There are hundreds of ideas about what the perfect CV should look like. In reality, the perfect CV varies and will be impacted by many factors such as target industry sector, target country and target profession. Remember your CV is a selling document and a marketing tool with one purpose – to win an interview.

Whether you are job seeking in a difficult climate when positions are scarce or in a buoyant market when making the right move is vital, research proves that employers scan rather than read resumes, potential employers are often looking for reasons to reject a CV rather than accept it. Consider the following points to increase the likelihood that your CV will make an impression for all of the right reasons.

Structure:

  • Be aware of cultural norms in the country that you are applying to. For example, an eight page CV whilst normal in South Africa will not be received gratefully by a US employer whose norm is a one page document.
  • Ensure your contact details are on and are correct.
  • Portray yourself as positively as possible, be truthful and don’t be afraid to sell your skills.
  • Put your employment and education in reverse chronological order with the most recent first.
  • Your CV is not a static document, adapt your CV to the position you are applying for.
  • Focus on your most recent positions, providing the most information about them.
  • Highlight and if possible quantify achievements (e.g. “met 100% of sales targets and grew the division by 25% within the first year of employment”).
  • If your academic record isn’t as strong as your employment record, put your education details after your career on your CV.
  • Avoid speaking about yourself in the third person.

Presentation and formatting:

  • Avoid coloured paper, fancy fonts and photographs.
  • Use a sensible, professional font and ensure it is consistent throughout your document.
  • Use bullet points; be concise and to the point.

Spelling and grammar:

  • Always check, double check and check your CV again for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Show it to family and friends to get their opinion and ensure it is a true representation of you.

Hobbies and interests:

  • Hobbies and interests should be the second last item on your CV, before reference details.
  • Avoid information in this section that allows a potential employer to make a non-professional judgement on you. Avoid hobbies such as “drinking,” “clubbing,” “partying” etc.
  • Employers want to see a well rounded candidate, but never lie to make yourself seem more exciting or more of a team player, etc.

Online applications:

  • When applying online, make sure you provide a sensible email address such as johndoe@gmail.com. Email addresses such as drinkingking@hotmail.com and supersexylady@yahoo.com will not create a good first impression with a potential employer and could be a reason for immediate disqualification from a role regardless of your relevant qualifications and experience.
  • Remember that more and more potential employers are using the internet and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc., so be aware of the personal information you have on such sites and how accessible it is to the general public.
  • When applying for roles by email, use full words and proper sentence structure and grammar. It is easy to use a simplified and abbreviated text similar to texting, but it could cost you an interview.
  • Always ensure your spelling and grammar check is switched on in your email account.
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