Following on from Part 1, here are some tips on writing your best CV for now. Considering you’ve been accepted into university, let’s play to your strengths and write it like an assignment!
Why are employers asking for your CV? Think of your CV as a snapshot of your career so far, to give the employer a glimpse of what you’re offering. Keep in mind that it’s a personal document. Even if your friend got hired straight from graduation, don’t mimic their CV. I’m not warning about plagiarism, I’m warning you about thinking your friend’s CV is ideal when it isn’t.
You can’t please everyone so your CV will have a very specific audience. Write with your desired employer or sector in mind. Consider what will make you successful in their organisation.
Aim for order of importance. To grab the employer’s attention early on, make them see the most relevant information first. For instance: Name, contact details, education, relevant work experience, and in some cases, essential software skills. Interests and hobbies are usually last. It’s great to have them on your CV but think of it as a bonus section.
Here is another tip to organise your writing. In the English writing guide, ‘The Elements of Style’ (Classic Edition), Strunk advises that each paragraph should signal a new point. Using this principle for a CV, ensure each bullet point is one complete thought. See this example of work experience below.
- ‘Greeting customers, solving problems, and organising stock’.
It looks like a bit like how you’d write your weekly shopping list. Ask yourself, what do I want this bullet point to say about me? If you want to show you're a strong communicator, get it across with one full bullet point. Then, dedicate a separate bullet point to a different skill. If you want to read into this further, here is an article on writing effective bullet points.
There is a special kind of language we use on a CV and you don’t learn it from academia. To start with, you are talking about yourself. First person language is normal on a CV. Yet, if you’re worried about using ‘I’ too much then start your bullet points with an action verb. For example, ‘liaised’, ‘researched’, ‘managed’. This will have the extra benefit of helping you write with an active voice. For example, ‘Evaluated market strategies’ over ‘market strategies were evaluated’. To write with a with a more confident tone, read this article on assertive applications.
Unlike in your assignments, you don’t need referee details on a CV (except for academic ones). If you have space, you can include them but first see if you can use that space for more about you.
Cut out the boring parts
If you’re using phrases like ‘this company does…’ ‘this department is responsible for...’ forget about it. The reader cares more about YOU. Stephen King, a master of clean and simple writing, warns against using too many background details. In his memoir ‘On Writing’, he says your readers are going to care a lot more about your characters. So, using this wisdom, don’t lose sight of your priority which is to help the audience visualise you.
To reflect, we have explored the worlds of academia and fiction to polish your writing. By reading this article, it shows that you have thought very carefully about your CV and that deserves an A+. Now, it’s time to let go of the pressure and show employers what you’ve got.