How to write a killer CV in a day

When you’re applying for a job, the first task you’ll need to get sorted is updating your CV.

It can fill you with dread and be something that you try and put off for as long as possible.

No one likes doing it, especially as there’s so much conflicting advice out there about how to write a good CV, so it can feel overwhelming.

My aim in this blog is not to add to the noise but to give you a plan of action, with time frames, for you to write a killer CV in a day. Mark a day out in your diary, follow these steps and you’ll have no problem getting your CV done and ready to send to future employers.

Pre-day preparation

Block out a full day with no distractions or other commitments
Get your work area clear and ready to go
Plan a reward for the evening so you’ve got something to look forward to

9:00am – Gather all the facts

Your first task is to go through your files, computer docs, LinkedIn profile and work info to get all the facts together. That includes:

  • Your past CV
  • Your work history and dates
  • The names, addresses and phone numbers of your references
  • Stats, case studies and testimonials of your achievements at work or during work experience
  • A CV template you like

11:00am – Fill out your work history and contact details

At the top of the first page add your contact details, including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Professional social media profiles

(Don’t include a photo or a birth date. They aren’t required and can lead to bias.)

Spend the next 50 minutes dropping your work history into your CV template in chronological order. Add the dates of your employment, the name of the company and your job title.

Make sure your formatting is consistent including fonts, headings and spacing.

12:00pm – Add your achievements and responsibilities

For each role that you’ve had, bullet point your key achievements and responsibilities that will be relevant to your new employer. Include stats and specifics that are as results-based as possible. A good formula to follow is:

[Project/what you did] which increased/created [stats/figures] in [timeframe]

For example: ‘Implemented new marketing strategy which created xx% profit increase in six months’ or ‘Responsible for managing team of 10 sales managers’

1:00pm – Lunch break

Eat something nutritious and delicious. You’re half way there!

2:00pm – Write your bio/summary

At the top of your CV, under your name and contact details you want to include a short paragraph about yourself. This bio will summarise what you cover in the rest of your CV and is your opportunity to sell yourself. Highlight key achievements, skills and qualities relevant to the jobs you’re applying for, and try to avoid overused statements such as ‘hard-working’ or ‘organised’. Instead weave in examples.

For example: ‘Deliver projects on tight deadlines’ or ‘Streamlining highly complex processes’

3:00pm – Write a one liner for each role

Go back through your work history and above the achievements write a short line or two about your role, the company and the key projects/clients you worked on.

4:00pm – Add relevant qualifications, education and skills

List your qualifications that are relevant to the roles you’re applying for and try to keep them fairly current. Of course if you’ve higher education qualifications, include those but don’t feel you need to put every course you’ve ever been on in this section.

Then briefly list out your education, including:

  • Level of education
  • Institution
  • Dates

And finally list any additional skills which are relevant to the roles you’re applying for (e.g. – proficient in Photoshop, member of a professional organisation such as AAT)

4:45pm – Add your interests and references

At the end of your CV, add in personal interests that show off key skills required for the roles you’re going for (e.g. team sports, learning a language etc). Keep this section short but sweet and avoid passive hobbies like watching TV. Then add in your references at the very end, with clear contact info for each.

5:10pm – Proof read

Take time to proof read your CV. Look for:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Accurate facts and dates
  • Consistent formatting

Then send it to someone you know is a good writer and has a keen eye to proof read it for you too. Even if you get it proofread by someone else, I’d also recommend running your CV through Grammarly – a free tool that picks up on any spelling and grammar mistakes.

Done

Now I recommend you sleep on it, and read through it the next morning with a a fresh pair of eyes to tweak any last bits and proof read again. Once you’re happy with it – you can start sending it out. One final piece of advice I will give you, is to tailor you CV to each job role and description. Use this CV as your base but add in relevant skills, facts or info, or move things around to highlight the skills and achievements they’re looking for.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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