How to write the perfect cv and find your ideal job

How to write a CV: The first thing to remember is that recruitment is NOT a screening in process, it’s a screening out process, so when you write a CV it needs to be good. With more than enough applicants for every role recruiting managers are looking for reasons NOT to interview you, so don’t give them any.

Your CV is your marketing tool and it’s pretty much all they’re going to know about you, if it’s not on there they’ll assume you don’t know it or haven’t done it. So here’s how to write a great CV and get to the top of the pile.

  • Using bullet points on a CV. Make it easy to read. Nothing puts a potential recruiter off more than pages and pages of prose. It makes picking out the key skills difficult so why bother if the other CVs are so much easier to work with?
  • How long should my CV be? Absolutely no longer than 2 – 3 pages max. By all means write a CV that goes on for 5+ pages, but understand it’s unlikely anyone will ever read past the first 2.
  • What font should I use on my CV? Keep the font to something easily readable like Arial and try not to go smaller than font size 11.
  • What do I write on my CV? Highlight your skills don’t just regurgitate your job description. For example: “Responsibility for maintaining spreadsheets” becomes “Skilled in the use of Excel, including the creation and maintenance of databases.”
  • How do I tailor my CV? You CV should be tailored it for every job you apply for, and I don’t just mean re-order your skills, I mean reflect the language of the recruiter in your CV. For example appraisals may also be known as annual reviews, development reviews, performance meetings etc. so when I submit my CV I’ll make sure it uses the same language the recruiter uses so they know I’ll be the perfect fit.
  • Where do I put education and qualifications on my CV? If they’re recent and relevant then stick them at the front, if not, it’s OK to put them at the end. And DON’T write a massive list of every in-house course you’ve attended; “Attended a wide range of in-house courses to develop both my personal and professional skills” will do just fine.
  • Do I include hobbies and interests on my CV? Try to include something interesting. “Socialising” and “Researching using the internet” are not going to impress anyone.
  • Should I include keywords on my CV? Online recruitment sites use key word search engines so here’s how to get more hits. Somewhere in the main body of your CV (not headers, footers or text boxes) write out a whole list of key words associated with your line of work, they don’t need to be constructed into a sentence. Once you’ve done that shrink the font size to 1 and colour them white. Obviously at this point you can’t read them but the search engines can.
  • How much detail should I put on my CV? Back up your claims. Don’t just say “Excellent organisational skills” what did you organise? “Excellent organisational skills demonstrated by the accurate management of the entire marketing scheduled for 2011” says so much more.
  • Should I include a personal statement on my CV.? No-one’s ever going to write “I’m a work shy layabout and hate working in teams”, so keep it short and punchy (2-3 lines) and focus on what you feel are your biggest selling points.

So where are all the jobs hiding?

How do I find the perfect job? Now you know how to write a CV you now need to know how to find a job. In the current climate it’s easy to think there are no jobs out there, but there are, so here are a few ways you can find them.

  • Job websites. Obvious and easy, lots of jobs there but everyone knows it and is looking in the same place. Worth doing but good to find other ways to eliminated the competition.
  • Local papers. Not just the jobs section, check the editorial. Has a supermarket just got planning permission to build nearby? Has a local business just won an enterprise award? Look out for any articles that indicate any potential for employment and get in ahead of the game.
  • Build your network virtually. Online sites like LinkedIn are fabulous for building networks and I know of several successful recruiters who conduct their business entirely on there. Get your profile up to date and get some recommendations.
  • Build your network face to face. Ask people, talk to people, tell friends and family you’re job hunting, it’s amazing who knows who and how often this method turns up useful leads.
  • Should I use a rectruitment agency? Get the price off your head. Recruitment agencies will charge prospective employers anything between 15% and 25% of your starting salary. Most organisations are trying to reduce costs so do a spot of detective work. If the agency website describes a “Top financial services organisation in the Preston area” then start searching for exactly that on the internet. Most employers will put jobs on their own websites and if you can apply via that route then you’ll be saving them a lot of money and making yourself a more attractive prospect.
  • Shop windows. Do you need to work for a large employer? If not check out some of the local adverts in newsagent’s windows, many small local employers still use this route.
  • What do you love doing? The outdoors? Working with animals? Write a list of all the possible organisations that are connected with something you enjoy and start trawling their websites for jobs.
  • Volunteer. If you’re out of work then there’s no excuse not to do some volunteer work, even if just for a few hours each week. It will help you to develop new skills, give you the chance to meet new people and very often turn up connections that can lead to jobs. Plus it looks great on your CV, employers like to see people who’ve made an effort to keep themselves busy.
  • Listen to local commercial radio, manys the time I’ve been driving along and heard an advert from an employer looking to recruit.
  • Who’s bucking the trend? Even in a recession there are many employers booming, read the press, check the trade journals, find out who they are and go directly to their websites.

Beth Pipe is a Learning and Development Professional and freelance writer. You can find more of her professional work here: You can also follow her at @cumbrianrambler on Twitter.

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