How to Write a CV
How to Write a CV
How to write a CV was one of the most popular questions I was asked while I was a coach at the Google Digital Garage in Manchester. Consider this how-to guide what I would say if you stepped into the Google Digital Garage in Manchester and asked about how to write your CV. Its aim is to help you write your CV, show off your strength accomplishments and potential to future employers. and of course feel marvellous whilst you do it. I’ve taken examples from My Own CV which I’m pleased to say did get me my most recent job and so I hope they help you too. As a rule, I tried to keep my CV under two pages long on A4 and try to put the most useful information near the beginning. While I’m writing I make two assumptions; recruiters will not read all of it and to save to save time, they will skim and scan to get through it as quickly as possible.
If you’re looking for specific info then click on the links to find out about:
- What you should include in your cv
- Contact details and personal statement
- Skills and Strengths
- Achievements, Employment History and Qualifications
- Additional info
- Tips and tricks for time-saving
- CV Family Tree
- Formatting and using templates
Let’s make one thing clear though and it’s something that I think makes this job of writing your CV particularly difficult. There is no perfect CV. There are no official rules and there are no fixed guidelines. Consequently this can be overwhelming when it comes to writing a CV, however I think it’s a reason to be excited. Writing a CV that’s personal, professional and makes that all-important positive first impression is a rewarding challenge. So let’s start exploring how to write a CV.
With most things on your CV the fact that you’re being so concise can be a Trigger Point for your confidence however make this an advantage. it commonly accepted that recruiters won’t have time to read everything, so once you have drafted your personal statement go over it and ask 3 questions:
- Is it essential for them to read this?
- Would it be good if they read this but not the end of the world if they miss it?
- is it even relevant?
Asking these questions in this order will help you to sequence the information you’ve written. put the essential stuff first, the good stuff II and finally if it’s relevant, keep it in but if you can’t say yes to those three questions then just get rid of it.
Finally, while you might feel pressured to stand out and use a particular vocabulary, something is better than nothing and plain English definitely outranks obscure terminology for the sake of trying to sound original or unique.
Let’s look at what to include, the words that should end up on the page. We’ll cover how to arrange and format them too but getting them written is the first step. Don’t worry about how you phrase things at this particular stage just get your ideas on paper and then when you redraft them you can look at the best wording too. The following sections will take you step by step through the process of writing your CV
Simplicity is key here and while many people will tell you to include lots of other details, and in fact, in certain sectors and Industries you may be expected to, as a standard I would keep things to an absolute minimum and include the following:
- Your name and any letters after it
- Your current role if you’re employed at the moment
- Your specialism
- An email address and a phone number
Treat this section as if it were a business card and unless you expect prospective employers to write to you or visit your home there really is no need to include your full address. it can be scary not to include more detail here but don’t let that shake your confidence, ultimately all they really need to know is who you are, and how to get in touch with you. If you can include something to whet the appetite like a specialism or a job title which relates to the role you’re applying for all the better.
Currently, mine reads:
Alex Robertshaw MA (Hons), PGCE with QTS
✆ 07508852275 🖂 email@example.com
Training, Coaching and Education Specialist
I think the hardest thing to write on your CV is your personal statement. And the fact that it usually goes near the beginning of the document makes the whole thing feel stressful. But here’s the deal you’re going to make with yourself: this is the trickiest bit but once it’s done it gets easier. Just aim for three or four sentences you think a friendly colleague would say about you. And just to make this section even more uncomfortable it’s usually written in a very particular way. First of all, you write in the third person, (which put me on the back foot when I had to do it) and then secondly you actually miss out pronouns like he, she, etc.
Finally, everyone and their dog will start by saying something like a friendly, professional and hard-working individual looking for a new challenge in… Of course they do it’s usually true but it’s a good idea to avoid these phrases because a recruiter may have seen 30 times or more before they read your CV. Ultimately it’s important to get your ideas down and later on when you review them you can find alternative ways to rephrase them if you think they sound overused. However, if it’s the best phrase you can come up with and the only alternatives are obscure or archaic then just keep it simple and be clear.
