CVs are an essential tool in your belt during the job search and application process – regardless of whether you are a school-leaver looking for your first job, or a seasoned professional looking for the next step in your career development, everyone should understand what makes a good resume.
Your CV is usually the first point of contact that a potential employer will have with you, and so it is imperative that when writing your CV, it reflects your skills, experience and accomplishments in an easy-to-read and engaging format.
It is surprising to note just how many job seekers don't recognise the difference between a good resume and a great resume – and this could be the deciding factor for you in securing an interview for your dream job.
Tips on the format of writing a great resume (CV)
- The length of your CV should be no more than 3-4 pages
- It is designed to provide an overview of your skills, experience and achievements.
- Always prioritise the points which most accurately match the requirements of the role you are applying for at the beginning/top of your resume, even if they are less important in terms of your current role. This way the hiring manager will be able to see what makes you a great candidate straight away without having to dig for the information.
- An effective CV should begin with a short summary of who you are. Make sure the CV is straight-forward and avoid all the subjective clichés such as 'excellent self-starter', 'good team player', 'natural leader’ and ‘good communicator'. These qualities can be demonstrated through your tangible achievements which follow in the CV.
- Remember that your CV will form part of the script for the interviewer's questions.
- Address time-gaps in your work history, and include clear and concise explanations for these.
- Your CV should also give some idea of your future potential. If you are presently studying for an additional qualification, say so.
Illustrate your greatest career achievements to date
When writing their resume, many job seekers make the mistake of simply listing the day to day responsibilities they have held in each role. It is vital to illustrate how well you have carried out this work through your list of achievements and select material to reflect the requirements of the specific post. Instead, it is vital that you can demonstrate to a prospective employer your accomplishments outside of these standard tasks.
How does an achievement differ from responsibility? An achievement is a statement of how you have added value to an organisation.
For example: instead of listing ‘researching and resolving accounts payable issues’, go one step further by explaining that as a direct result of your research, you were able to reduce the amount of un-paid invoices for the business by 50% and thus increase operating revenue.
Sell yourself: What makes you unique from other candidates?
- Always express your skills and qualities in the present tense – even if you have an accounting qualification that you are not using at the moment, this is still a relevant certification to list.
- Reinforce positive skills and qualities to make sure they jump off the page. Example: If one of your strong points is that you are a skilled communicator, enhance this point by giving an example of when you have demonstrated this ability.
- Make sure your content is clear and simple to read.
Effective CV’s are chronological
Pay attention to how your resume is ordered – your most recent experience should always be at the top of your resume so that hiring managers and recruitment consultants can easily gauge what you have been working on most recently.
In general, the best rules to follow are:
- Chronologically list experience in reverse date order, with your most recent role first
- Present your career history as a series of appointments with the day to day responsibilities listed, as well as achievement against each bullet point
- Allocate more space for your more recent positions, since these are where your most current experience and achievements is usually found
The do’s and don’ts of writing a good CV:
- List your professional and higher education qualifications
- Show recent vocational training
- Include genuine foreign language skills
- Add a note of any publications you have been featured in and/or external positions you hold
- Ask someone independent to look at your resume when you have completed it - not a friend or family member – so that you can get an unbiased opinion on its efficacy.
- Be prepared to refine your resume a number of times until it is right
- Where possible, update your CV for each new job application to match the specific requirements of each role you are applying for.
- List every training course you have ever attended
- Indicate race, nationality, marital status, children, religion or political preferences
- Indicate your computer skills
- Include your present salary details
- Give references
Another element of an effective CV is the cover letter. Take a look at our article with top tips on writing a cover letter. For more information on writing an effective CV read some of our related articles: