Your CV is your ticket to success when hunting for a job. You don’t agree?

Think about the following situation.

You’re searching for a job. You come across an interesting vacancy on a job portal and would like to apply.

You locate your Curriculum Vitae (CV) on your personal computer. You fill out the application form. You upload your CV. You hit the SUBMIT button and wait.

It’s been days since you applied for the job, but haven’t received a response from the organisation. You start thinking about what might have happened?

Did your CV reach the headhunters? Was it poorly written? Did they reject it? Was it lacking something?

You probably will not get an answer to any of these questions. One must remember that most CVs are first screened by Application Tracking Software. If they do not have the right keywords, they do not even make it to the head hunters.

Your next hurdle is to impress the recruiters. Hiring managers receive over 100 applications in a single day for a single job posting. They spend not more than 2 minutes on a single application. Thus, whenever you send out an application, your goal should be to make your CV stand out in the crowd.

If you are rewriting your CV, we’ve got a few tips to make sure it is the winning one.

CV or Resume

Before we get down to discussing what should and should not be included in your CV, let’s first address the great confusion - CV or Resume.

While they are similar, they are not the same. The Curriculum Vitae or CV is a longer, detailed record of one’s work history and accomplishments. On the contrary, a resume is a brief and concise account.

A CV includes every detail of one’s education, work experiences, research profile, accomplishments, licenses, awards and certifications. A resume should only include the details relevant to a specific job listing.

Thus, length is the main point of distinction between a CV and resume. The ideal length of a resume is one to two pages. A CV can run into more than 2 pages.

Tip 1: Work on Presentation

After you’ve put together all the details in your CV, step back and look at it. Ask yourself these questions -

  • Does it look neat and easy-to-read?
  • Does the information look cluttered?
  • If you were the recruiting manager would you like to read it?

Here’s what you can do to make your CV presentable.

  • Use a professional font. Calibri, Arial, Garamond, Georgia are considered standard fonts for a CV or resume.
  • Avoid the use of text and background colours.
  • Use the correct font size - 10, 11 or 12. It shouldn’t be too big or too small to read.
  • Organise all the information under sections for ease of reading.
  • Highlight headings with a Bold format. Use a 14 or 16 font typeface.
  • Break up lengthy paragraphs into bullet points.
  • The margins should be equal on all four sides. A 1-inch margin is ideal.
  • Keep your CV short at 2 pages. A CV for a top-level role could extend into 3 pages.
  • Be consistent with the date formats on your CV too.

Tip 2: No Photographs

A photograph on a CV is an absolute no-no. You can paste one only if the job you are applying for demands it for instance in the fashion or modelling industry.

Use a professional, good quality photograph. Avoid selfies and side-angle view shots. Do not include any graphics on your CV.

Tip 3: Keep it Relevant

One tip a CV writing expert will give you is to keep the document concise and brief.

You may have several degrees and certifications to your credit. You may also have held multiple positions during your entire work tenure.

Do not include each and every detail. Read every job description thoroughly. Customise your CV to match the job role you are applying for. Do not use the same CV to apply for every job vacancy you come across.

Tip 4: Personal Details - Right on Top

Many candidates make the mistake of including the words “Curriculum Vitae” as the title header of the doc.

Replace it with your full name followed by your designation. Below it include your contact details - your phone number and a professional email address.

Enter your LinkedIn profile details. Recruiters use LinkedIn to hire potential employees. It is a good way to showcase the details you could not add to your CV. Ensure the social media handles you mention on your CV are up-to-date and accurate.

The last thing that goes into this section is your postal address.

Do not write nicknames. Include your marital status and age only if asked for in the advertisement.

All these personal details should form the header of your CV.

Tip 5: Must-Have Details on your CV

Your CV must include the following details in the following order.

  • Personal details
  • Profile/ Career Summary/ Career Objective
  • Work Experience: Past and Current
  • Educational Qualifications and Certifications
  • Skills
  • References

Freshers, applying for an entry level position, can skip the work experience section and focus instead on education and volunteer experience, if any.

Tip 6: Employment History

Recruiters are more interested in on-job training and experience than mere educational qualifications. Hence, this section becomes important.

For every position mentioned, list the duties performed or responsibilities held. Use action verbs. Record your achievements in quantifiable terms.

The job responsibilities you should highlight are the ones that are expected of you in the new job role. If you are someone with a vast employment history, choose to focus on positions based on relevance. The older positions can be deleted.

Tip 7: Profile or Summary

A lot of people think that this section can be omitted when writing a CV.

We advise writing it. This personal statement is a good way to highlight your best attributes, career progress and achievements.

The profile or summary should be placed just below the CV header (personal details section). It should be short; not more than 100 words. The personal profile should tell a prospective employer what makes you the best fit for the job.

Tip 8: Highlight Your Skills

Almost every second CV has a never-ending list of soft skills. These are common ones that everyone includes.

There is nothing wrong as recruiters do look for interpersonal skills. However, it is better to categorise them as hard skills, soft skills and transferable skills.

  • Hard skills are job-specific skills. For instance, an IT professional can emphasize his knowledge of programming languages as a hard skill.
  • Soft skills can include excellent-communication, team-management, problem-solving attitude, and out-of-box thinking. Here again, think about the skills that could be relevant to the job.

You could also be making a career switch. In this case, given the lack of experience, you need to focus on the transferable skills.

For instance, if you are switching from a teaching career to corporate L&D, the skills you can focus on include needs analysis, curriculum design, team-player, leadership.

Tip 9: Reverse Chronological Order

All details listed on your CV - educational and work experience - should be arranged in reverse chronological order. The latest should go first.

Tip 10: Additional Sections

You want to write an impressive CV. There are additional sections that can help boost it. These can be the reason why a hiring manager chooses your CV over another candidate’s with the same qualifications and work experience.

This is the section where you can put your awards and accomplishments. You may have acquired specific professional certifications to upgrade your skills. List them here. You can mention any industry tie-ups, associations and affiliations.

For candidates in academia, this section can document the research publications and conferences attended.

You can include any volunteer experience, independent projects or freelance gigs that could be relevant to the job you're applying for. If there is space, you can add a few relevant hobbies. They can help break the ice at an interview.

Tip 11: References

Having industry experts, colleagues or past employers who can endorse your skills is an advantage on your CV.

This can be included as the last section on your CV. You can add up to two references on your CV. Include their full name, designation and contact information (email address and phone number). Always ask permission before including anyone as the reference on your CV.

Tip 12: Proofread

The biggest mistake you can make is sending out a CV that has spelling and grammatical errors.

Always check and correct your CV for possible typos. If you are not fluent in the language, ask a friend or colleague to review it for you.

Not only this, make sure you update your CV periodically. This way you have it ready to be forwarded when needed.

To conclude, understand that there is no fixed format for a CV. It should always be tailored to the job you're applying for and the industry. Including the right mix of skills, experience and education will help you get your foot in the door.

At the end of the day, your CV should be able to convince your employer that you are the perfect fit for the job.