Graduates – How to Write the Perfect CV

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Actually there is no such thing as the perfect CV; writing CVs is an art, and is an extremely subjective process about which industry professionals frequently disagree. We’ve used that title primarily because it’s snappy, and because it’s a popular keyword phrase that people search on which is, perhaps, why you’re here. Similar thinking applies to CVs. You need to make it easy for people to find you, and you need to make it succinct.

1. Keywords – Start by using the right keywords to sneak past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Recruitment databases use many different algorithms, but they all rely on candidates using standard CV templates and titles with good keyword popularisation.

2. Research – Look at job descriptions and online jobsites to identify the most relevant keywords for your sector and position, then scatter these throughout your CV. It helps to have a ‘key skills’ section to make sure they’re all in.

3. Follow a plan – Make sure you understand what your strengths are, and that they relate to the role(s) you wish to apply for. Don’t just put down your job history with a list of responsibilities. Identify your competencies, then think of ways in which you can illustrate them.

4. Write a great profile – This is your business case, and is often a ‘make-or-break’ element of the CV, given how little time most recruiters allow per candidate. Do you have a Unique Selling Point? What sets you apart from the competition? What are the things you’ve done at work that you’re most proud of?

5. Tell your story – Use strong, active verbs in the simple past tense and describe your professional experience in two distinct sections. First, an overview of what you were hired to do and your career trajectory at the firm. Think scope, scale and context.

6. Results-focused – Next, write 4-8 bulleted achievements, stories about how you added value, ways in which your employer benefited from paying you to be around. Measure the results as much as you can, preferably with specific values or percentages.

7. Keep education simple – Only mention courses you completed successfully and make sure professional training and development is relevant and succinct. If something didn’t work out, or you dropped out, or you failed, keep it entirely off the CV.

8. Keep extra-curricular stuff relevant – it’s great if you can differentiate your CV with unusual or high achieving activities. Well done on that bronze medal! However, if your preferred activity outside work is the pub, or sitting on the sofa watching the TV, probably best to leave it off.

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9. Triple check – make sure there are no typos. Apparently 97% of hiring managers reject on the basis of two typos. These kind of mistakes are a clear window into the quality of work you’re likely to do once employed, so there really should be no excuse for making silly mistakes.

10. Ask an expert – If writing your own CV from scratch is too daunting, or if you just haven’t got the time, contact City CV for help.

Check out City CV’s latest video on this very subject here

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