If you want to create a compelling CV that will get the attention of recruiters, you should read this. Besides having a remarkable academic and professional trajectory, the 2 most important things to consider to create a great CV are its style and the way its content is presented.
A smart and highly qualified person, can loose points by presenting a boring, unoriginal and wordy CV, and a regular person can win the attention of the recruiters by presenting an attractive CV with concise and well presented information that highlights all her or his achievements.
Regarding both, style and content, when you create your CV, you should think as a recruiter and imagine what would you think when you start reading the CV.
The importance of the CV style relies in the fact that recruiters may have a stack of applications to go through, and the first impression they get with your CV may make them decide wether they’ll take the time to read it or simply discard it. You must have heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but regarding a CV, its cover says a lot about the person and invites the recruiter to read it or not.
a. Bad CV examples
Let’s do a quick example, imagine you are a recruiter and you have a pile of CVs to review, plus LinkedIn accounts to check and a bunch of other reports and administrative tasks to do; then you start reviewing the CVs and after two hours you find the following ones, what would you think?
b) Best practices
- Font and size of letter: usually 10 or 11 font sizes are good (9 is too small) and you should use standard fonts as Arial or Times New Roman or any other simple design (don’t choose an elaborated design that will look messy).
- Colors: you want to reflect that you are a serious and reliable person so you can use grey or blue colors, and generally the rule is to use just one color because mixing more colors could create complexity. Depending on your profession you can play more (of example graphic designers could use more colors).
- Icons: you can give a little design to your CV with small education / work / contact icons (you’ll see examples in the following section).
- Blank space: summarize all the information to keep the CV in one page and leave enough blank space so it looks professional and not wordy. On the other hand if you are a student and you don’t have a lot of information, try to complement it with extra-curricular activities, scholarships, club memberships, hobbies, etc.
- You can download the following Template which is the last one I used for my CV: CV Template
- Also, there are more free templates in the following webpage (in Spanish but you only need the design): Primer Empleo
- And you can check this website if you want to see ideas of CVs with great design (not for download): Career Girl Daily
There are a lot of websites that charge you a fee for downloading their CV Templates, but I don’t think it`s necessary to pay for them; I recommend you to spend some time searching for nice designs online and then play with boxes, images and text in Word.
a. What do you want to convey?
In the Forbes article Top Five Personality Traits Employers Hire Most, it is explained that recruiters are looking for a “cultural fit” over skills in their next hire. The top traits employers are looking for are:
- Professionalism (86%)
- High-energy (78%)
- Confidence (61%)
- Self-monitoring (58%)
- Intellectual curiosity (57%)
Keeping this in mind, you should write your CV thinking in the way convey these and other traits that describe you as a perfect candidate for the position you are applying. For example, besides showing you are self-monitoring writing about a project where you worked independently or excelled without the guidance of direct leadership, you should preferably tailor this experience into one that is related to the position you are applying.
Usually a good CV should have the following sections:
- Contact: your name, email, mobile number (you don’t necessarily need to put your land line, just put one number in which the recruiters will be able to reach you any time), Skype, LinkedIn URL, and location (just write your city, you don’t need to write your full address).
- Profile: a brief summary of your mayor or other academic degrees, in which industries and positions you have worked and any important achievements or details. Sometimes recruiters just read this summary to have an idea of the profile of the person and then decide to continue or stop reading based on it. If you don’t write it you may have the risk that the recruiter quickly skims the whole text and if she/he cannot quickly find something relevant your CV will be discarded immediately.
- Work experience: internships and full/part time jobs (a detailed description on how to write this section is explained below in the General Guidelines).
- Education: start with university name followed by the study course title and mention all distinctions and awards as scholarships. You can leave High School and all the other studies out, just keep High School if you are still an undergraduate student looking for her/his first job.
- Volunteer work (if any): provide the names of NGOs and other organizations in which you have contributed to society and explain the volunteer project (these humanitarian activities give you extra points).
- Additional information: IT skills, languages, tests scores, publications, interests, etc.
c. General guidelines
- Use bullet points: avoid writing long paragraphs in which you are making a detailed description of your tasks. Use active verbs in past that show which tasks / responsibilities you had, which abilities you proved and your results and achievements (if possible measured). For example: “Lead a team of five people to develop the marketing budget and strategy of the company that translated into an increase in sales of 20%”.
- Present the information in reverse chronological order: in each section start with the last completed profesional / academic experience, mention the month and year of duration and place where it was done.
- Be concise: adjust all the information into one page.
- Avoid typographical and grammar errors: when you finish writing it print it and check it again and show it to friends and family to look for mistakes.
- Create a LinkedIn account: now a day you can find jobs easily with a LinkedIn account. The advantage is that you can have all your information and additionally have the recommendations of teachers / bosses (you can ask a teacher / boss to write about the time when you worked together and you’ll be able to receive and approve the comment so it appears in your profile).
- Save your file as a PDF: after all your hard work making sure your CV fits in one page and has a beautiful format you don’t want to ruin it with technological problems so save it as a PDF and name the file “Name Surename – CV”.
3. Upgrade your CV
Look for opportunities you can add to your CV
Besides improving the style of you CV, most importantly you can constantly look for ways to improve its content.
If you are a student, you can start participating in a volunteer project in your country of even better abroad; you can read the post How to find paid volunteer projects abroad in which you’ll learn how to find and get these projects. Or if you want to study abroad you can read the post How to find scholarships to study abroad.
If you are an experienced professional you can also upgrade your CV with worthwhile work experiences abroad, you can find how to get humanitarian work experience the post How to work with a NGO in Africa.