In the academic market, a Curriculum Vitae or CV is very important and after your cover letter, is your first introduction to the search committee. The CV is a summary of your educational background and research and professional experiences. Your CV is a tool to help you move from an application to an interview.
Even the best written CV in the world can be let down by a lack of proper presentation.
And although the content is undoubtedly of paramount importance, a CV has to be both well written and presented professionally in order to catch a recruiter’s eye and make the most of an application.
It is worth noting that, when it comes to formatting, the approach may depend on the industry. But there are a few simple rules which should generally be adhered to, and if implemented correctly could dramatically increase your chances of success.
So, before you send it in, check out our CV do’s and don’ts:
- Keep it short. The most effective CVs aren’t just informative, they’re also concise. Try and get straight to the most pertinent points, and ideally take up no more than two sides of A4.
- Include a cover letter.
- Start your CV with general contact information, that includes your name, address, telephone, fax, email and url (if you have a web page about yourself as a professional or linkedin).
- Include these sections in your CV: contact information; education and experience. Include these sections depending on your strengths and interests: honors, publications, patents, presentations, relevant volunteer experiences, professional licenses or certifications and awards (from post-secondary school); teaching and research interests; publications; presentations; professional activities (committee memberships, intern experiences, relevant volunteer work); skills (second language and/or computer proficiencies); and references (you may include these or indicate they are available on request).
- It should always be typed and if possible use good quality, white A4 paper.
- Present things in a logical order. Use sufficient spacing, clear section headings (e.g. work experience, education) and a reverse chronological order to keep things clear and easily legible. Also highlight your most recent achievements.
- Play to your strengths. Format your CV to maximise the impact of your application. For example, if you feel a lack of experience is holding you back, lead with education instead. As long as you can relate it back to the role in question, how you order the sections is very much up to you.
- Emphasize skills,experience, responsibilities and achievements that are relevant to the position. Include some numbers to quantify your achievements. They make your CV more powerful.
- Choose a formal font. A professional font ensures that your CV can be easily read and simply scanned. Remember: Comic Sans is not your friend.
- Check for spelling and typographical errors.
- Use bullet points, formatting (italic or bold font) or other appropriate symbols, insert rules (horizontal lines) to separate major sections. They’re a great way to draw attention to any key facts or relevant information, allowing a hiring manager to skim the document easily and find out your significant achievements without having to wade through the hyperbole.
- Be honest. Employers will do background checks specially on social media.
- Place your education after your experience if you’ve been in the workforce for more than five years. If the degree you earned is the most relevant or impressive detail of your education section, highlight it. If the school you attended is the selling point, emphasize it.
- Use active language. So, instead of saying “I had to plan…” say “Planned…”.
- Have someone else read it over. They’ll be able to spot mistakes or point out improvements.
- Mail your resume in a 9-by-12-inch labeled envelope rather than folded up in a standard No. 10 envelope. The impact and professional image this produces is worth the extra postage.
- Forget your cover letter. Although it is often seen as a different entity all together, your cover letter is attached to your CV and both are vital in helping you clinch the right role. Utilise yours properly, and your CV becomes the perfect document to reinforce your talent. Oh, they didn’t say include one? Still do. Every extra opportunity to sell yourself should be taken.
- Be afraid of white space. Don’t fear the gaps. Even if you think your CV looks quite bare, as long as you’ve included all the relevant information and applicable, quantifiable achievements, you needn’t worry. Remember: Sometimes less is more.
- Try to include too much. The ideal CV should be a checklist of all of your accomplishments. It should not be your life story. Tailoring your CV to the role is a great way to skim some of the fat and keep all waffle to a minimum.
- Include irrelevant information. Before including any points in your application, ask the same question: will it help you get the role. If the answer is no, take it out. Hobbies and interests are a great example. If they don’t help you stand out, don’t waste valuable space.
- Experiment with size. You may think that changing font size is a great way to fit your CV onto two pages. But whether you’re using large font to make your application seem longer or you’re using smaller font to make sure everything fits, you’re not fooling anyone. See also, margin size.
- Include the following information: age; ethnic identity; political affiliation; religious preference; hobbies; marital status; sexual orientation; place of birth; photographs; height; weight and health.
- Include information that is humorous. The CV is not the place for humor or being “cute.”
- Include clichés. Everyone likes to say they’re a team player with great communication skills who can work under pressure. Instead, use your experience to show you can do those things
- Use bright coloured papers, patterns or graphics.
- Use weird type styles. Stick to Calibry, Verdana, Times New Roman, Arial or similar, also don’t use type smaller than 11pt, don’t use larger than 14pt for headings.
- Include negative or irrelevant information.
- Lie about your skills, abilities or achievements.
- Use acronyms, abbreviations or text language.
- Write long paragraphs. Keep to short, bulleted paragraphs. It’s more effective and easier to read. Limit your use of BOLD and underlining.
- Forget to tell your references about your application, so they’re not surprised when somebody calls them.
- Give up! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
Please leave your comments below with your favourite CV dos and don’ts or share the ones I are not listed above so I can check them out and possibly add them to this article.