How to write a resume: Tips & template main region

How to write a resume: Tips & template

CV writing can be a daunting prospect when starting your job search, particularly if it has been a long time since you last entered the job market or if you are looking for your first professional role. Your CV, along with your cover letter, is what a potential employer uses to make their first judgement about you.

Knowing how to write a good CV will help you stand out from all the other applicants and reach the interview shortlist. Your CV must demonstrate that you possess most or all the criteria required in the job. Tailor your CV for each position you apply for by expanding on your experience relevant to the job and cutting back the less relevant parts.

Your CV must also get past any initial screening algorithms, or applicant tracking systems (ATS), which identify suitable candidates based on the use of relevant keywords.

Follow our tips for updating your CV or download our CV template below.

Importance of a good CV

Think of your CV as your own living, breathing personal pitch – a pitch that succinctly answers all the questions a recruiter or hiring manager has about you. The degree to which you present the reader with the information they require to make an informed decision can determine whether you are invited to interview.

This includes why you are applying for this job, with this organisation and in this industry, what value you can bring to the organisation and whether you have what is required to be successful in the role.

To leave the reader with no doubt about your suitability, you must present a strong CV that clearly conveys this information.

To do this, below you’ll find our tips for updating your CV. Alternatively, you can download our CV template.

How to structure and write a great CV 

  • Contact details - Start with the basics such as your name, phone number, email address (make sure it’s a professional sounding one) and LinkedIn profile link.
  • Professional summary - In 50 to 150 words, describe your applicable experience. This summary should prove your value and help to differentiate you. Avoid describing what you’d like from your next job and instead focus on what you can offer. Use keywords from the job description so that an ATS can find a match.
  • Skills summary – List the systems, skills and competencies that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Use keywords from the job description here too.
  • Achievements - Then list your key career achievements, supported by facts, statistics or links. Keep in mind, this is a summary to grab interest by demonstrating you can successfully add value to an organisation.
  • Work experience -
    • This should be the most detailed section of your CV, with positions listed in reverse order, beginning with the most recent. Include employer names, positions and primary responsibilities.
    • If your job title is unconventional, it is perfectly acceptable to replace it with a recognisable equivalent.
    • It is important to quantify your accomplishments. Focus on the value you added in each role, rather than simply listing what your duties were. This section shouldn’t read like a job description. Rather, it should tell the story of your unique strengths and accomplishments. Think of your biggest achievements for each role and provide concrete, quantifiable evidence of each. One way to help you do this is to use action verbs such as “managed” or “oversaw”. Such verbs force you to focus on what you achieved and your results in each role, which proves the value of your experience.
    • Avoid overused clichés in you CV that can waste valuable space. Instead, include examples of your work to demonstrate your strengths. Remember that proof is in your results.
    • We also advise you not to leave gaps in your work experience. If you took a year out, carried out an interim assignment, or travelled for six months, say so. Stating just the years you started or finished a role can also send off alarm bells. Writing "2019 - 2020" could be interpreted as employment from December 2019 to January 2020 unless you say otherwise.
  • Education & qualifications – Keep it concise by listing the qualification obtained, year of completion, the institution’s name and a one-sentence summary.
  • References - Include details of two references, ideally former employers. If you are a graduate with no work history, include details of a former lecturer. The referees recruiters and employers value the most are those people you reported to directly who can speak about how you used your skills and experience to add value to their organisation.
  • Document format - Most organisations will upload your CV into their database so make sure it is in a commonly acceptable format. We recommend a cleanly formatted Microsoft Word Document with no graphics, images no fancy formatting or fonts. While a creative CV may look good, graphics and special fonts can be difficult for an ATS to process.
  • Final checks - Don't forget to spell check your CV, it is the first impression your potential employer will have of you, so take the time to get it right. If possible, ask someone to check for any spelling, layout or typing errors.
  • Finally, attach or submit your CV and cover letter if requested. Unless otherwise stated, you don’t need to attach copies of certificates, qualifications or references. You should instead bring these to a job interview.

Final tips to remember when writing your CV

By the time the recruiter or hiring manager reaches the end of your CV, they will have more than likely made their decision about whether to add your CV to the interview pile or not. Here are five final tips to help your CV reach the shortlist:

  1. Tailor your CV for each application: To make the interview shortlist, your CV must demonstrate that you possess most or all the criteria required in the job. Tailor your job application for each position you apply for by expanding on your experience relevant to the job and cutting back the less relevant parts.You should also show that you are genuinely interested in this job. Failing to tailor your CV by submitting a blanket application will not impress. So, weave into your professional summary the reasons that make you a good fit for this particular job and what specifically resonates with you about the organisation or role.
  2. Add quantifiable results: As mentioned above, providing evidence to support the claims you make on your CV brings it to life and establishes for the reader the value you could bring. However, not every role allows for the sort of measurement by which you can prove your expertise. If you find yourself unsure how to add quantitative evidence this blog provides some tips. Adding links to your LinkedIn profile and online portfolios of work can also help the reader build a better picture of your competencies.
  3. Use keywords from the job description: Your application must also get past screening algorithms or an ATS, which identify suitable candidates based on the use of relevant keywords in their CV. Therefore, ensure you use keywords from the job description so that a screening algorithm or ATS identifies you as a suitable match.
  4. Don’t gloss over career breaks: If you have taken time out from your career, such as to travel or retrain, it’s important not to gloss over them or try to hide them in your CV. Instead, outline how you used that time to generate value in different areas of your life or build your skillset.
  5. Pay attention to detail: By making a concerted effort to ensure your CV is 100% error-free, you are providing another signal to the reader that you could be the right person for the job. Above all, checking for errors will build the perception in the reader’s mind that you are conscientious and pay attention to detail. The fact of the matter is that a simple typo could mean your job application is rejected, so proofread your CV at least once before sending it. Check your formatting, spelling and grammar. Make sure all the hyperlinks work. Here are some final tips on how to make sure your CV is error-free.

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