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Job hunting is ranked in-between grouting tiles and getting your wisdom teeth removed in terms of popularity, despite how important a process it is. The majority of people spend more time on writing pieces such as ads to flog their car, their laptop on eBay etc, than they do on their CV. In most cases this is a combination of the fact that people hate writing about themselves, and have never been taught how to compose a CV (bar a short session they got with a career counsellor when they were on their way out of college).

Here are some simple rules on how to properly pull together your CV:

1) Define who you are and what you do.
This should be a maximum of 2-3 lines containing a summary of how you would define yourself professionally, and what it is you are looking to do in terms of role and sector. Do not pad this out with dross about being a good team player, and other business jargon that ultimately means nothing.

e.g. business development manager with in-depth experience in white goods distribution

If you can’t do this then I recommend you have a good think and do some research, as it is very difficult to find a job when you don’t know what you are looking for. Also, if you’re not clear here then recruiters will struggle to identify you as a suitable candidate if the right role does come up.

2) Have your work experience in chronological order, with your most recent position first.
It is surprising the number of people who don’t do this. Under each position make sure you have the start and end dates, and explain any significant gaps – a good interviewer will ask. Don’t forget to write out your core achievements as well as a list of your responsibilities, employers base future performance predictions on what you’ve done in the past.

3) List your skills, and how proficient you are in each one.
It’s all well and good to say that you can use Photoshop or know Java, but what does that mean? Are you an expert, or do you have rudimentary knowledge? To avoid having your time wasted by being brought forward for unsuitable positions, make sure you write out a list of your skills, and list your level of competency in each one.

4) Only include relevant education.
Unless it was particularly posh, nobody cares where you went to secondary school. Or what you got in your GCSEs. Use your common sense.

5) Keep it to a maximum of two pages (in the UK, one in the US).
Think about it, most people aren’t likely to finish the first page of your CV, never mind the fourth. There should be no reason that you can’t keep your CV to two pages unless you are very senior, or some kind of prodigy with an amazing list of accomplishments. To make space, cut down the detail on some of your older positions or if they are irrelevant, remove them altogether.

6) Some housekeeping.

  • You do not need to write ‘references available on request’, or even to list them out – if they want your references, then they’ll ask.
  • Check for spelling mistakes, and make sure someone else proofreads your CV.
  • If you have a LinkedIn profile, include a link to it – they’re going to look for you anyway.
  • You don’t need to include the term ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of your CV.
  • Use a legible font.

7)…and finally
This is general CV advice.  If you are a creative, then you should think about how this information should be presented alongside your portfolio in a way that doesn’t come across as dry or boring. If you are a developer or a technical project manager, you’ll have to describe your projects in more detail in terms of the methodologies and programming languages you used.

This all feeds in to one core piece of advice; just imagine if you were recruiting for the kind of position that you’re going for, and make sure you write your CV accordingly to include everything you would want to see.