Most people understand a CV should contain their contact information as well as work history and education information.
However, they fail to realize that CV standards change from time to time. It is imperative to job search success for a smart job seeker to stay on top of current CV writing best practice and guidelines.
One of the most common mistakes people make when writing a CV is failing to include an objective; or making the objective statement too broad.
The objective tells the employer exactly how you fit the job specification and what type of work you want to do. A CV without an objective sends the wrong message to the employer; it says you’re taking a broad brush approach and you aren’t goal oriented.
If you are interested in several types of work, tailor each CVs to specific jobs. In today’s competitive job market, it is no longer enough to have one generic CV. Your portfolio should include several CVs, each one tailored for a specific type of work that interests you, or better still, one for each employer.
Too Much Personal Information
Another common mistake people continue to make on CVs is including too much information, especially when it relates to personal details such as age and marital status.
In today’s age of discrimination lawsuits, this is information the employer does not want to know. All they really need to know is if you have the experience, education and skills to successful handle the job.
Results not activities
Your CV should be results oriented, not activity oriented. A few succinct lines that discuss your accomplishments tell an employer more than a full page listing activities.
Perhaps you created a new system to solve a problem in a recent or past position and successfully implemented it. The result was an increase in productivity or sales.
This is the type of information an employer wants to see – employers want energetic, creative problem solvers.
Many job seekers believe they should include references on a CV. This is not true. Nor should you include ‘Reference available upon request.’ The employer assumes that if they contact you and request references, you will provide them. So you can safely leave this section off unless you have an amazing reference and want to do a little name dropping!
As a job applicant, you may have one, two or even three interviews or assessments to go through. You then need to be made an offer and only after you accept an offer will references usually be requested. The simple fact is that the purpose of a CV is to get you a first interview, references are superfluous so early on. — Neville Rose for The Guardian
Leaving Gaps in Your Work History
Don’t leave gaps in your CV. Perhaps you were out of the workforce for a time due to parenting, illness or school. Don’t just simply skip over it.
Employers are very interested in seeing a stable work history and they will zero in on any gaps in time that are not clearly covered on your CV.
There are ways to professionally state you dedicated two years to being a full-time mom. An employer will respect the fact that you professionally included that information rather than tried to hide it.
If you are currently employed, do not list your employer’s phone number as a contact number unless you have been completely upfront with them in regards to your search for a new job and it will be acceptable for you to take a brief phone call at work.
Receiving a phone call at your current job regarding a new job, when you haven’t told your boss you’re looking around is career suicide.
Keep your CV up to date
Start writing your CV as early as possible and see building your CV as an on-going process, changing as you gain more experience and knowledge. You should keep updating your CV from time to time.
Never, ever send out a CV that hasn’t been updated with your latest work and training information. Nothing says you can’t be bothered more.
Use the right format – the options are:
- Reverse Chronological Format
- Functional Format (skills based)
- Combination Format
Reverse chronological is used almost everywhere. This means you put your most recent information first in each section.
However, if you are changing career fields and/or you have little directly relevant experience, the functional CV format may be a good choice. It allows you to focus on skills that are transferable to the target role. See e.g. this skills based CV.
The way you word your CV is very important and can convey a lot of information to the employer. Here are some important CV writing tips on wording to consider.
- Make sure you get the CV basics right – use this checklist as a guide.
- Have your CV wording focused on the employer. Impress them by telling them what you can do for them.
- Highlight your accomplishments in previous jobs to convince the employer and seal the deal.
- Use action words to describe your accomplishment and previous job responsibilities. Some examples are: assembled, evaluated, negotiated, supervised, etc.
- Remove any unnecessary wording and be concise.
- Add bullets and formatting to make it more easily readable.
- For paper copies, if there are smudges, creases etc get new paper – presentation = care.
- Reorganize the order of your CV and prioritize the placement of job skills and experience that would be most interesting to the specific job you are applying for.
- Do not lie or distort the truth. You will be more comfortable on your interview if your CV is truthful.
- Remove any negative information from your CV.
- Remove any unnecessary information such as age, marital status, race, weight, etc.
- Check your CV for spelling mistakes. Employers disregard a high percentage of CVs just because of spelling mistakes.
- Ask a professional within your family or friends to give you an honest critique.
- If you’ve just finished your degree or equivalent, note that many colleges and universities continue to offer career services to students even after they graduate. Contact your institution to find out if any services are available. Most likely they can provide CV help free of any charge.
- Finally, make sure you follow these five golden rules from the fabulous Jeff Su!