CV etiquette

A clear, concise, and well-written curriculum vitae is an invaluable asset, yet few people know how to construct one. Your CV is one of the most telling and important pieces of communication you will circulate – it is your personal unique selling proposition (USP). Recruiters, human resource managers, and potential employers are going to select candidates with only the best USPs because they want to hire only the most talented and capable person for the position.

 

These are some of the points you should bear in mind when writing and/or updating your CV:

 

  • Divide your CV into clear sections by using headings like: personal details, qualifications, work experience, and references.
  • List only the most relevant and pertinent information. For example, few recruiters or employers are interested in learning about your hobbies or primary school history, so you can omit this information. 
  • Personalise and tailor your CV in accordance with the job specifications and requirements listed in the advertisement. Yes, this is time-consuming, but the time you spend cleaning up and moulding your CV according to the requirements will ensure it stands out. It will also show that you pay attention to detail – a truly crucial skill in the job market.
  • Unexplained gaps are warning signals to potential employers. If you had an extended spell where you were not able to work due to illness, a family tragedy, or any other reason, you should briefly explain this. 
  • There is a perception that you should build an unmissable CV by increasing the “FOMO” element. While this is true, be careful about how you do this. Subtle persuasion is better than over-the-top cockiness and arrogance. It’s great to be confident, but present yourself professionally too. Remember that even though you may be a millennial, your employer, or the person reviewing your CV is probably not. Keep things simple and proficient.
  • Summarise how you meet the requirements in a concise, one-page covering letter. Remember to personalise and introduce yourself in the email which accompanies the covering letter and CV. You should also state in both the subject line and body of the email which position you are applying for, and give the reference number (if applicable).

 

Now that you have an idea of the content you should include in your CV and covering letter, consider the following technical and aesthetic concerns:

 

  • Spelling errors and poor language usage are immediately off-putting. Use the spell checker in your word processor, a dictionary, or any online grammar and spelling checkers to minimise language errors. 
  • Illegible fonts are a no go, both in terms of size and type face. Stick to tried and tested, legible fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, and point size 12.
  • No one has time to sift through a five-page CV, so restrict yours to two pages at most.
  • Social media is a double edged-sword. Use your accounts wisely: LinkedIn is not a dating site, post your holiday photos on Facebook or Instagram, and bear in mind that potential recruiters/employers may take a look at your social media accounts. If you’re going to include links to them in your CV, make sure they cast you in a professionally-acceptable light. When in doubt ask yourself this question: ‘If an employer has to see this picture or post, what is their perception of me likely to be?’ 

 

There are many online CV building tools and applications, and some companies offer this as a free service now too. If you need additional guidance, these are useful resources. Good luck!

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