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Video to watch: CV Advice - ATS software, formatting & mistakes to avoid

Your CV is your ‘advert’

It is the summary of your experience, skills and knowledge that tells potential employers:

  • Who you are

  • What types roles you have done

  • Where you have worked

  • What you have achieved

Its purpose is to get you an interview, but it won’t get you the job on its own.

The CV is a document which you will:

  • Use to respond to advertised positions

  • Send to an interested party after a networking meeting

  • Attach to online job boards (e.g. Seek Profiler)

If you spend time working on the preparation and tailoring your CV to the role and organisations, it will:

  • Help you sell your skills and capabilities

  • Increase your confidence when selling your skills and experience

  • Mean that you can apply for suitable roles or make an approach to an organisation you may wish to work for

CVs tend to follow a formula (and we’ve included a template for you). It needs to:

  • Be well laid out

  • Be easy to read

  • Demonstrate to the recruiter or hiring manager that you can meet their needs

  • Above all, your CV needs to be well presented, crisp and professional

  • Check and double-check for spelling and grammatical errors

There are two really important things to know about CVs:

CVs are often screened using automated software called an ATS (Applicant Tracking System).
      • These systems search for keywords and key phrases within your CV and cover letter

  • If your application doesn’t include these keywords, you will get a generic decline email

    • If you do have the right phrases, your CV gets sent through to the person recruiting for the role

  • So, if you have ever applied for a role and got a rejection email really quickly, you have been screened by an ATS and your application was probably missing the key words that the employer was looking for

It is important that your CV makes a good first impression.
  • Hiring managers will often spend 20-30 seconds looking at CV before making a decision

  • So, it is important that your CV is easy to read and that it shows that you have the skills and experience that they are looking for

CV format & content

If it has been a while since you updated your CV or if you haven’t ever written a CV, it can be hard to know:

  • What to write

  • How to write it

  • How much to write

  • How it should look

CV method

The most common CV method is the Reverse Chronological CV.

  • Essentially, this means writing about your most recent role starting at the top of the page, and writing about all your others roles in date order

  • The focus is on your employment history, skills, responsibilities and achievements, starting with the most recent

Download a sample CV here

CV format

The most important thing to remember when creating your CV is that the document is:

  • Clear and easy-to-read

  • That the employer or recruiter can quickly locate the information that they are looking for

  • Two to three pages is ideal; keep your CV less than four pages

  • Use an easy-to-read font and use bullet points rather than long paragraphs (much like this document that you are reading)

There can be things that people include in their CV that are not really needed. There can also be things that need to go into your CV that people forget to include.

Some common mistakes when creating a CV include:

  • Not tailoring the CV

  • Whilst you don’t need to create your CV from scratch every time you apply for a job, it is worth taking the time to review your CV before applying for a new role

  • Make sure that your CV matches the role requirements where possible

  • If your profile summary talks about what kind of role you are looking for, make sure this is similar to the job that you are applying for

  • Many people only list their previous role duties, but they do not list their achievements

  • If you can talk about the successes that you have had in your previous jobs, your CV will be so much better

  • Your CV will be better because you are telling the employer about the great things that you can bring to their organisation

  • Listing your achievements means that your CV may stand out over and above the other CVs of people who are applying for the same job

  • For example, if you won an award or saved your company time or money, then describe this in your CV

 Try not to include too many personal details. You don’t need to include:

  • Photos

  • Your date of birth

  • Your marital status

  • Your age

Cover letters

  • Are generally used to go with your CV when it is sent in response to an advertised role

  • These job ads are usually posted online by the hiring organisation themselves or via a recruitment agency

  • In either case, the cover letter should summarise your suitability for the role, invite the reader to read your CV and suggest a meeting or interview

To ensure you put your best foot forward, customise each cover letter to fit the role and organisation. If you are familiar with the company and can also include a referral name, your chances of a response increase significantly.

Cover letter tips

  • Write a letter that shows how you fit the key requirements listed in the ad and why you are particularly interested in this position

  • Use their keywords in both your cover letter and your CV – to highlight your fit for the role

  • Don’t mention the skills or experience you lack in your cover letter, just talk about your strengths

  • Cover letters should be one page

  • Ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct; have someone proof read it for you, rather than relying only on spell-check

  • Use the person’s full name where possible, rather than ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘Dear Hiring Manager’. If you are unsure, phone the organisation to find out the name of the person advertising the position

  • Using the keywords from the advertisement, list your competencies, skills and experience that meet their requirements; focus on your strengths

  • Use bullet points to make it easier to read

  • Indicate that the CV is attached and that you are keen to discuss the role further

  • Target each cover letter to the specific job and organisation

  • Attach your cover letter as a separate document along with your CV (two attachments); avoid typing your cover letter in the body of the email (if you can)

  • Make sure your contact details are on both documents (both mobile number and personal email address)

Download a sample cover letter here