Creating an Effective CV: CV Writing Tips and FAQs
In this post, we address the most common questions we're asked about CVs.
How long should my CV be?
Your CV should be as long as it needs to be to convey your responsibilities and achievements effectively.
That said, your CV is meant to serve as a highlight reel of your career. You should avoid the temptation to list every little thing you have done in your previous roles.
Your aim is to pique the interest of recruiters enough to get them to want to learn more about you during the interview - not to initially overwhelm them with too much information.
If you are a student or have under ten years of experience, you should try to limit yourself to a one-page CV.
If you are a more seasoned executive, you can stretch it to two to three pages at a maximum.
What is the most common CV mistake you see?
The most common mistake we see is sloppiness (in its many forms).
From a recruiter's perspective, you have all the time in the world to perfect your CV and ensure it is neat, concise and grammatically correct.
Your CV is, in effect, your first impression.
As such, details matter more than you might imagine - especially when you're competing against several other applicants.
Make sure that you avoid any sloppiness whatsoever, which includes but is not limited to:
- Different fonts, font colours or sizes
- Inconsistent spacing in between sections
- Inconsistent alignment (such as dates that aren't indented consistently or bullet points that don't line up)
- Incorrect grammar or punctuation
- Spelling errors
What is the best CV format to use?
When putting together your CV, you can use either a chronological or functional layout.
A chronological CV presents your experience in reverse chronological order. This is the format we use most often and the one recruiters tend to expect.
A functional CV, on the other hand, emphasises your skills and abilities instead of outlining your experience by company.
Unless you are a student, have very little experience or have a significant career gap, we generally don't recommend using a functional CV format.
The most effective way to present your skills and achievements is to provide concrete examples of them in the context of your work experience. A chronological CV allows you to do so most effectively.
Do I need multiple versions of my CV for different jobs?
Generally speaking, you should tailor your CV and cover letter to individual roles.
However, most clients we work with tend to target similar roles at different companies (such as Vice President of Digital Marketing or Vice President of Acquisitions). Their past experience also tends to align with their target roles.
In such cases, it can be appropriate to have one CV that is accompanied by custom cover letters explaining why you are interested in a particular company.
If you are applying for roles in two different sectors (such as marketing and finance), you'll probably want two versions of your CV that highlight your experience in the respective fields.
How do I make sure my CV is ATS friendly?
You can make sure your CV is ATS friendly by tailoring your content and your formatting.
When working with clients, we make sure to incorporate relevant keywords in their CVs and cover letters by closely analysing the job descriptions of their target roles.
We also format our documents in a way that allows applicant tracking systems to pull information from them accurately (you should generally avoid CV formats that incorporate multiple columns or graphics, for example).
What should I eliminate from my CV to condense it?
It can be tempting to err on the side of putting as much information on your CV as possible to ensure that it is comprehensive and you don't accidentally miss anything that a recruiter would consider valuable.
That's not the best strategy, however.
By being intentional and targeted with what you include and presenting a clean and concise CV, you will leave a stronger impact on recruiters and showcase your effective business communication skills.
If you're running out of room, you can start by eliminating or condensing your:
- Professional summary
- Objective statement
- Bullet points for positions older than ten years
- Internships or positions in unrelated sectors
- Secondary school or college information
- Irrelevant certifications
- Personal details such birthday, nationality and marital status (these should never be listed, anyway)
How far back should my CV go?
In general, recruiters will expect to see the last ten years of your employment history outlined in detail (if applicable).
For positions you held over ten years ago, you can list the company names, positions and dates in an Early Career section instead.
You can also consider eliminating roles or internships you held over ten years ago altogether - especially if they were unrelated to the positions you are currently pursuing.
How do I address a CV gap?
A CV is a fact-based document, so you should address your employment gap head-on by being honest and transparent.
We don't recommend falsifying dates of employment, for example.
If you weren't working, consider filling in the gap with other experiences such as volunteer work or professional development.
Alternatively, consider only listing the years you held each position (if your gap is short). Take a look at our blog post on the topic for more details.