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The Perfect Guide to Writing a Captivating CV

Written by: Jeffry Jones at 03 Oct 2014       

If you are a young person, maybe fresh after college or still a student, you might be looking for a job. That’s totally OK – many great businessmen began from that! In most cases you will be required to submit your CV (Curriculum Vitae). These strange Latin words stand for quite an understandable thing: a brief document describing your previous experience, education, and professional skills. In essence, its purpose is to sell you as an employee.

The problem is, HR departments of big companies usually get hundreds of similar cookie-cutter CVs based on the same templates from the Internet; rather than looking as exquisite, rare goods, many candidates’ poor CVs make them look like 100 kinds of similar bars of soap in a supermarket. So what should you do to make your Curriculum Vitae truly stand out from the competition? Try out the following tips.

What If You Were Choosing a Candidate?

Many job seekers are so obsessed with writing a good CV that they tend to forget an obvious fact: someone is going to read it! Moreover, you CV won’t be the only paper they read – most likely, there are dozens of other applicants already. To get a grasp of the HRs’ (or small business owners’) mindset, do an exercise: imagine you are looking for a specialist in you field – to fill the vacancy you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a position of an entry level Ruby on Rails coder, imagine you want to hire one yourself. What would be most important for you – previous experience, education, good knowledge of other programming languages or experience in IT? What personal traits would you like a candidate to demonstrate? What parts of their CVs would be the most important, and which ones would be of the least interest?

If you just think all these questions over, that’s already a huge step forward. But why don’t you go further? Try to find a website where real candidates post their CVs and choose one objectively yourself.

Honesty and Professional Image

Let’s make one thing clear: it makes no sense to lie in your CV. If you do, the lie will be discovered sooner or later; even if it does not, doing the job you have no idea about can feel like hell. On the contrary, if you truly have the capacity to do the job, you can get it without lying.

Surely, it makes sense to choose attractive wording, e.g. ‘Executive Assistant’ instead of a ‘Secretary’ – but that’s not a lie, that’s a strategic word choice. You might be surprised, but big employers often use special software to scan their applicants’ CVs for certain keywords before any real person actually reads them. Quite often those would be the same keywords you can find in the job description; therefore it makes sense to mimic its language to a certain extent. Other keywords that are relevant for your industry can be also included. And once again, don’t get too obsessed with technicalities: remember you are telling your own story.

Keep it short and to the point

The more, the better – that’s how the proverb goes. Actually, this folk wisdom is far from the best advice to those who write CVs. In most cases the best size for a CV is not more than 2 pages (the front and the back, if you have to submit its printed version). It’s okay to make a draft version with all your qualifications, experiences, and hobbies listed. But when you write your actual CV for a specific vacancy, concentrate on the relevant information only. For instance, your beginner knowledge of Chinese can be seen as an advantage if you are applying for a customer support job in a big international corporation, but rather an unnecessary detail if you are going to teach math.

As we’ve said earlier, the job advertisement has a lot of good cues on what to write about and what language to use. To go even deeper, visit the employer’s webpage and try to realize their mission and goals. Are there any other qualities they expect from their employees? Do you have such qualities? If ‘yes’, make sure you mention them in your CV!

Live Check

It was proven scientifically that we are not good at noticing our own mistakes. Spell-checking software is not a cure-all either. If you have a couple of spare bucks, try out professional editing services. If not, any real human being can do quite well, especially if it’s not your close friend. Ask them to check your text for correctness, readability, style, general layout, etc.

And most importantly, ask them if they would hire you with such a CV. Good luck!

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