How to write a great CV

Imagine you’re an employer, you have a hundred CVs on your desk and from them you have to choose just a handful to interview further. What are you looking for? How do you decide? As the applicant, your aim is to clearly show that you are the right person for the job, so your CV should demonstrate that you have:

  • the specific skills needed for the job
  • the right sort of experience
  • the right personal qualities
  • an understanding of the specific requirements of the job.

But you must also keep it simple. It should be:

  • short – ideally no more than two A4 pages
  • clear – typewritten and laid out with wide margins, section headings and information in logical order
  • relevant – address the employer’s two main questions: whether you can do the job and whether you will fit in.

Your CV should be in reverse chronological order detailing you’re most recent or current position first. Start by documenting your career history, and remember that employers want to know what you can do for the organisation they are hiring for. This means that your priority should be your experience that is relevant to the role you are applying for. Write down a history of your positions over the last 3 to 5 years, and detail all your roles, your specific responsibilities, and maybe a little bit about each company.

Also, it’s always a good idea to have 2 or 3 different types of CV that describe what you do from different aspects. For instance if you’re a hotel manager, you may want to have one that is more descriptive from a hotel perspective with a lesser emphasis on the management, and vice versa, for those more management orientated positions. There’s no ideal format for how you should write your CV, nevertheless it’s good to tailor it to the position you’re applying for.

Covering letter

Personalisation to the role you are applying for and to an addressee is very important. By doing this your job application, covering letter or email will feel as if you’ve taken the time to construct your application, and recruiters are more inclined to respond out of professional courtesy. Employers obviously don’t like spam and speculative job applications that have not been personalised.

Keep your job application covering letter or email cover short and to the point, and specifically target it towards the role or industry that you’re applying for. Where possible address it to the person specifically hiring, and within the text include relevant information that will make a potential employer want to read your CV. A short line at the end of the covering letter to the effect of you appreciating a reply whether or not your application appears to be suitable never does any harm. Finally, keep a note of all your applications so if you choose to follow them up or are contacted by the employer, you have access to the information as it is too easy to lose track if you are applying for lots of jobs.