Writing a CV That Works

(This article was first published at The Philippine Online Chronicles on October 12, 2011.)

A Curriculum Vitae or CV is a written document that outlines a person’s work experience, educational background, and skills and is usually used for job applications.  A CV is a job applicant’s marketing tool in presenting and selling himself to his potential employer.  It is the company’s first encounter with the potential employee.  Thus, it should be well thought of.  Otherwise, the applicant will not have another chance to present himself to his potential employer.

So, how should one write his CV such that he would be noticed and would stand out from the countless applicants that fill the recruiter’s table with piles of paper?  Here are some tips on how to write a CV that works.  Follow these tips and your chances of getting an interview would be higher.

1.  Tailor-fit Your CV for a Specific Position and/or Employer – Do not be content to come up with a generic CV.  If you send out something that is mass produced and no different from most CVs sent out by other job applicants, chances are your CV will head straight to the trash bin.  Invest time to ponder on what your targeted employer wants to find in a candidate for a specific position or vacancy in their company.  Research about your potential employer.  Then, use whatever information you have gathered to tailor fit your CV to the position you are applying for in that company.  Remember that there many job seekers out there and that you are not the only one applying for this particular position.  How can you distinguish yourself from the crowd with your CV as tool?  Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter or HR staff.  Study the job description or requirements they have posted about the job vacancy and do your best to present your qualifications and experiences in such a way that they answer the needs of the company.  Do not be intimidated if you do not know or possess all the descriptions they indicated in their job announcement.  That is just a wish list of the employer.  You need to know that they are trying to find the best match for those qualities.  If you are able to present yourself and your qualifications in a way that most of the important qualities they are looking for are met, you can still get an interview schedule with the company even if you don’t match all the qualities they enumerated.  Recruiters don’t just hire for evident qualities but also for potential.  If recruiters see that an applicant has the potential to develop the qualities they are looking for, they would take the risk or chance to make an investment on that particular applicant.  Anyway, most companies provide trainings for their employees as soon as they get on board.

2.  Highlight Your Achievements – Don’t just copy the job descriptions in your previous or current positions.  They would look generic unless you highlight what you have achieved or accomplished while working in that position for a specific employer.  Again, employers are more interested to find out how you have contributed to your current or previous organizations.  Anyone can just copy and paste their respective job descriptions in their current or previous jobs.  But not everyone can claim those achievements.  So, carefully reflect on what you have done in the past years and how your previous employers benefitted from your services, talents and skills.  Then, carefully plan how to state them.  Use action words and veer away from using the words “I” or “my” in your statements.

3.  Highlight Your Skills and Capabilities – You can only do this if you choose to invest time on pondering what specific skills and capabilities are relevant to the position you are applying for.  You may possess numerous skills but it may not be wise to put all of them when they are not that relevant and they will only crowd your CV.  Be ready also to support your claims of possessing certain skills or capabilities with specific instances and projects in the past where you have demonstrated or manifested such skills and capabilities.  They will sound cliché or empty or worse, the recruiter might think you are lying if you cannot cite situations where you have proven yourself to be capable of them.

4.  Be Truthful and Accurate – Proofread your CV.  Ask others for feedback and to proof read it as well.  Stick to the facts.  Don’t try to impress without having enough evidence to back it with.  Make sure that your contact details, job titles, duration of service in your previous employers, educational background/records and personal information are accurate.  Check for spelling errors, typographical and grammatical errors.  Many CVs go to trash because of errors which could have been avoided if their owners simply had the patience and wisdom to double check and proofread them before sending.  This is especially true if you are applying for jobs that require attention to details and accuracy as competencies.  Always, always, always be truthful.  Don’t give in to the temptation to add something that is even slightly true or is an overstatement.  It would be embarrassing on your part if the recruiter finds out during the course of the interview that you were overstating facts just to impress.  It would be heartbreaking if in the future you will get fired because you have claimed something that isn’t true and that you’ve been hired because of that lie.  Be proud and confident of who you are.  If you get hired with your set of skills, experiences and background, great!  That job is for you.  If not, just move on.  You’ll find the best job for you in time.  But not at the expense of your integrity and reputation.  In the long run, you’d be better off being jobless for a while than getting a job right away and then getting fired because you were not truthful.

5.  Be Informative but Concise – You don’t need to write your entire autobiography.  Simply choose to include information, experiences, skills and qualifications that are relevant to the position you are applying for.  Bear in mind that you need to provide enough information for the recruiter but not too much that it would bore him/her.  Your CV should not be too long and too crowded so that the recruiter or HR staff would not lose interest in reading it.  There is no hard and fast rule on the length of a CV.  But you can be safe by following these guidelines.  Stick to one or two pages if you are a fresh graduate or you have limited experience.  For those who have worked much longer, three to four pages is best.  Five would be the maximum for those with extensive experiences.  The key once more is to ask yourself if the information you have included is essential to the job you are applying for.  If not, then you might as well delete it and let the recruiter find out more about you during the interview.  That’s what interviews are for anyway, to help the recruiter find out the details behind what was stated in the CV and to verify the accuracy of those statements.


Hope you learned something from these tips that can help you improve your CV and get more interviews from your prospective employers.  Good luck!

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