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.

Do I Need a Cover Letter?

What is a Cover Letter?

Having a great cover letter is your first step in getting hired. It is the initial evaluation of your skills, your resume, and you as a worker and as a person. A cover letter is a letter that you send to accompany your CV when you apply for job. The important thing in the cover letter is to show that your skills match those for the job advert. It shows your motivation, commitment and relevant skills. A cover letter introduces you and your resume to potential employers or organizations you seek to join. It is the first document an employer sees, so it is often the first impression you will make. Take advantage of this important first impression and prepare the reader for your application, stating why you are writing, why you are a good match for the job and the organization, and when you will contact him or her.

The cover letter should focus more on the employer, in contrast to the resume, which focuses on you. Your resume or CV is all about you, whereas your cover letter is all about the employer.  Sending your resume without a cover letter is like saying you only care about your needs rather than the employer’s. Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each position you seek. Do not design a generic standard letter and send it to every potential employer. A personalized, targeted, well-written cover letter is your chance to attract the employer for a closer look. A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented, factual resume and add a personal touch. It should explain your experiences in a story-like format that works with the information provided in your resume. Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences, and how these skills are matching to the required skill set, or in other words, matching the employer needs with your qualifications. They should also express a high level of interest and knowledge about the position.

Why do I need a cover letter?

If you are applying for a specific position and will be sending your resume hoping to land an interview for said position, you need a cover letter. Why is a Cover Letter so important?

Makes the first good impression:

Sending your resume to a company without a cover letter is like shaking someone’s hand without having a chance of introducing yourself. Your cover letter is the very first, and sometimes only, thing an employer will see. It’s your first chance to introduce yourself, show your enthusiasm for the position. It’s a sales document; an attention-grabbing bit of writing to make the employer want to meet you. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to show the hiring manager what you can do for them once you’re hired. When your cover letter attracts interest, employers read your resume to confirm a positive first impression.

Accepted not excluded:

Hiring managers need to narrow down the list of accepted applicants, and sometimes you may have some red flags in your resume such as unexplained gaps, career transitions, or lack of required skills, the cover letter is the perfect opportunity to address these issues head on, and avoid getting passed up. When your most recent work experience is different from the career field you want to enter, use your cover letter to accent your skills that best match the new field. In this competitive job market, you may not get the chance to explain yourself at an interview, so increase your chances of being accepted by answering the questions a hiring manager may have when your resume is reviewed.

Confirms critical thinking skills and sells your benefits:

A cover letter demonstrates your ability to understand, formulate ideas and fulfill a company’s specific needs. It shows that you are smart enough to master the company’s products, services, markets, and employment needs by correlating an employer’s requirements with your top competencies and skills, your knowledge, your work experience. The cover letter proves that you can communicate your thoughts in writing. A cover letter is evidence that you’re able, knowledgeable, talented, and that you take pride in your work. By contrast, a poor and boring letter suggests that your work will be poor and boring. Do your best to reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm, and communication skills.

Do not underestimate this tool as it can be a great asset in your job hunt. It may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your resume ignored, so it makes good sense to devote the necessary time and effort to writing effective cover letters. . Writing a cover letter often seems like an overwhelming task. However, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll soon be an expert at writing cover letters to send with your resume.

How should I Write a Cover Letter?

There’s a very easy way to work out what to include in your cover letter: look at the job posting.  Treat the specification like a question that you are answering and exactly match your skills and experience to the job requirements. If you are switching careers and don’t exactly match what the job posting is looking for, use the space to make a case for your transferable skills. A typical cover letter should be no more than one page long. Start with your name and contact details, and don’t forget to date the letter. Address your letter to the relevant person, rather than addressing it as ‘To whom it may concern’. To be effective, your cover letter should address three main issues, a paragraph for each:

First Paragraph

A positive, formal introduction outlining:

  • Basic information about yourself.
  • Listing the documents you have enclosed (such as your CV, requested certificates).
  • What do you know about the organization or how you learned about it.
  • State the job vacancy (State the job you’re applying for, including the job ad reference number),how you learned of the vacancy (Advert in a newspaper, ad banner on the Internet etc.).
  • In some cases, you may have been referred to a potential employer by a friend or acquaintance. Be sure to mention this mutual contact, by name, up front since it is likely to encourage your reader to keep reading.
  • If no specific opening has been advertised be sure to state what your job objective is.

Second Paragraph

Outline why you are interested in the role and the organization and how the opportunity fits into your career aspiration.

Mention how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying. Mention specific qualifications which make you a good fit for the employer’s needs. Emphasize your achievements and problem-solving skills.

Third Paragraph

Close the letter out positively and proactively. Re-emphasize your interest in the position and your availability for an interview. Indicate that you would like the opportunity to interview for a position. Make sure you list the various methods of contacting you and that all your contact information is accurate. State that you are willing to provide all further requested information. you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have work samples to support your qualifications, state their availability. You may want to include an extra paragraph to explain any personal circumstances such as an unemployed period or a career change. You may also state when you’re available to start work if you are selected. Finally, thank the employer and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.

Tips for writing a cover letter

  • Be professional, warm and friendly.
  • Be short and to the point (never go over one page).
  • Avoid having the letter as generic.
  • Be enthusiastic and assertive but not pushy. Do not be begging for a position.
  • Keep it neat. Don’t send cover letters that are photocopied or marked.
  • Use a basic font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Leave plenty of space around the edges of the page and clear space between each paragraph or section.
  • Avoid using too many bolding, underlining and italicizing that can detract the reader from the real content.
  • Make sure there are no grammatical mistakes and that the spelling is perfect.
  • Write a rough draft first so that you can get your thoughts in order. Set it aside for a few minutes, get some fresh air, and take a walk. And then go back to refine the letter or add more details.
  • Always get another person to read your letter before sending it to an employer
  • Never use jargon if you can think of an everyday equivalent.
  • If you address a name (e.g. “Dear Mr Smith”) end with “Yours sincerely”. If you address the letter as “Dear Sir or Madam” end with “Yours faithfully”.

Conclusion

If you are emailing your resume, I recommend pasting your cover letter into an email and just attaching your resume. There is no need to send a cover letter as an attachment, although you can if you wish. If you do this, name your cover letter and resume clearly, so that recruiters can see which is which. When you paste your letter into an email check to see how long it looks. If it looks too long to read at a quick glance, I recommend editing it down. We have all come to expect emails to be brief, so a long letter can be off-putting.

Despite that fact that some employers may not read cover letters, they remain an essential document in the job search. You have to write a great cover letter because you have to assume that some of the recipients will pay attention to it. Be sure to make yours as good as possible. At the end first impressions are everything, and this your chance to make a great first impression. If you grab the employer’s attention, convince them that you are passionate about the job vacancy, and prove that you love the company, you will most probably fill the vacancy.

Yes I Can

It is never too late for you to start your favorite career or advance in it. I believe that you can pursue your dream career if you REALLY want to. Lots of questions may pop up in your mind.. how?.. when?.., lots of frustrating  stoppers will glow in front of you blocking you from seeing the open door, not so far, taking you to what you really love to do. Opinions from family and friends may hinder your thoughts, but think of someone who did not seize any chance he/she had to catch his/her dream career, breathing, eating, sleeping, working and earning money but without the real joy of life.. self-actualization; feeling your added value. Lots of famous people started small but they all were persistent and stubborn to follow their dreams and do what they really like to do.

So don’t waste time and start believing more in yourself and that you really can do your beloved job, not matter to age, gender, location or current resources.

Simply believe in ‘Yes I can’.

~Ahmed T. El Sherbiny