Formatting a CV for success.

The first known CV was created by Leonardo Da Vinci 500 years ago. Since then, things have moved on slightly and it is essential for any job seeker to have a well presented, professional CV. It is your first introduction to potential future employers and as we all know, first impressions count!

First things first, the basics.

What is a CV?

CV stands for Curriculum Vitae (which is Latin and just means your story). It is an outline of a person’s educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications. Another name for a CV is a résumé. It conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light. A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself!  You need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers.

Why is it important to have a well-constructed CV?

To put it simply, a good CV is the gateway to the job you are applying for. Landing that job is then the gateway to earning an income, earning an income is a crucial part of functioning in the general community and contributes greatly to our feelings self-worth. Don’t compromise on the time spent on a document which could determine how you spend your entire working day! The reliance employers place on a well-structured and well written CV cannot be underestimated.

What makes a bad CV?

  • Irrelevant personal information
  • Burying important information
  • Spelling errors, typos and poor grammar
  • Unexplained gaps in unemployment
  • Lying or misleading information
  • A long, waffly CV
  • Badly formatted CV

The list could go on, but you probably get the point! If you are guilty of any or all of the above you need to rethink what are you sending out to represent yourself in the marketplace.

What makes a good CV?

One survey of employers found that the following aspects were most looked for;

45% Previous related work experience
35% Qualifications & skills
25% Easy to read
16% Accomplishments
14% Spelling & grammar
9% Education (these were not just graduate recruiters or this score would be much higher!)
9% Intangibles: individuality/desire to succeed
3% Clear objective
2% Keywords added
1% Contact information
1% Personal experiences
1% Computer skills

There is no single “correct” way to write and present a CV but the following general rules apply:

  • It is targeted on the specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer
  • It is carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped
  • It is informative but concise
  • It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar. If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!

Remember these key points when creating or improving your CV

  1. Get the basics right!
  2. Presentation is key
  3. Keep it concise
  4. Tailor the CV to the role
  5. Make the most of your skills and interests
  6. Include references
  7. Always keep it up to date



Ailbhe McDonnell, Recruitment Consultant.

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