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3 Key Things to Get Right When Writing Your CV

1 What’s in a CV?


You’re ready to find that perfect, new job. Full of enthusiasm and high on expectation, you decide the best approach is to advertise yourself and let the jobs come to you. You start by uploading your CV to a few well-known job boards and send your CV to a couple of reputable agencies. Now all you have to do is sit back and let those prima, fat-cat vacancies flood into your inbox.

key things for CV

Related: Top CV Writing Tips for 2014

Of course, you didn’t just send a CV without checking it over. It’s been a while since you last used it, so you inserted a couple of slick sentences to ensure that it’s up to date, checked the spelling and then … good to go. Press those job board buttons. Happy days!

However, the reaction to your 2-page career summary seems somewhat muted. Most calls and alerts seem to be about vacancies that are arguably inappropriate … or you’re receiving too few calls altogether.

What’s going on? Doesn’t the world want your abundant talents anymore?

Trust me, they do. If you’re performing well in your job today, it is highly likely that somebody else wants your expertise and experience. Even if you’ve hit a low point in your career and could be doing better, so long as you can demonstrate successes elsewhere, you’re fine. Thankfully, the remedy is quite simple to understand and with little time and effort, you’ll start receiving the right calls.

2 Three key things to get right when writing your CV


If I were a salesman I’d change this title to something like “3 points that will change your life forever” … catchy!… personal note to oneself with respect to future titling of such articles.

2.1 Point 1 – What are you?

If you upload your CV to a job board it will naturally hide itself amongst hundreds of thousands of others. It will lie there in a dormant state until one of two things finds it; programs and / or recruiters.

Alert programs try to match jobs to people using top-secret algorithms crafted by IT boffins using a sea of whiteboards and a great many coloured markers. Recruiters use search facilities to find CVs that are appropriate for particular vacancies. How do programs and recruiters do this intricate matching? They use words and phrases that should be evident in both.

So, a recruiter wants to find somebody for a Pencil Salesman job. The recruiter is offered a search facility in the job board and uses it to type “Pencil Salesman” before depressing the ‘Search’ button. It’s a bit like a Google search. In basic terms, those CVs with the greatest number of references to “Pencil Salesman” float to the top of the search results. CVs using phrases such as “Inbound call executive, writing implements” will not be found.

Related: How to Write a Winning CV

Rule number 1: State what you are in your CV. Whilst each job board offers slightly different search facilities and alert algorithms to determine matches, you should commonly use important words and phrases in your CV at least 5 times. Some job boards give precedence to those terms at the top of your CV. Some don’t care too much. Some include additional skills that you list in your job board account and some use your most recent job title etc.

2.2 Point 2 – Long is the new short

So many people have come to me in the past having spent time with a CV guru who offered the outdated wisdom of ensuring that one’s CV should be 2 pages in length. This is one of the biggest mistakes when CV writing and is a clear case of putting form before function.

If you shorten your CV to the point where you can no longer include important words and phrases with sufficient frequency, you’re simply not going to be discovered. I know recruiters who have successfully placed people with CVs extending to 10 pages. Wow! Is this possible? Indeed it is and they’re easy to find. But, doesn’t it get boring to read? It may surprise you to know that CVs aren’t generally read. Instead they are scanned, which brings us onto CV structure.

Rule number 2: Include all relevant experience and expertise in your CV and ignore its length. Avoid repetition, but do find ways of including your key words and phrases several times. There are plenty of opportunities to do this. For example, rather than stating “In my job I acquired new clients”, sate “in my capacity as a Pencil Salesman I acquired new clients”.

2.3 Point 3 – Nobody reads it anyhow

I recently asked a Recruiter with 17 years of experience when he last read a whole CV? His reply may astonish you, but he couldn’t remember; his best guess was some 10 years prior. In industry tests, Recruiters and HR staff review a CV for less than 10 seconds before making a decision to ignore it, or read further.

So what the heck do recruiters do with your carefully constructed prose? They typically scan it in the following order:

  • opening paragraph to check what you are, then



  • title of most recent position to check what you are, then



  • title of previous position to check employment continuity, terms of service and what you were, then



  • prior position to check the same.


At this point the most recent position is read in detail and the rest scanned for evidence of skills, experience and successes which the recruiter hopes to be clearly visible in bullet form.

So, if you open with “I’m a successful Pencil Salesman …” then your most recent positions show continuity of service as a Pencil Salesman and your terms of service are at least 3 years (unless you’re in contract or temporary work), your CV will be scanned for other features in line with other specific requirements of the role.

Rule number 3: Make sure that job titles are clear, employers are labelled and that service terms are clearly dated.

If you take on board all of the advice given above, will this lead to perfect results? Probably not, but this is a game of percentages. Job Boards and many Applicant Tracking Systems try to help recruiters and HR folk find the most suitable individuals for any vacancy. They also attempt to alert jobseekers with appropriate opportunities.

Improve your outcomes and follow these 3 points that will change your life forever!

Footnote for Students


Of course, if you’re a student and you’re about to enter the job market for the first time, then writing a competitive CV is arguably a little more difficult. Work experience is the key to beefing up your employability skills. Get some. Also, ensure that your CV positions you for the job you want. Never write something like “I’m an extraordinarily wonderful and compassionate person who can work alone or as part of a team … blah, blah, yuk!” Instead write something like “I’m a qualified something with experience in x and y who’s looking to start a career as a something”. You have just as much opportunity to introduce key words and phrases as everybody else. You’re used to putting things down on paper so this, coupled with your awesome ability to harness and wield technology, gives you an edge, doesn’t it?

Photo Credit: newsusacontent

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