How to create the best CV to get the job of your dreams.

There is no shortage of information about CV or resume writing. Do a Google search and you will find in the region of 560,000,000 results. Now that is a lot of research reading!

 Whilst this article will cover some of the basics, it assumes a degree of understanding on how to write a CV and provides advice on creating the best version to help you get the job of your dreams.

So, let’s start with some basics.

What to include in your CV

There are loads of templates available and the good news is that there’s not a right or wrong version. There are just choices, essentially of layout, of how you want your CV to be presented.

What they have in common is the core content:

  • Contact details
  • Profile summary or overview
  • Core skills and strengths
  • Professional experience or achievements
  • Work history
  • Education and qualifications
  • Interests
  • References

Whilst layout is a matter of personal preference, what is essential is the attention to detail. This means getting the dates right, accounting for gaps in work history. More importantly, it is vital that your CV is thoroughly checked for spelling and grammatical errors.

Recruiters receive hundreds of CVs on a daily basis are highly skilled at scanning through them and finding the holes that you thought didn’t matter. You are less likely to be shortlisted if there are errors on your CV. It is a harsh fact. If you cannot be bothered to check for mistakes, the recruiter will select the candidate who can for the interview stage.

Getting the font style right on your CV

It may seem an insignificant detail, but your choice of font and font size all contribute to the presentation of your CV. At the very least, recruiters need to be able to read the content, so your CV needs to be clear, concise, and readable.

The best font choice and size is an easy-to-read, clear font. Avoid using fun, original, or wacky fonts – it just looks unprofessional. Maintaining a standard style and size not only helps recruiters read your CV, but it can also be scanned using ATS (Application Tracking Systems), too. We’ll be covering more about ATS shortly.

This means the most commonly used font style in the UK for CV writing is Arial because it is simple, clear and readily accepted.

Other popular fonts include Times New Roman, Calibri, Verdana, Georgia and Cambria amongst others. As long as you choose a font that is standard, easy to read and presents your CV in a legible, professional manner, it is a good choice.

The best font size for your CV

The temptation is not difficult to understanding. You want to say a lot, so compensate by selecting a tiny font size to fit it all in. Yet this is counterproductive in CV writing if recruiters give up reading because you have made it too hard on the eye.  

Equally, a really large font gives the impression that you have nothing to say and are trying to bulk out your CV. And no recruiter wants to feel like that are undergoing an eye test!

The best font size for your CV is 11 or 12 for the main text and size 14 for subheadings. Your name, which is the main title, should be the biggest text size on your CV, irrespective of the layout design.

How to optimise your CV for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

With advances in technology, the use of ATS software has risen considerably in the past decade. It is used to electronically scan CVs submitted by candidates online to filter out weaker applications before they reach recruiters. ATS considers elements such as terminology, layout and how compatible your CV is with the job application requirements.

Around 75% of CVs get rejected by ATS software before they even get read by a human.

Whilst many online CV builders now help you navigate the hurdles of creating an ATS-ready document, knowing a few tips on how you can optimise your CV for ATS is still going to be useful to get the job of your dreams.

Avoid bespoke graphics or fonts

As we have already established, your CV is going to be useless if it cannot be read by either recruiters or ATS. Whilst designer graphics and features like custom borders or fonts may look eye-catching visually, they can also play havoc with ATS filters. Keep things simple and ensure your CV is easy-to-read by using common fonts and graphics.

Use the most appropriate key words for the industry you are applying to

Keywords in a CV are an essential way of demonstrating your knowledge of a field and the job you are targeting. ATS software are tailored to specifically check the volume of specific phrases used within the industry the job is in. If key words are not identified, your CV will not meet the criteria.

However, do not go overboard with keywords in your CV

Overloading a CV with keywords will make it just as likely to be rejected as having too few. First and foremost, your CV needs to be readable and coherent in demonstrating your ability to do the job which you are applying for. If it is just a menu of repetitive key words, ATS will recognise that the substance of content is weak.

Make your CV relevant to the role and the employer

This accounts for one of the top reasons people do not get recruited, and ATS saves companies time by scanning for those “copy and paste” CVs that have been batch sent. It is essential that you tailor the information in your CV to the job to which you are applying. Any recruiter wants to know that you are the best candidate for the job and will measure your CV against the specific skills being advertised in the role. If you do not tailor your CV to contain the relevant information, you cannot expect to be selected for shortlisting stages.

Save your CV as a PDF file.

As crazy as it sounds, 46% of applications fail because they were submitted as the wrong file type. With that in mind, it is definitely worth checking the employer’s instructions to see if they have specified a format preference. Always follow the guidance in the job listing as failure to comply sends the wrong message before you even get a foot in the door.

The most common file format is sending your CV application in PDF. It is a simple and easy format for software to read and is often asked for as a requirement. In some instances, a company may ask for a simple text format (.txt) or as a word file (.docx) instead. Be aware, the type of document you use to create your CV could change the CV format if opened using a different programme or format.

Actions to take before you submit your CV to the job of your dreams

You have found your dream job. The specification matches your skills and strengths perfectly. This is the new path that will make you happy and fulfilled. You are excited and cannot wait to submit your brilliant, relevant optimised CV. But before you do, here are some final actions to take to give yourself the best chance of making that dream job a reality.

Check, proofread, check

Get out the job specification requirements and check against your CV to make double-sure that you have tailored it accordingly. Remove anything that is not relevant to the role. Make sure the opening statement explicitly explains why you are the ideal candidate for the job.

Proofread for spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Check you have named and saved the file appropriately.

Contact your referees

It is generally expected that references will be available upon request, so it is not advisable to include references in your CV. However, as references can be asked at any stage of the recruitment process, it is always good practice to inform referees if you are actively applying for jobs. It means reference requests will not be a surprise and process will be smoother.

Review your online image

It is a well-known fact that many companies will Google candidates to get an idea of character, validate information in a CV and check the new potential employee is a good fit for the organisation and its values. So, with that in mind, it’s a good idea to review your online presence and ensure you are happy with what you portray. Now is the time to turn profiles to private mode if you are not using them for professional purposes – and you can also ensure your professional platforms like LinkedIn are up to date. If you don’t review your online presence, someone else certainly will.

Know the preferred method of receipt

Now is the best time to check where the company prefers to receive applications. However, it is requested, find out who will read it and address them by name. This sometimes may require a bit more effort and a degree of research, but the reward is that your application is personal. And that is a good impression to give to the employer of your dream job!

If you want more help finding the job of your dreams, I can support you on your journey and offer a range of coaching packages and the following CV support services to meet your needs:

  • Proof-reading
  • Spelling and grammar checks
  • Key words
  • CV edits
  • CV optimising for ATS
  • CV full review
  • Full CV writing

Contact me for more information about coaching and CV support services.

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For more CV help, you might like these related posts

Why should submitting your curriculum vitae be like serving toast for breakfast? [03.09.22]

How to create an ATS-friendly CV using keywords. [27.09.22]


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