Writing a CV involves a couple of pages and a few hundred words. War and Peace it ain’t. But it could be the difference between a wage and the dole, between the run-of-the-mill job you’re stuck in at the moment and the dream job you’ve trained and struggled and searched for. In short, this little document could change you life.
Gather Your Information
It makes sense, then, to take the time to make yours the best it can be. And writing a CV really isn’t all that hard. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps and do a little research (and before you picture yourself having to trawl the net or spend late nights in the library, research might mean nothing more demanding than reading the position description of the job carefully and applying a little commonsense).
So, where do you start? Perhaps the most basic tenet to bear in mind when you set out to write a curriculum vitae is that one size definitely does not fit all. You have a set of skills and abilities that could be turned to any number of jobs. Your prospective employer wants to know how and why they fit you to his job. So when you write your curriculum vitae, describe yourself and your abilities in a way that shows him how uniquely suited you are to work for him.
Read the job ad carefully and make a list of the skills, experience and characteristics it asks for. If the company offers a more detailed position description make sure you download it. It’s also worth visiting the company’s website. You’ll get a feel for the organisation’s values and culture and you may well find additional information pertinent to the job as well.
Constructing Your CV
Once you’ve done your research you can begin writing your curriculum vitae. Open a new document on your computer or roll a fresh sheet of paper into your typewriter (no handwritten documents, please – unless you’re applying for a job as a calligrapher). Put down your name, full address, email address, phone and any other contact details you may have. If you’re applying for a job in the technology sector you might consider listing your Skype and LinkedIn addresses too.
Unless requested in the advertisement it is not necessary to include your date of birth, nationality or the state of your health.
Follow your contact details with a “personal profile.” This should be a short paragraph telling the employer who you are, what your background is and why you’re suited to the advertised job. When writing your profile, don’t be too general – try to cite specific experiences and achievements to back up this description of yourself.
Areas of Expertise
Beneath this list three or four “areas of expertise”. These are the strengths you possess that will convince the employer you have the ability to perform well in the position. The personal profile and the areas of expertise are your chance to sell yourself, so make sure you target them to the advertised job.
Outline your work history, most recent job first. The usual format is: date, job title and employer, followed by a brief description of your role, its responsibilities, the skills it required and any significant goals you achieved while in the role. Skew this description so that you place most emphasis on the skills the prospective employer is looking for.
Next, provide your education history. Include the name of the institutions you studied at, the dates you were there, the courses taken and the qualifications gained.
Hobbies and Interests
Briefly mention any hobbies or interests you have. Easy enough to do, but spare a moment’s thought for this section. What do your hobbies say about you that might help or hinder your application? You play football? Might mean you’re a great team player. Interested in the arts? Wow, here’s a candidate who’ll bring some creativity to the role!
Finally, list the details of at least two referees (preferably your last two managers), or at least mention that references can be “supplied upon request”.
And… you’ve written your curriculum vitae.
Points to Keep in Mind
- Your CV will probably be looked at for no more than 90 seconds in the first instance, and it’ll be in a pile with many other applications.
- Keep your curriculum vitae clear, relevant and easy to read. Don’t use fancy designs, photos of yourself, or pretty coloured paper.
- Write in a manner that allows your C.V. to be read quickly and still convey all the information you want it to.
- Try not to exceed two pages in length.
- Use a clear font and set out your CV attractively in concise, easy to read sections.