17 Tips to a Winning CV

Curriculum Vitae, Latin phrase, translates to ‘course of life’. A curriculum vitae (usually abbreviated to CV) is a very important document that represents an overview of professional achievements and experiences. A curriculum vitae is mainly required when applying for jobs, but it can also be required when applying for fellowships, honors and awards, or postgraduate educational opportunities. A good CV may be the difference between you getting a job interview or not. The following are some guidelines that would help you create a winning CV and land you in your career job.

1-       Pay the Effort

Most people don’t put much time and effort into their CV. CVs that are rushed would lead to typing errors, missing information and information flow incompatibility. Poor preparation and composition will undermine your credibility and will put doubts into the employers’ mind about your eagerness to win the job in addition to your attention to detail. So with some effort, you can easily make your CV stand out.

2-       How to Start?.. Start with a Draft

Do not panic, just start by writing down all your qualifications, experiences, employment history, personal information, and extracurricular activities, with no order or structure, and let this be your first draft. Second, read that draft and start the refining process, but grouping relevant data together and eliminating the unwanted data after having a second eye. Let this be your second draft. Third, structure your CV by adding headings to each part of your CV and then choose the order of each part of the CV, which part will go first and which will go next and so on. My recommended structure is as below (having each part presented chronologically in a reverse date order starting with most recent), you are free to choose it or follow your own preferences:

  1. Start with your name, phone number and e-mail
  2. Career summary, including career objectives, key skills and achievements.
  3. Education
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Trainings
  6. Extracurricular Activities
  7. Other Personal Information that may be needed.

3-       Sell Yourself

Mention all your skills in the CV. It is important to focus on the soft skills, transferrable skills, such as communication, problem-solving and management. You should also speak about each of you’re the skills related to each job role how it was utilized or developed in that role, illustrating the skills with examples, and with achievements if any. Don’t forget to include specific skills, such as languages, administrative or computing skills, in a separate section in your CV, or within each job role. When writing about skills, don’t just list them, make sure that you give an example of how you’ve leveraged each skill. Identify what you actions did you do, all setting in which the activity was carried out, and what were the results. Employers look more for a solutions rather than a skill set. A sense of what you can do more than what you are. For example, how were you able to solve problems and did you make the company more profitable.

4-       Career Objectives

Be specific about your career goals or objectives. General statements, such as “Looking to utilize my skills” or “seeking a rewarding position” add nothing to a CV and would show that you are incapable of planning your career. Write your career aspirations in more detail, and with a planned time-line, example, “planning to be a team leader within the next three years, during this period I am planning to utilize, finish the training course of… etc.”.

5-       Responsibilities vs. Achievements

CVs that include long lists of responsibilities are boring, and not efficient in selling yourself. Instead of listing responsibilities, describe your professional achievements. Don’t focus on the tasks or the list of duties, but on the added value related to them. Having this in mind, it’s essential that you focus on proving that you are the type of person who can use your competences to deliver real value, not just doing tasks. Share in your CV all your achievements and taken decisions that made positive impact in the employer business.

6-       Include Numbers

Support your achievements stated in CV with numbers. Mention the numbers, helps to quantify your ability and experience and makes selling yourself much easier. When writing your work history, don’t just say that you reduced losses; but say you were successful to reduce company losses by 20% during over a two-year period. Mention numbers wherever there are significant numbers involved, such as count of personnel in departments, budgets, sales, or problem resolution time.

7-       Extracurricular Activities

Don’t miss out the social/sports activities, voluntary work, and the other personal activities not relating to the professional career. Applicants often neglect the experiences and accomplishments gained in voluntary work they’ve participated in, such as caring for the elderly, serving community, fundraising, being a member in a sport team, or any other extracurricular activities. Neglecting such information is a mistake, valuable skills may have been acquired during these activities. But be sure not to make it the main bulk of your CV, more important, you CV needs to show your professional experience and skillset.

8-       Keep your CV Info Relevant

One must highlight the important details for career history. Be clever about presenting your experience. If your most relevant experience isn’t the most recent, you can split your experience under two headings: relevant employment and additional experience.  There is no need to include your salary history, or references in your CV. References should be provided to employers upon request. There is no need to include your reasons for leaving each job, but this info might be requested in your interview. Don’t mention things that you are bad at or say negative things about yourself nor your previous employers. Do not touch on sensitive areas, like politics and religion. And finally keep away of abbreviations or technical jargon.

9-       Use Active Language and Give Detail

Use “power words” such as “managed,” “conducted,” and “designed” to emphasize your accomplishments. Say “Managed a team of 25 sales personnel” instead of “Sales management”. The use of such active verbs and positive language allows you to put your experience across with more impact. Use the past tense for previous jobs and the present tense for your current job.

