A Guide to Writing a good CV – (also referred to as Resume or Curriculum Vitae)
Everyone you ask about writing a good CV will give a slightly different opinion. Although it is important that you feel comfortable with your CV – it is equally important to appreciate that no one CV will suit all circumstances. You should expect to adjust your CV slightly for each job you apply for.
A good CV should contain the “edited highlights” which are most relevant to the position you are applying for. So a CV cannot be “off the peg”. You should have a basic collection of material from which you can quickly tailor a “bespoke” CV.
A good CV should:
- Refer to your major achievements and identify your main areas of proven effectiveness.
- Present your background concisely, accurately and honestly, saying what you did and what the outcomes were .
- Emphasise what is relevant to the post you are applying for and how you match the job requirements .
- Be effective as a “marketing tool”.
In short, the CV should arouse interest in the reader and prompt them to take further interest in you.
You should remember that a good CV should focus on the needs of the reader not the writer. The reader will be interested in knowing what you have achieved and learned and, by implication, what you have to offer them .
- CV must be clean, neat and give an air of quality. Decisions will be made about you from the presentation of the document
- CV should be visually pleasing, with some “white space” round most items and avoiding large blocks of text
- A good CV should use headings to signpost the most relevant information – people may not initially read the whole document.
- CV should contain bullet points of interesting facts where possible, avoiding waffle, and so make it easier to scan read.
- CV must be concise. Two or three pages at most is the desirable length, with key information on the front page.
- CV should be a stand-alone document, intelligible to a reader who does not necessarily know your organisation, it should not contain jargon.
- CV should be factual and not offer a self-assessment of your qualities.
- CV should be neutral, and written in the first person ( “I”) .
Putting it all together
Putting the basic CV material together takes quite a bit of time. You will want to assemble all the facts, draft it, re-edit it, and polish it, until you are happy that you have a basic model which you can then adapt and tailor. When you think you have it in reasonable shape, why not show it to a few close colleagues or friends for their comments?
Your CV should contain:
- Personal details: name, addresses (home and office), telephone, email address and fax numbers.
- Career resume, highlighting main areas of expertise.
- Career summary, giving details of post held, roles and achievements – use positive adjectives to descibe them.
- Education, qualifications and most relevant training, include details of degrees and professional qualifications but do not give lists of Junior Cert and Leaving Cert grades.
- Additional skills, eg level of familiarity with IT systems, languages.
- Additional information such as age, date of birth, marital status, dependants and outside interests may also be included.
You should check that:
- It states succinctly what your past employers (company or department) actually do or did – how big was it and your part in it, and how significant was your role?
- Job titles convey clearly what the work involved.
- You are specific about the facts you are listing and give an idea of the scale of activity and achievements.
- You identify clearly what you think your successes were – if you mention leading a reorganisation, what was the outcome in as quantitative terms as possible?
- You clearly show progression within organisations, including dates; although you may wish to summarise early, less relevant, positions.
- You do not forget the obvious or nitty-gritty but nevertheless critical facts e.g. about the scale or scope of jobs.
- You explain any gaps
- You are honest about skills, e.g. language skills – “limited French” or “holiday French” are self-explanatory, “some fluency” is too indeterminate.
Layout of the final document is important. An attractive option is to have a career summary on the front page. This might give a potted history of yourself in terms which you think might be most relevant to the reader. The following pages might then contain additional information about your employment, achievements, learning and any relevant personal circumstances.
When you have put together a basic CV, you will have the essential material you need when you are applying for a job or for advancement. But you should think of it as something changeable that will need to be tinkered with , shaped and amended.
For example, a CV which is being used to apply for a transfer within the Civil Service could include grades and generally accepted acronyms and abbreviations. However, when applying for a post in the private sector, this information would need to be presented in a different way, for example your exact level of responsibility may need to be explained by detailing your staff and financial responsibilities.
You will need to present information on yourself appropriate to each situation. This may mean re-ordering material so that skills, experience or achievements most relevant to a specific job are near to the top of your list rather than at the bottom. You may want to draw out some aspect that is highlighted in a job description or advertisement. To make room for this, you may need to delete something which is less relevant – do not just keep adding more and more information.
The job description will normally spell out the relevant criteria, and the reader will naturally be checking to see how far candidates match them. You will want to make sure that you cover as many as possible, without stretching credibility too far, and that these skills match their needs.
See more here about Personal Statements