How To Make Your CV Impressive

Putting together a decent curriculum vitae can be immensely frustrating. You don’t really know what people are interested in hearing, & it can be hard to strike a balance between being professional & still having a personality!

The normal formula for a CV goes something like this…

Name & contact details — address, phone number, email address.
Personal information — a little paragraph about yourself & your skills & possibly career goals (though this should be short, maybe four sentences at most).
Proficiencies — so, if you can program in C++ or speak German or you’re a whizz with spreadsheets, write them down. Be as specific as you can be (“Expert with Access databases”) & list them in bullet-point format.
Work experience — with your most recent roles listed first. There is some debate as to how far in your history you should go back, but I think listing any more than 10 positions will probably make you look a bit flakey.
Academic/professional qualifications — this is the place to say that you have a PhD in welding, for example, or that you took a course in tying your shoelaces, etc. You should include grades (don’t fake them, people sometimes ask for proof!) & the institution you studed at.
Additional skills — you can write anything you like here, say that you have management experience or make great coffee.
Interests — if you like playing darts or painting, write it down here. Keep it relatively sane-sounding, even if you’re not. I wouldn’t recommend writing about your rabid interest in taxidermy or getting multiple piercings in an evening. But do try to make it interesting, nobody wants to hire a dullard! (I’m sure you’re not, though!)

If you don’t have a lot of experience, the temptation is to pad out your CV like mad, & mention every crappy newspaper run or short stint cleaning your father’s shoes for pocket money. Don’t do it. Just keep it short & sweet. If it still looks really short, this is your opportunity to dazzle them with your drive & charm. In the ‘personal information’ part of your CV, write articulately about your goals & intentions. Mention something about how you bring enthusiasm to any team — people love that. If you’re not very articulate normally, have someone who is look over what you’ve written before you print it out or send it off.

Don’t underestimate the value of enthusiasm. This is my number one tip. I have seen hundreds of CVs & hired plenty of people personally, & after a while the CVs all start to blur together. You really have no idea how incredibly boring some of them are. Someone with a bit of spark, a bit of joie de vivre, is like a blessing sent directly from heaven. This, of course, applies in the interview as well. I once applied for a position as a book-buyer for a bookstore, a position for which I was wildly underqualified — my previous job was in a bank, selling people home loan & term deposit packages, ugh! Anyway, I was so hyped up & keen in the interview, that afterwards they called me & said, “We’ve offered the book buyer role to someone with more experience, but we would love you to work for us anyway”. I was thrilled & said yes, & then half an hour later they called me again, saying, “The woman we offered it to doesn’t want it anymore — would you like to take the position?” FABULOUS. So use your enthusiasm as a weapon, people will remember you!

Some people think you should put your date of birth, nationality & marital status on a CV. I say don’t. It’s nobody’s business, & it’s basically inviting discrimination. (No one is allowed to base a hiring decision on your age, race or marital status, among other things!)

A lot of dull, stiff-upper-lip type recruitment agencies advise against making your CV too “quirky”. I think that’s bollocks. Do you really want to work for a company that would persecute you for printing your CV on purple paper? No, I didn’t think so. It really depends where your priorities are — if you’re desperate for a job, any job, then sure, make it as dull as you like. But if you’re actually looking for work with some meaning, something you’re going to enjoy, then you should feel free to be yourself in your CV.

Don’t draw attention to your inadequacies, or otherwise undesirable traits. This rule applies to life in general, too. If you harp on about your huuuuuge nose, terrible typing skills or body odour “issue”, people will know — how couldn’t they? You are constantly blabbing about it! But if you don’t mention it, people will probably not even notice. Our flaws are always more obvious to ourselves than they are to anyone else. Other people are too busy thinking about their own huuuuuge nose, or whatever. Just don’t mention it. Don’t even be tempted to write, “Even though I don’t have a lot of experience…” or “While my track record is pretty stank, I hope to…”. Don’t. Okay? Good.

Write a really good cover letter. Most people don’t even send them & if they do, they’re tired & a waste of time. Put together a template. Say that you think you are an excellent candidate for the role & then list why. Take the job description & then relate it back to your own experience. Again, BE ENTHUSIASTIC! Get so excited about it on the page that they feel like they simply must meet you, even if it’s because you might be loon of the year. A lot of the time, you will be applying directly to the owner of the company — this company is their baby & they want people who love it as much as they do, so do your best to show that.

The length of your CV will really depend on your experience. I would say, even if you’ve been in the workforce for thirty years, write no more than 4 pages. Otherwise, it’s just too much. Businesses often receive hundreds of CVs & they just do not have time to read pages & pages of stuff.

Use a nice typeface. No Comic Sans, please! Eep! Make sure everything is spelled correctly, that there are no typos & all the tenses are correct (I am currently… I was… etc.). Don’t be afraid to print it on nice paper — a pink CV in a stack of white pages will definitely stand out. Don’t include a photo unless it’s relevant (& it won’t be very often). Keep a copy on your computer or even in Google Documents so you’ll always have it. Keep it up to date!

Getting a job can be hard work, & finding a job that you actually enjoy can be even harder. Be good to yourself & try to do something you like — work affects our lives so much, & if every day is hell, maybe it’s time to make a change. Good luck out there!

Extra For Experts:
Ignore the sales pitch, but this is a great example of a bad CV & a good CV.
Give your résumé a face lift, courtesy of LifeClever! (See also: The 7 deadly sins of résumé design, & be sure to read the comments!)
Common questions about CVs & good answers.
Make Your CV A Riveting Read!
Bad, just bad!