful.
For example under ‘team leader’, add info about what you did
– Don’t underestimate your past experience in extracurricular activities such as scouts, volunteer work, being in a team, etc
– Don’t write too much and exaggerate
– Don’t write generic job titles only
7. “How”, not “What”🙄
When adding job experiences, focus on how you did things: how you improved the work, the company, or your skills.
Do not simply state what you did.
Most people write it as a description and the duties, rather than showing the positive impact they did.
Add info about your impact on the job instead of a generic description. Example:
Since I joined the accounting team, I have always had a 90% collection rate, compared to only 50% before I joined.
Don’t only write a generic description of what you were expected to do at the job, but focus by also adding the above “do”. Example:
Accountant: reconcile financial discrepancies, prepare payments, document financial transactions.
8. Skills & Interests/Hobbies🤓
These sections are important and the most customizable for each job application. They show your employer that your energetic, motivated, and not a couch potato.
Also, understand the difference between skill & personality trait.
Skill is the ability to do something (such as being good with Microsoft Excel), a trait is a quality you are born with (such as hardworking)
– Put in any skills relevant to the position you are applying to.
– Applying as a waiter might mean you should focus on putting skills related to communication and activities such as scouts. Whereas applying as an assistant at a bookshop would require you to focus more on your computer skills.
– List them as bullet points
– Don’t underestimate your skills, things such as being in a basketball team, or a team leader has added value
– Show don’t tell (don’t say “strong negotiation skills”, add examples why)
9. OMG, the cliche😒
Avoid all cliche sentences in skills & other texts. They are easily detectable as fake and copied/pasted + everyone is using them!
– Show what’s different about you
– Always back things up with facts
– Things such as ‘team player’, ‘work well under pressure’, ‘excellent communication skills’, etc. are not enough, everyone puts them
– When you want to list such things, back them up with your experience so they are relevant, don’t throw them in just to fill in space and without any backing.
10. Where you been? Job gaps!🍀
Fill Job Gaps
The oddest thing someone can see in a CV is a long ’empty’ gap between experiences. For example, working till January 2019, then the next experience is in November 2019. What happened in those 10 months?
– You should always be doing something. If it is not a job somewhere, it should be some personal project, volunteer work, or anything.
– If you have a dead period, then put dates ranges in years rather than months ( 2018-2019 instead of Jun 2018 – Jan 2019 )
– Don’t let yourself have idle time
– Don’t show big gaps on your CV
– Don’t lose hope
My CV: a clear & easy to read example
In my case, there is a lot of experience detail out individually, but that was balanced out by the detailed skills list. Anything more would come out part of an interview.
Examples of bad CVs
The first one is disorganized and unclear, no proper spacing or title separations.
Below you can see how easy it is to make an experience section much clearer with few adjustments such as bold title, bullets, and spacing.