Aside from ensuring that your CV is well structured, the content you choose to include and how it’s written are equally important.
When applying for jobs in a competitive market, this guide will help you find the right words for securing that all-important interview.
Adopting the right tone
Above all else your CV should be confident. Employers not only want to hear about your relevant successes but also why and how you’ve achieved them.
This confidence however is not about over-stating how great you are without any substance. Wordy jargon or buzzwords like "highly-motivated" or "team-player" are hollow in isolation as every CV uses them. So your aim should be to stand out by giving facts and figures – hard evidence that speaks for itself.
Being too wordy without purpose is harmful. Rambling on is usually taken as a sign of lacking confidence, so your CV should remain sharp and snappy for quick reference.
Avoiding any negativity
In terms of language, your CV should steer away from putting things in negative terms. So when addressing any adversity for example, the technique is to present such "challenges" as triumphant.
Avoiding negative words such as "hate", "argued", "quit", "ignored" or "tried" is best policy, even if they honestly reflect your personal feelings. Alternative suitable phrases would be "overcame", "persuaded", "re-approached" and "delivered" for example.
Similarly negative experiences shouldn’t be conveyed as acts of failure but as opportunities for personal development. So for instance an occasion where maybe difficulties within your team caused a missed deadline, you might say the experience taught you valuable lessons about people management, hinting at how that knowledge has been applied since.
Assertive and dynamic
The way you choose to phrase things should also avoid generalisations. Don’t make bold, sweeping but ultimately hollow statements you could back with facts.
Employers love reading figures especially when it comes to business and seeing you quote them suggests you care too. So a phrase like “consistent record for raising productivity” is improved by saying: "Increased yearly productivity by x%".
Active sentences describing things in practical terms is also preferable. Be proud as opposed to coy or passive and use high-impact words like "implemented" and "exceeded" to get the point across. If you "headed a 4-strong team generating £3,000 new business per week" then say it!
The same technique should also be applied to your abilities. Avoid any doubt from prefacing statements with "some people have said" or "occasionally I’ve been told." You know you have these skills, no matter who told you, so say it like it is.
Tailored to fit
Something easy to overlook is the importance of tailoring your CV to each job application. Sure, many of the background and academic details tend to remain the same but the tone and emphasis needs to change.
We know you only have a finite amount of space and time to highlight your abilities on your CV though. So it’s likely you’ll want to shift certain aspects to the front, emphasising the more relevant details. Within this you could also try to work in particular keywords used in the original job ad.
Your description of certain experiences also might require a new perspective depending on the job you are applying for. For example if you’re seeking employment in media, journalism or editing, then your CV writing has extra importance. Employers who demand high standards of English, an eye for detail and perhaps good IT skills will scrutinise the accuracy and quality of the document more closely.
Review and update
A good technique is to constantly revisit and refine your CV. Over time and with experience, your technique for language will improve. Couple this to the natural self-confidence you develop during spells of employment and your CV should surely reflect that.
Taking time to periodically re-read your CV and consider how you might describe yourself again today is essential. You might even feel compelled to write sections again, or approach the whole thing from scratch.
It’s all about refining what you say and how you say it in the most concise way, and you’ll be surprised how your perceptions here evolve.
Masterpiece in the making
There is an art to writing a CV but if you follow these tips you shouldn’t feel daunted by the prospect. The aim isn’t to frame it and pop it on the wall, but to climb that first employment step.
Very few jobs are gained on the strength of a CV alone, so how you profile yourself here is crucial to securing an interview. Take any feedback you get and be objective – writing a successful CV is a continuing process, as a masterpiece is never finished!