How to write the perfect CV
The CV is one of those things in life that many people struggle with, BUT it can be far easier than we think.
As an international recruitment consultant, I have seen thousands of CVs from all over the world and I instantly know when I’m looking at a great CV just from a first scan.
So, what makes a perfect CV?...
- It has an opening profile or summary that gives the reader an excellent overview of your skills before leaving the top half of page one.
- Your employment history is clear and in order with the most recent experience first, which is often the most important part of any CV.
- I can get a good grasp of the relevant skills either as a separate section under the profile or beneath the work history headings.
- The titles are clear and stand out, making scanning the CV a breeze, with the dates running consecutively.
- Any overlapping dates or gaps are explained.
- The writing is clear and summarises your experience nicely.
- Key accomplishments are easy to find.
It’s competitive out there so to increase your chance of success make it clear, concise and powerful!
- Look at your CV from the point of view of a company - Is it easy to read? Do your listed skills represent and include your experience? Is the information in the correct order? Are the titles clear with dates that tie in? Will the reader get a feeling for what you are about, what you're looking for and what you have to offer.
- Buzzwords do look great, but make sure you’re using them correctly, otherwise they’ll undermine your authority. As long as you know your ADCs from your DACs then having these terms in your CV won’t hurt. They’ll bring your CV to the top and we can keep you informed of the most relevant opportunities.
- I’ve heard differing opinions from my candidates about the optimum length of a CV. Usually, this impression has been given to them by friends and colleagues, or, in most cases, inexperienced recruitment consultants. So, a CV doesn’t have to be one or two pages; as long as the content is pertinent, it should be included. Remember…
- Write your CV with all the relevant info you want to communicate to your potential new employer.
- Then look at it and ask yourself “does this reflect me and my experience?”
- Examine the length and be rational about it. If you have two to three years of experience, then one or two pages is fine, but if you’re a PhD grad with publications and research experience then even up to four or five pages is common. If you have 15-20 years’ experience then it would, of course, be expected for this to be around three to four pages.
- Make sure it’s not a wall of words, or conversely, too brief. One-page CVs, in my opinion, are often too short to be effective.
- Rationale and balance are the things to keep in mind while writing your CV.
FOLLOW MY STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO WRITING THE PERFECT CV BELOW:
Name and contact details
Present this important information clearly at the top of the page. Be sure to include your name, number, email address and home address. You'd be surprised how many CVs I see where the country is not stated. Feel free to add in marital status and nationality or visa status if you feel it’s beneficial. If you’re seeking roles in a different location to where you currently live, it can be worthwhile stating your intention to relocate should you get the job. If you have professional-facing social media accounts, here is the place to put links to those too.
The best CVs have an opening profile or summary section, which is a golden opportunity for you to outline your years of experience, expertise, personality and goals. It should only be a paragraph or two and a mix of hard and soft skills. Technical CVs focus on primarily hard skills, which are presented as factual with design blocks, areas of technical expertise, leadership skills, the position desired and the individual’s goals. A sales CV, on the other hand, would include more about the person’s soft skills, which might include dealing with people and communication techniques.
- Summarise your experience in the first line. There is nothing better than opening up a CV to see year’s worth of experience or MSc or PhD qualifications right there in front of you. It keeps me reading.
This is my favourite section and often the most relevant. My biggest frustration is having to solve a puzzle to uncover a candidate's work experience. Clear titles and formatting help with this and make sure they’re differentiated, using bold type, a font size larger or a different colour.
Then add the organisation's name and location; your job title and position; and the dates of your employment. The experience can start with a description, or you may prefer bullet points, it comes down to your own personal style.
Shortening your writing in the following way can work well: ‘Set up systems in 2Ghz frequency’,, so consider the overall look of this section. Once you’ve decided on a format, keep it consistent for clarity.
- Stating '2017 – present' rather than '2017-2023' on your most recent role means your CV will be up to date for longer. If your job title doesn’t reflect the role you’re doing or the position you’re applying for then you can be more descriptive. For example, an analog IC design engineer is a lot more relevant than a design engineer.
Skills or technical summary
A skills or technical summary is often found under the opening profile or sometimes beneath work experience, but before the education section. If your most recent job doesn’t list the proficiencies you want to highlight from a number of years ago, that’s when a skills section on the page could be handy.
It’s usually in list form and a summary of the technical skills, tools and software knowledge you’ve developed throughout your career. I do find it useful, but I'm more interested in the last five years' experience, so if your skills section is taking up the bottom half of page one then you’re pushing the most interesting part of your CV down onto page two.
If you’re a recent graduate then this section is best located under the opening profile, but if you’re an experienced engineer then it wouldn’t make sense to push your most recent job and skills a lot further down the CV. This is an example of how your CV should evolve throughout your career to suit the different stages you find yourself in.
For an experienced engineer, education can be summarised in the opening profile or even a small section underneath, but in most cases, it’s best positioned at the end of the work experience section. For a grad, this is your main experience and should be below the profile, listing the name of your qualification, university and the thesis topic. Complete this section with a tidy list of projects and work done.
Every one is different and we will sometimes have relevant information to include that doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into the sections above. These should be included at the end, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re an afterthought. If you’ve got a similar level of qualification and experience to another candidate, these added extras can set you apart from the crowd.
- Languages - list the languages you speak and the level of proficiency. As a recruiter, I often look for this section.
- Hobbies - a great opportunity to show a little bit about you and your personality but be sure they put you in a good light. This section can often provide a talking point in an interview, so mention your penchant for skydiving as opposed to going to the pub with your friends.
- Research interests, publications, and patents - important information to include, especially for Masters and PhD qualified engineers.
- Drivers licence – if you hold a valid licence, then make sure you include this section.
- References - it’s best to say they can be obtained upon request.
If you'd like further information please visit our CV Advice section
I hope you found this interesting and helpful, you can contact me on +44 (0)208 400 2483 at email@example.com for more information or career advice.
Good luck with creating your perfect CV!