A CV is a personal document that presents your work experience to potential employers. It is basically a brochure selling your strong points. Like any brochure, your CV will be competing with other candidates. The hiring manager may sift through dozens or even hundreds of CVs, so avoid obvious mistakes and turn offs, as this will quickly eliminate your CV from the hiring process.
Bear in mind that your CV may be uploaded to a variety of software packages, or may need to be uploaded to an online careers portal, so for this reason, keep your CV layout simple - do not use boxes or tables, use the same font size and font type throughout the CV and only use black ink. For the same reason, your CV should ideally be a word document and not a pdf file.
Start off with your personal details (name, address, full contact details, availability). Details such as nationality or date of birth are optional. If relevant to the role you are applying for you may want to state that you have a full clean driver’s license.
You may wish to open your CV with a short Profile section that gives an overview of who you are - your experience, your career objective and your relevancy for the role you are appling for. Keep it short, a few sentences at most and tailor this profile for each position you apply for.
You may wish to include a Skills section in your CV to draw attention to your technical skillset or other core competencies that are relevant to the role. It is best to use bullet points for this section to make sure it is easy to read at a quick glance.
Work Experience section:
This is the most important section of your CV and hiring managers often read this first and concentrate on this. You should list all of your work experience here, starting with your current (or most recent) position listed first and then continuing in reverse chronological order. For each role, list your key responsibilities, project works on, achievements and skills used/gained. If is is a technical role, make sure that you mention the technologies you used in each role e.g. in the case of a Software Developer, make sure to include the languages, libraries, APIs and frameworks used in each.
It is best to avoid dense pragraphs of text. You want the hiring manager to be able to quickly see how relevant your experience is. Bullet points can be useful to list the details of each role you have held.
If you have a number of years of work experience, that is the most important part of your CV and you can leave your education details until near the end. If you are a graduate and don't have a lot of work experience, then it is fine to start your CV with details of your education and qualifications.
It's best to list your highest third-level qualification first in this section and then to include any other qualifications and certifications afterwards, in reverse chronological order. Make sure to include the qualification, the college/institute, the dates and the result for each. You can also include any membership of trade / professional bodies here. It is not necessary to put in your full Leaving Certificate results, unless it is your only qualification.
Finish your CV with a brief section on hobbies/interests, especially if they are relevant to your technical experience or the role you are applying for.
Some other important points:
- Use your spell checker but do not rely on it – read through your CV to double check that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.
- Don’t use dense paragraphs of text as it makes your CV hard to read. Leave plenty of 'white space' so the reader can easily scan through your CV. Bullet points can be useful when listing skills and the details of your work experience.
- Your CV should be anywhere from 2 - 3 pages long. A one page CV is too short, a 4 page CV is on the long side if you only have 2-3 years of experience.
- If you have 20 years of experience and your CV needs to be longer, that is okay as long as it is very readable and not full of paragraphs of text. You could choose to give the full details of your recent roles and to summarise some of your earlier work experience if you are concerned that your CV is too long.
- Keep it relevant. Remember your CV is not an ego exercise but a brochure which may only get 10 - 20 seconds of attention!
- Save it as a Microsoft Word document (.doc/.docx) to ensure that it can be opened universally.
- If you have any career gaps, explain them.
- Avoid clichés and generalisations. The hiring manager will read plenty of Cvs, all stating that they are “highly motivated, professional, team player with excellent communication skills" etc.
- If you have a LinkedIn site, you can refer to this in your CV. If you have a personal website and it is relevant to your application, you may also refer to this in your CV.
- Keep your CV up to date so that when needed you are prepared.
- Lastly, you should consider your CV to be a “vanilla” document, i.e. a standard basic CV which you then tailor for every individual job you apply for.