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How to Write a Good CV

At Ten2Two we know how difficult it can be to write a CV. Whether it’s because you have had a career break, looking for a change in direction or just want to work for a different business. As a result, we have pulled together this 10-step guide. ‘How to Write a CV’ will help give you the confidence and tools to create a winning CV that stands out from the crowd.

Before your start writing your CV, remember the purpose of your CV is not to get you the job. Its purpose is to get you a job interview.  And after your meeting, to remind the person you met with who you are. Most of us have CV’s that we look at every few years and then add on the latest job we’ve had. Which not only results in a CV getting longer and longer but can also create a very disjointed read. We find the best CVs to be those where the individual has, in effect, started from scratch and created a new CV.

So now that you know why you’re writing a CV, here’s how to write a CV:

1. The right state of mind to write a CVHow to write a great CV tips

Get yourself in the right state of mind – positive, optimistic, focused. Think about successful periods in your career – how it felt, what people said about you. Reserve yourself a block of time. If you’re starting from scratch you may need a few hours (or days!) to finish your CV. It’s a slow process but remember it’s your calling card for your future job, so it’s worth investing lots of positive time and energy.

2. Think about your audience

You are not writing a CV for yourself, you are writing it for your future employer. So, as you write your CV, put yourself in the shoes of the intended employer browsing through hundreds of CV’s – looking for that ‘one person’. You want your CV to be the one that is engaging, clear, concise and most importantly a true reflection of the value you can add to their business. The most important attribute of a successful CV is that it clearly explains to the employer what it is that you can do for them. Ideally, you’ll have a job advert in front of you and be able to use terminology from this to ‘pepper’ your CV with the same words.

For example, if a role is seeking someone with management experience, make sure you mirror this in your CV with a relevant description of your management ability.

3. Use a header in your CV

Create a header for your CV which details your name and contact details. Also make sure you include page number on every page (but bear in mind point 8 below).

4. Develop an introductory personal profile

This four to six line personal profile is the teaser, or hook, to the employer who will then want to find out more. Be clear on your ‘work / career’ objective.  This may be a short term goal or a long term aspiration. If you have changed career directions a number of times, or want to do so now – you must make it clear in your CV. The profile section needs to ‘sell’ your skills, experience and achievements whilst being honest and truthful. Use words that you feel confident that a friend or colleague would use to describe you.  Too many ‘gushing adjectives’ will switch people off – but not enough will mean that potential employers won’t seek more information.

5. Detail your career history

This should start with your most recent employment. Detail the Job Title, the period you worked there (months only) and Company. For example:

Marketing Manager, Jan 16 – Mar 19, Whitbread Plc.

For the last 3 roles, identify the key roles and responsibilities that were associated with the role and summarise this in an opening statement. Then pick out the 3/4 most significant achievements you were personally responsible for and describe them, qualifying them at all times with statistics (you may need to go back through previous annual reviews to get these figures). If you had staff and technical responsibilities try to show achievements in both areas. For example:

Accountable for defining long term brand strategy for Brand x; which contributes x% to Whitbread’s profit, and leading a team of 5 marketing individuals to deliver this plan through maximising brand awareness through integrated advertising, PR and promotional activity.

Developed communication strategy for Brand x which grew consumer awareness from 25% to 35% over 2 years, compared to a target of 30%.

Increased team job satisfaction from 75%-90% within 12 months (measured by internal survey).

Avoid highlighting duties instead of achievements

It’s very easy to detail everything you’ve done in a role. But employers actually want to know what you have achieved. Use action verbs – eg, generated, organised, increased, improved:

Resolved user questions as part of an IT help desk serving 4,000 students and staff.

For roles / jobs that are over 10 years ago – briefly summarise them in 1 or 2 lines.

Many Ten2Two members have had career breaks. Don’t hide behind this. Instead, do use it as an opportunity to demonstrate how, in a non business environment, you have still developed and achieved transferable skills that are highly applicable in the work place. For example, setting-up a new lunch club at your child’s nursery shows you are enterprising; raising £25k when Chair of the PTA shows leadership and commerciality.

Never leave CV gaps

If you’ve had a gap in your career, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. What is important is that you cover this when writing your CV. You don’t want any blanks in the reader’s mind as to why you’ve had a career break. You could say, ‘Career break to raise children’ or ‘Career break to carry out caring responsibilities’.

You need to be ready to demonstrate how ambitious you are – the place to do this is in the covering letter or email and certainly at interview. If you can show this, career gaps will become less important and employers will be able to see your potential as an asset to their company.

6. Education, Training and Qualifications

Start with highest level of education obtained and work back – keep it brief. List any relevant training courses, certificates or language skills.

7. Additional information

Keep brief and factual. Use this as an opportunity to reflect your personality. Interests and hobbies can be positive. If you are sporty it suggests you are fit and healthy, being chairperson of a society shows leadership qualities etc.

8. Avoid long CVs

A CV is not your personal biography – it’s just the lever to get you to the job interview your potential future employer. Our experience also shows that many employers don’t read in detail much past the first page of the CV. So avoid long CVs. You may have many years of experience, but really the last two positions will be the ones recruiters focus on first. There is simply no point in outlining everything you’ve ever done over several pages.

9. Check, check and double-check!!

Check, and double check for spelling mistakes, typos and grammatical errors. You don’t want someone to think you are a ‘Senior Manger’!

Try reading your CV backwards to check for errors. Avoid leaving long unexplained gaps and make sure your dates are accurate.

10. Ask a friend

Take a break, show someone you know who will give you honest, constructive feedback. Listen and take on board. Go back, review and improve.

Don’t forget to register with your local Ten2Two office and join our unique Ten2Two member community where you can attend FREE CV, cover letter, social media, presentation and interview skills workshops.

7 min read