10-   Don’t Exaggerate

You must make sure to mention all the good points about yourself relevant to the job but do not, under any circumstances, exaggerate. Yes. This is the most important advice, be completely honest on your CV. There is a huge difference between making the most of your experience and exaggerating or falsifying it. Although you obviously want to present yourself well, but don’t go too far and exaggerate the truth. Even small lies must be avoided. Nowadays, employers conduct reference checking and background checking and if your CV doesn’t match your actual work history, education, or performance history, you will most likely get caught at some point and you will either not get the job or you may get fired if you have already been hired. You will end up doing work that you are unable to do, resulting in stress, confusion and frustration for you, your colleagues and the employer. Having caught, whether at the interview level or after hiring, would ruin your credibility in the employment market.

11-   Check for Mistakes

It is essential that there are no mistakes on your CV. It is a sign of bad communication if your CV is full of mistakes. Always check for mistakes. This includes spelling and grammar mistakes, factual errors such as mistyped dates and names, layout problems and illogical order of information. When you have finished your CV print it and read it over again. Proofreading it once is not enough, so do it twice, or as many as necessary. When you have been working on your CV for hours, it can be difficult to spot the errors. So get someone else to read over carefully and comment on it. It is sometimes hard to catch your own mistakes Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can pick something up you missed, or spot irrelevant information. It would be recommended not only to check the content mistakes, but also the format of your CV, and again, let someone else to take a look. Is there plenty of white space? Or is it crowded? Is your formatting consistent (font type, font size, headers, body, bullets and numbering, etc.) and is the overall picture that your CV provides a professional look?

12-   Keep it Up to Date

It’s often difficult remembering the joining/leaving dates, achievements figures, and the projects you have been involved in. To avoid missing important information you need to keep your CV up to date, so you don’t later forget something that could be significant. It is advised that you revisit your CV from time to time to ensure that is up to date. Add all the new information, gained skills, courses, training programs and other academic qualifications that you may attain.

13-   Do not Include a Photo

You should avoid attaching your photo to the CV, except when you are applying for a job where the physical characteristics are very important and request proof (e.g., modeling, acting… etc.), and unless the employer specifically requested it..

14-   Sending your CV via E-mail

It is recommended if you create a special e-mail address for your career correspondence, so as to keep track of all your career-related e-mails. Make sure that your display name and e-mail address are professional as possible, including your first name and last name. Example, if you name is Magdy Kamel then your display name (appearing as the sender’s name) should show as “Magdy Kamel” and your e-mail should be as “magdykamel@hotmail.com”, “mkamel@yahoo.com”… etc. Don’t use nicknames, number or any other symbols, such as momo79, lion_heart, job.seeker789… etc.. This would affect your professional image. Do not make a list of emails and send to them all at once either on the To line, CC or Bcc. You need to send individual targeted emails. You have to research the recipient of your email first and target your message to him or her. The subject of your email is very important. But make sure that your subject line isn’t too long. Long subject lines are indicative of spam content and do not reach the inbox some times. It should include the word CV, Curriculum Vitae, Resume, and of course the job title and reference (if exists) that you are applying for, or wish to have.  Do you best to reach to the recipient of your e-mail and greet him or her by their actual name “Dear Karim” or “Dear Mrs. Khalifa”, that way your message is much more likely to be read. If not, then use Dear Sir/Madam.

In the body of the e-mail, you can either write your key experiences, such as “10 years of civil engineering experience and project management”, or you can choose to copy and paste your cover letter. Before you attach your CV file to the email, rename the file to something more meaningful. The more meaningful your file name is, the more frequently it will show up when a search is made. Naming the file after your name adding the word CV or resume, and/or adding the job reference would do the job. The recommended formats of your CV file are .docx and .pdf.

15-   Take a Copy of Your CV to Interviews You Attend

It is useful to print a copy out for yourself and make additional notes on it to prepare for any unexpected questions the interviewer may be interested to ask from information included on you CV.

16-   Consider getting professional help

If you are having a hard time creating your CV, not happy of the current version, or if you are receiving no response or rejection letters from companies, you could consider hiring a professional CV writing service. There are lots of online options available, and usually the investment will be worth the money.

17-   Format Tips

  • Skip writing the word Curriculum Vitae or CV .
  • Use consistent template (font size and type) for header and body text throughout your CV. If you aren’t sure of the fonts to use, try easily read fonts like Calibri, Arial or Helvetica. Avoid unusual font types. Use a font size of 10pt or 11pt.
  • To make it more readable, to jam your CV with text, leave adequate white space. Maintain a one-inch margin at the top and bottom of each page of your curriculum vitae.
  • Avoid the use of graphics or fancy design.
  • Don’t go over 3 pages, unless when you cannot compromise by having some significant information not mentioned.
  • Avoid long paragraphs; divide them with line spaces or bullet points. Bullet points keep the sentences relatively short, and allow each point to be distinct.
  • Print it to make sure that it is printable with no out of margin or font incompatibility.
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