By now, you’re probably aware of how important a great CV is when trying to land a job. Your CV is realistically the only way you have of showing a hiring manager that you’re suitable for the job. If you don’t emphasise your skills and suitability, how else will they know you’re the right choice?
Fortunately, creating the perfect CV for each job you apply for isn’t nearly as difficult as you would imagine. Below, we provide you with important tips and advice on how to write a CV which will hopefully take you to the head of the queue.
Determine the Suitability of the Role
Before you begin the CV writing process, it is imperative that you double check to ensure you’re applying for a suitable job. In the digital age, the majority of CVs are now sent online which means keyword optimisation. In other words, your application needs to contain words relevant to the role you’re seeking.
When you look through the job and the required keywords and compare it to your skills, qualifications and achievements, it should quickly become apparent whether or not it’s a good fit. Don’t try and shoehorn keywords that don’t fit into your CV as this is a complete waste of time and effort.
When writing your CV, create it in a Word document and ensure you can fit everything into two pages; anything longer than this and the recruiter won’t even look at it. Be sure to save it as a standard attachment with your name as the filename; this makes it easy to find and email. Let’s take a closer look at how your CV should look in terms of format and layout.
Times New Roman in size 12 font is the safest bet. However, there is an assortment of easy to read fonts that can be used including Garamond, Tahoma and Century Gothic; just stick to one font!
Make sure headlines and your name stand out like a newspaper heading; this means you can increase the font size to 14 or 16. When it comes to important information, feel free to Italicise, underline or bold relevant sections and use bullet points where necessary.
- Name & Address: Self-explanatory.
- Phone Numbers: Include your mobile number and consider adding a personal voicemail in case you miss a recruiter’s call. You can include a home phone number but only if you live with people that can be trusted to answer in a polite manner and take messages; this means no hung-over flatmates!
- Email Address: Use a professional sounding one; the best option is your name or a variation of it.
- Social Media: You can include details of social media accounts but ONLY if they are professional in terms of content. It should be noted that an increasing number of companies DO look at social media accounts of prospective employees deemed to be in with a chance of at least getting an interview. If you have any compromising photos or information you would rather a recruiter didn’t know about, get rid of them before embarking on a job search. While it’s true that once something appears online, it is never truly gone, most companies won’t go to the trouble it takes to dig up dirt; at least not prior to the interview stage!
Information you should NOT include:
- Marital Status: Irrelevant.
- Nationality: Not important unless you are applying from outside the EU.
- Date of Birth: You don’t need to include this. Companies can’t legally discriminate due to your age.
- Photo: Although common in some countries, it is not common practice here in Ireland.
This should be written just below your contact information and is a great way to pique the interest of the recruiter. It should be a short (3-5 sentences) summary of why you want the job and provide an overview of your skills and experience and how they make you a good fit. Basically, your personal profile is your sales pitch. Get it right and the recruiter will keep reading.
Avoid vague descriptions and ‘buzz’ words such as ‘dynamic’ and ‘self-starter’. Instead, open with a specific statement outlining your experience and specialisations.
This is arguably the most important section on your CV. Simply put; recruiters are keen to know what you offer the company. As a result, it is necessary to showcase your skills and outline how you will have a positive influence on the organisation going forward.
In the world of recruitment, three types of skills stand out:
- Adaptive: Skills proven by personality traits rather than experience which makes them difficult to quantify.
- Transferable: Skills you learn in one field that are relevant to another industry.
- Job-Related: Skills which are useful in a specific field.
When writing your CV, try to focus on job-related and transferable skills such as:
- Problem Solving
- Technical Skills
If you have knowledge of a programming language or computer systems relevant to the job, make sure you include it.
For each job you include, make sure you add the name and address of the previous employer along with your job title and the start & finishing dates. Begin with the most recent roles and work your way back. When it comes to past jobs that have a link to the existing vacancy, it makes sense to include more detail. For example, you can include a sentence about the company such as ‘ABC Ltd. is a Dublin-based footwear manufacturing company with 12 global offices and 1,000 employees’.