Here’s mine as an example:
Dynamic, innovative and empathic team player who quickly develops a positive rapport with both colleagues and clients alike. Specialising in interactive and immersive experience creation and delivery. Has frequently been commended by both managers and clients for his friendly, patient and supportive delivery style.
This can be very easy to do: think of specific things you can do; wordprocessing, translation, first aid etc. These are skills. Then think of things you’re good at; leadership, negotiation, project management and these are your strengths. Make a list of these so that recruiters and employers can easily match you up with their job specification.
Here’s mine as an example:
Skills and Strengths
|MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites, G-Suites WordPress, Moodle, Hootsuite, Solution Mapping||Communication Skills, Confidence Building Time Management Coaching Problem Solving, Negotiation, Empathy|
Currently, I combine my achievements with my employment history, but there’s no reason not to do these as separate sections. If you do that, I’d recommend putting the achievements section above the employment history. This disadvantage of this is as I found, needing just that bit of extra room to explain in which role you made your marvellous impact. Here’s the example of this from my CV:
Google Digital Garage, Manchester, Digital Skills Coach, 1 Oct 2017 – 10 Jan 2019
One to one mentoring and delivering sessions on Social Media use for businesses, Starting a Business, Beginners Digital Skills and CV and Cover Letter writing.
- First Steps Online attendance grew to 16 members a week from a previous average of 5 by fostering a community atmosphere.
- Raised final week attendance of Start Your Own Business from 4 in the previous cohort to 13 by highlighting benefits of the whole course completion
As you can see from this example above I’ve chosen to lead with The company name because in this instance it helps me to stand out having worked for such a well-known brand. In this instance, I’ve also included details on what my job entails because they aren’t clear from the job title. However, in the next example, you can see that I’ve altered this format slightly to focus on the job role, particularly because in both schools I perform the same role and I’m anticipating that most people have a good idea of what duties and responsibilities teachers have. Especially if they work in the industry too. For each role remember to include a start and end date or if it’s your current role you can just put the start date and then “to present” to show you still work there.
Teacher of Drama and English
Milton High School, Walton Grange, 1 Sept 2015-31 Aug 2017
St Sebastian’s High School, Misty Rock, 1 Sept 2010- 31 Aug 2015
- Implemented an updated Key Stage 3 drama syllabus with a focus on transferable skills training, making the subject relevant to all students.
- Improved engagement with Shakespeare Schools Festival, growing the group to 24 students from 13 in the previous year.
If you have a long employment history may want to consider only reporting to the past 10 years or so. Then what I do is write out the rest on the second page and just put a note on the first page to let the reader go where to find that information if they want it
Unless they are relevant to the role I don’t include any qualifications I obtained except for my degree and my teacher training certificate. This is mainly to save space but because making additions and changes before submitting an application is so easy to do. It’s very easy to add any additional qualifications which I have if they have been mentioned in the job advert.
By this point Have used up the first page however if that’s not possible for you, use the second page but at all costs do not let your CV go beyond two pages. If you have got room to include additional information this is where you can talk about your hobbies and interests, if you have a driving licence, and any training that you’ve completed either independently or as part of you’re working life. Hobbies are also a great way of showing your human side, your ability to learn new things and demonstrate skills that are not obvious from your work experience or your qualifications. If you’re applying for a job as an accountant it may not seem valuable to mention scuba diving but actually this is a great way to demonstrate you take an active role in self-development, you can follow policies and instructions, and you’re able to learn new things. What kind of employer would turn that down?
