Let’s go back to basics: CV writing tips from a recruiter’s perspective

The chances are, if you’re a job seeker, you’ve read a lot of advice on perfecting your CV. In fact, in recent KDR blog posts, we’ve addressed using CV templates, common CV blunders, and the art of selling yourself on your CV.

Clearly it’s very important to fully develop the content of your CV, tailoring it to the job you’re applying for. But there are some nuts and bolts elements that simply must be in place – and they may seem obvious, but they are often overlooked.

Here we offer up some CV writing tips on common oversights, extraneous clutter, distracting filler and tired cliches.

Follow the 4 Cs.

Contact: You seem great – shame we don’t have your contact details

A compelling CV comes across the desk – the candidate has lots of experience, seems highly skilled …and doesn’t seem to have a phone number or address. We can’t emphasise this enough: if you don’t provide your contact details we cannot contact you!

Although you may have emailed your CV, this isn’t always a sufficient means to track you down again. A recruiter may only see your CV in paper form once it’s been received and is unlikely to have time to trace it back to the original email. Make it easier for them to reach you by always providing your name, address, email and phone number at the top of the first page (and we’d recommend your name and phone number on subsequent pages too, in case a page is lost).

Clarity: Where have you been and what have you been doing?

We see this all too often: a work history that doesn’t include dates of employment, or offers only a few lines of information for many years in a role. Or perhaps in an effort to cut down on the length of the CV, a candidate may omit educational information. Again, it may seem obvious, but it’s critical to provide information on your work history and school/university. We’re very interested in where you’ve been, and when, and what you’ve been doing.

Clutter: Where am I supposed to look?

You want your CV to stand out visually – but not for the wrong reasons. Unnecessary tables, random words in bold, distracting use of colour – all of these are examples we’ve seen of techniques that are clearly meant to impress, but only result in confusion on the page.

Use bold fonts sparingly, and only to draw the eye towards the highlights. Keep visual distractions to a minimum – a clean, well organised CV is far more likely to be read and remembered than something that feels confused or gimmicky. One other note: check for misspellings. A typo can stand out in the worst way. Some common examples we see are ‘manger’ for ‘manager’ and ‘achievement’ for ‘achievement’. Have someone proofread your CV and give you honest feedback.

Cliché: Find a fresh way to express yourself

Certain phrases have been repeated so often down the years they lose all meaning. Yet being creatures of habit, we tend to use them as placeholders for what it is we are really trying to say. In CV terms, we often see examples of this with such expressions as ‘I work well on my own or as part of a team’. The subtext here is that you can be either collaborative or self-directed. If it’s not true for you, don’t say it. And if it is true, try to be more specific by incorporating these phrases into specific achievements, such as a project you spearheaded or a team-based initiative that got results.
Another example is ‘I want to work in a fast-paced environment’. Again, what are you really saying here? Perhaps you mean you simply want to be challenged on a regular basis, or maybe you thrive on creating order out of chaos. In either event, try to use concrete goals when stating your career objectives.

Writing a top-notch CV can be a struggle. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make it perfect and memorable – and a lot can be riding on the outcome. But your recruiter is available to help and guide you – and if you start with these basic tips, you’re well on your way.

Do you have any simple CV writing tips? What common errors have you seen, or been guilty of? We’d like to hear from you!

KDR Recruitment is the home of the best data, technology and analytics jobs. For more career advice follow KDR on LinkedIn.

Chris Bongard

May 22nd, 2014 View my profile

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