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10 tips . . .


Ten Tips to writing a good CV

There is a plethora of coaches and consultants that can help with writing your CV. There are also numerous templates available. Just Google them. Some are free but when you really want a personalized service, many of them require a fee.


I personally have not used such services to write or update my CV, but I have benefited from the free online information available on the subject. I also think that sometimes, an effective job is really a product of authenticity, brevity and relevance. So here are my 10 tips to writing a good CV.

1. You guessed it … be authentic.

To me, authenticity in your CV means being yourself and presenting the truest version of who you are, what your experience has been, what you have done and achieved. This is a critical ingredient because when you eventually get to that interview, your ability to ‘sell’ yourself is directly related to how far what you say is true. You are more passionate, confident and articulate when you talk about what you know. So, don’t devalue your CV and professional experience with information that is not true. It may look good on paper, but you won’t be able to sell it to the interview panel if it is not genuine.


2. You guessed it again – be brief.

Gone are the days when having a multiple-page CV was considered impressive. Keep your CV as short as possible. Remember, if you have done more than three or 4 jobs in your career, there is a lot that you could write about. So, in general, there is no rule of thumb but try to stick to 2-3 pages, if you can. A CV is not your life story, it is a brief of your qualifications and experience. Be succinct – rather than enumerate the job responsibilities, summarise the role and what it contributed to the organisation. Use less words and avoid words that require someone to have a dictionary to understand your CV. 


3. You got it – be relevant.

As far as you can, rewrite your CV to suit the job you are applying for. Do not use the same CV for all applications. Tailor it to speak to the requirements of the current application. Highlight the experience and attributes that make you suitable for that job and help you stand out. Remember, the recruiting organisation review numerous applications for advertised jobs.


4. Remember to format well.

There are many CV templates that you can get online to help with this but, in general, justified paragraphs look neater. Use bold font for headers and sections in your CV. Formatting is really a basic requirement - use your head and choose font and formats that do not scream at the reader or hard to read. Use formal font, you are safer with Arial, Times Romans and other regular fonts than Edwardian Script ITC or Brush Script MT – no offence to the latter. Your formatting should be consistent throughout the whole CV and save your final version in PDF as this will preserve the formatting regardless of the device it is read on.


5. Use sections wisely.

I tend to have 11 sections in my CV – Career goals or Personal Statement, Key Competences or Areas of Expertise, Key Career Achievements, Current Employment, Education and Qualifications, Other Training and Certifications, Languages, Research, Awards and Nominations, Interests and other activities, and References. I have my name and contact details in the header. Depending on your career trajectory and personal circumstances, you could skip some of the sections if they don’t necessarily add valuable information to your profile. The trick with this is to use each section to highlight your suitability to the position you are applying. This is where you play out Tip No. 3 and stand out.


6. Explain career gaps.

This is relevant for those who may have had career breaks. There are women (and increasingly, some men) who take career breaks for family reasons. Some people need a break for health reasons. Whatever the circumstances, indicate that break or be ready to speak to it if you are interviewed for the role. Ensure that you reassure the employer that the break in no way diminished your skills. In fact, find some things in that break that you could use as additional skills gained relevant to the job. The time spent at home caring for your kids could be the best time management, conflict resolution, negotiation, stress management and relationship management training you have ever had. Remember, as a father or mother you are not only doing this in the confines of your home, but with the school, sports centre, health services, etc. So, spin this experience to your advantage.


7. Use data and numbers.

As much as you can, use numbers to demonstrate your work experience and achievements. In sales, what revenue did you bring in? How many clients did you bring in or help retain? As an HR advisor, how did your work impact staff retention, morale or productivity? What projects did you support? So, whether it is number of activities or projects done or what was achieved, money saved or revenue targets met, customer or employee satisfaction … use those numbers. This is especially useful when documenting your achievements (e.g. customer complaints reduced by 50% in the time I was supervisor, I raised 10 billion as Fundraiser for XXX, etc.). It is also useful to explain positions you have held e.g. I was the Head of HR with XX Ltd, a leading provider with 3,500 employees across 10 countries, as Manager I oversaw an annual budget of USD15 million, etc.


8. Update your CV.

This is related to Tip No. 3. In case you are thinking ‘well, my CV is relevant as it is’. Don’t. Do the work and update it. You would be surprised what you may remember that is relevant after reading the specific job profile that you are applying for. Plus, at times it is obvious that you sent an old CV (e.g. file name with the date on it). It would look unprofessional to send an obviously aged CV to a potential employer.


9. Proofread.

Again, this may seem obvious but sometimes we get lazy. Don’t be lazy - edit and proofread your CV like it’s not yours. We tend to get familiar with what we think we know so you could even miss obvious things if you do not step back and critique your work.


10. Skip the non-essentials.

Your age and marital status do not affect your ability to do the job. So, you no longer need to indicate such details on your CV.  Also, while the sections I advised on above include references, these are details that you can leave out – especially when you don’t have space. You can include a line reading ‘references available on request’. Saves you quarter to half a page sometimes.

Happy hunting!

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