How not to write a CV

Less is more, says Aimee Bateman

‘Enthusiastic, well-presented self-starter, with good qualifications and high standards of maths and English.’ Does that sound like you? Like me? That’s the problem – it sounds like just about everybody!

One of the biggest problems with CVs today is that they are so similar. It’s like everyone has been on the same CV training course. There’s just nothing that sets people apart from the crowd.

I’m not a fan of the personal statement technique – yes, you’re great, but then you would say that, wouldn’t you? After all, you’re trying to get a job.

Why not instead show your potential employer what someone else thinks about you? One of your referees saying how great you are is bound to be more powerful than you saying it.

So bin the personal statement and open with a quote from a former employer, tutor or teacher saying why they’d hire you. That’s a great way to open a CV and has the advantage of novelty too.

What next? Keep it simple.

Too many people put their ‘high standards of English’ to bad use and write a novel. Most employers haven’t got time to go through your CV with a highlighter, trying to fish out the key facts.

So ditch the long paragraphs and go for bullet points, remembering to separate your duties (tasks you had to do in your previous jobs) from your achievements (your successes).

Lots of people muddle these up and you end up with a mush that even a marathon session with a highlighter can’t rectify. Put yourselves in the employer’s shoes – they need to know two things: can you do the job and will you fit in?

If you make it hard for them to answer those questions, they are most likely to conclude that the answers are ‘no’.

That brings me back to novels. Like reading? Great, so do I. But keep it to yourself. The same goes for golf, going out to bars and watching football.

Employers as a rule aren’t too bothered what you do in your spare time, so it’s just a waste of space on your CV.

Your aim is to keep your CV as short and as relevant as possible, so swap the hobbies for an ‘about me’ section, showing what your values are, and how you might respond to different situations. Make employers want to meet you.

Here’s another a tip: put your most recent job at the top. It sounds like a simple measure, and it is. But that’s the trick to CV writing: keep it straightforward and make it easy to read.

Good luck!

Want some more tips and advice from Aimee? Check out her blog about the right questions to ask in interviews here.

Aimee Bateman is a corporate recruiter turned careers champion and founder of Careercake.com.

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