When describing past duties, focus on the ones relevant to the job opening and be as specific as possible. If you were a manager, mention how many staff you oversaw. If you had budgetary responsibilities, state the amount. Identify at least 3 achievements in the role (relevant to the job opening obviously) and outline how they helped your past employer. Again, quantify your success if possible; for example, “Introduced a program to insulate the building’s pipe work that cut €15,000 a year off the company’s energy bill.”
As space is at a premium when writing a CV, always think carefully about the educational details you wish to include. For example, do you need to mention the 6 honours you earned in your Leaving Cert when you also have a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting? As is the case with employment history, ensure your most recent qualifications are first on the page.
This is also the section where you can include information on whether you speak another foreign language (if relevant) or if you have professional qualifications such as a chartership.
Hobbies & Interests
Some employers like to see evidence that candidates have a social life outside of work but in many cases, there is no real reason to go into much detail here. As is the case throughout your CV, only include information pertinent to the application. While trainspotting and birdwatching probably won’t help you get the job, voluntary experience and charity work may be useful additions.
Add a line saying ‘references available upon request’. There is no need to include them in your CV. If the company specifically asks for references, include them on a separate sheet.
Explaining Gaps in Employment History
This is an issue for a large percentage of people looking for work for various reasons. In some cases, they haven’t worked for a long time while in other instances they simply decided to take time off due to stress or to raise a family.
Clearly, some employment history gaps are easy to explain and details can be added to a cover letter. If it is a little more awkward, the first thing to remember is the importance of honesty. Adding months or even years to existing jobs is a terrible idea as it takes just one phone call for your deception to be uncovered.
Always look to be proactive when addressing gaps; if you use your time away from the workplace to volunteer or study, this allows for an easy explanation. When all else fails, use the technique of reframing. Instead of saying ‘I was unable to find work’, you can say ‘I felt the need to refocus my career in order to pursue a position in a different industry so I took a few months off work.’
If you have been unemployed for a considerable length of time, don’t be embarrassed. It is a difficult job market which means employers are more understanding about employment gaps as long as you don’t try and lie about them. In this case, it is crucial for you to remain up to date with your industry to prove to recruiters that you haven’t lost touch. If your employment history isn’t up to par, tailor your CV so that it focuses on your skills.
Structure Your Search
Use Excel to create a spreadsheet and begin your job search by targeting the industries you wish to work in. The next step is to focus on individual industries and look for employers. Then you can use job sites such as to create a list of companies you’re interested in working for and find out the people you need to contact.
Now you can tailor your CV and cover letter and send it in to the selected individuals. While this is a time consuming process, it will yield far greater rewards than a spray and pray approach.
Add the Cover Letter in the Email’s Body
As most CVs are sent via email these days and the body of the email provides recruiters with their first impression of you; why not take the bull by the horns and give them your cover letter as well? This should unquestionably help you find favour with the hiring manager; especially when they are used to receiving bland emails with CVs attached.
Look For Work Experience
This is particularly relevant if you are a graduate with little in the way of real-world experience. As there are so many candidates for every position, employers are getting fussier which means your Master’s Degree may not be enough if there is no work experience to back it up.
Check out the website of the nearest volunteer centre to you and see if there is anything available in your field. Any type of experience in a relevant field you can add to your CV is gold dust in this ultra competitive job market.
In the main, the layout mentioned above is the best way to present your CV. However, you may wish to place your educational qualifications ahead of your work experience if the latter is not as strong as the former.
As your CV (and accompanying cover letter) is the only way in which a prospective employer can determine your suitability for a role, it needs to be as compelling and convincing as a sales pitch. Keep it concise, informative, relevant and above all, positive. Additionally, make sure it is properly formatted with no spelling/grammatical errors with lots of white space and headlines. If you write a high quality CV, you have an excellent chance of beating the odds and getting invited to an interview.