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The Ultimate CV Guide: Dos and Don’ts

how to write a good cv

Did you know that recruiters spend an average of 6-8 seconds looking at your CV before they decide whether you are suitable for their vacancy or not? Yes, only 6-8 seconds, which means a well-written CV is essential to catching a recruiter's attention and landing your dream job. 

Your CV is your first impression, and it needs to grab attention. Don't miss the opportunity to showcase your skills and experience effectively. To help you craft a winning CV, we've compiled a comprehensive resource outlining the dos and don'ts of formatting and content.

Formatting Dos and Don'ts

Do:

  • Keep it clean and easy to read by using a simple, professional font like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri; sized between 10 and 12 points.
  • Utilise consistent formatting throughout your CV, including margins, bullet points, and headings.
  • Limit your CV to one or two pages, depending on your experience level.
  • Save your CV as a PDF to ensure consistent formatting across different devices and software programs.
  • Include your name and contact information at the top of the first page, ensuring it's easy to locate.

Don't:

  • Use images, graphics, or an excessive number of colours, as they can make your CV look unprofessional and distract from the content.
  • Use large blocks of text; instead, break information down into concise bullet points.
  • Use acronyms or jargon without providing context or a brief explanation.
  • Use decorative or unconventional fonts, as they can be difficult to read and look unprofessional.

Content Dos and Don'ts

Do:

  • Tailor your CV to each job application by highlighting relevant skills and experience.
  • Begin with a concise, compelling personal statement or summary that highlights your key qualifications and career objectives.
  • List your work experience in reverse chronological order, including job title, company, dates, and brief descriptions of your responsibilities and accomplishments.
  • Focus on quantifiable achievements and use action verbs to demonstrate your contributions. 
  • Include relevant education, certifications, and professional development courses, as well as any relevant skills, such as languages, technical abilities or software proficiency.

Don't:

  • Include personal information such as your age, marital status, or religion, as this is not relevant to your ability to perform the job.
  • List every single job you've ever had; instead, focus on the most relevant positions within the last 10-15 years.
  • Include unrelated hobbies or interests, unless they are directly relevant to the position or showcase transferable skills.
  • Use clichés or generic phrases, such as "team player" or "hard worker," without providing concrete examples to support your claims.
  • Include references on your CV; instead, prepare a separate reference list to provide upon request.

Proofreading Dos and Don'ts

Do:

  • Thoroughly proofread your CV for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Ask a trusted friend, family member, or mentor to review your CV for additional feedback.
  • Double-check your contact information, dates, and other details for accuracy.

Don't:

  • Rely solely on spellcheck, as it can miss context-specific errors or homophones (e.g. "their" vs. "there").
  • Submit your CV without a thorough review, as even minor errors can leave a negative impression on recruiters.

A well-formatted and targeted CV is crucial to making a positive impression on recruiters in a short stretch of time and securing job interviews. By following these dos and don'ts, you'll be well on your way to creating a standout CV — and getting your foot in the door for the role of your dreams!

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