This is also a good place to disclose information that answers questions you feel may come up at interview but would rather avoid having to answer. During one interview I was asked why I didn’t work more than two days a week and I felt really embarrassed. The reason was after my dad died I just couldn’t cope with full-time hours, but as you can imagine when an interviewer asked about it I just really awkward. I just muttered something about not having found the right role yet. After this incident, I decided to include a short statement to explain my employment gap but also reaffirm my readiness to come back to full-time work. Here is how I wrote that on my CV:
Employment Gap: Sept – October 2017
Due to the death of my father in September last year, I had to take a break from full-time work. Since October 2017, I have been working part-time as a Digital Skills Coach in Manchester. However, now I am looking forward to my next full-time role.
Since this point, I’ve found a full-time job so this part no longer needs to be on my CV. However, because it’s a digital document making updates and edits is very quick and easy. There are more details of how to take advantage of the digital age in my next section: Tips & Tricks
The most important thing is your CV is clear and succinct. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel or write War and Peace. It’s perfectly acceptable to write out the whole thing without using a template too. I used Google Docs to create mine. There are however loads of great templates that you can find online from within Word or Docs to places like Canva and Freepik.
You can use a CV scanner to check it’s compatibility with automatic readers that some recruiters use now and these work best with Word files (.docx). Otherwise, I prefer to save it as a PDF because they’re readable on most devices.
When it comes to colour schemes and fonts is to first of all consider practicalities: is the font easy to ready, sans serif for dyslexia friendliness. Will the colours work if the CV is printed off in black and white. If you’re satisfied with your choices and really want to go the extra mile you could check out the employer’s website. There’s no need to match font set and colour shade for shade but if you can find something similar it might set you off to a good start. For this kind of CV it would be good to create a copy of the one you usually use and then adapt it, that way you have a ‘mother CV’ you can easily go back to for other applications. See the next section.
Finally when you save your CV, remember you’re sending it to someone who receives similar files all the time. Make their life a little easier: include your name and the date in the file. For example alexrobertshawcv2019.pdf
Sometimes I wonder how many cv.docx and cv.pdf files are clogging up recruiters hard drives…
How to adapt your CV for different jobs quickly and easily was also a popular question posed to me during my time at The Google Digital Garage and over time I developed this slightly odd but helpful
As the saying goes, work smart, not hard and there are a few ways in which you can save time if you want to really smash the job hunt. Let’s talk about creating a family tree of CVs first of all.
Essentially this CV is your own resource. It’s going to break the main rule of going over two pages but that’s okay because you’re not going to send it anyway. Instead, you’re going to use this record all the possible information you might tell any employer. You could also use it as a place to record the names and contact details of all your references. Whenever you achieve something at work, that should be recorded too. Don’t worry too much about formatting for this one, but do take care over spelling, punctuation and grammar because the main purpose of this CV is to copy and paste from into Mother and Specialist CVs.
This CV is a digest of the best and brightest features from the Grandmother CV. You might send this CV out if you don’t have time left to prepare a more specialised application as an alternative to not applying what-so-ever. Keep a copy of this stored as a PDF on your phone, then if you find yourself being asked for CV, which will happen from time to time, you can just shoot it over there and then. For this reason make sure you’re happy with the presentation. For more on that check out the section on formatting your CV.
Sister CVs: similar but distinct CVs tailored for specific applications
From the Mother CV, you can now create sector specialist CVs and even specific CVs for job applications. This might be doing as little as re-ordering the Mother CV to suit a specific application or as much as swapping things out for info from the Grandmother CV, changing the font, colour scheme and layout. These Sister CVs don’t need to be made all at once, in fact, that sounds like a nightmare to even suggest. Instead, you’ll build these CVs as you get to know the industry or sector you’re focussing on. You may even find that one of the Sister CVs takes over as a new Mother CV, it’s all up to you.
Well done, you made it all the way through this How to Guide for creating and formatting a CV. You should be proud that your taking steps to further your career and advance yourself. All that remains to be said is be patient, persistent and prepared to change your CV as you learn more about the industry. Don’t look at the need to change as a criticism of your efforts but as an exciting opportunity to make your CV even stronger. I know how hard the job hunt can be, how unhelpful the world can seem and the temptation just to give up: but don’t. You’ll get there eventually, keep trying!