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Writing and Improving your CV

So you’ve seen a job advertised which you feel you would be a perfect fit for; you have all the right experience, the salary is right and its 10mins from home. You apply for the position and then a few days later you have a generic email to say thank you but unfortunately, blah blah blah. We all know the story, most of us have been in this situation at one point in time and whilst there may be millions of reasons why you were not progressed further, the honest truth a lot of the time is that your CV just didn’t impress the person at the other end.  

Your Curriculum vitae (Latin for “course of life”) is often the first impression of you to a potential employer, so it is important that you make it a good one. CV writing is often viewed as either an art or a science but one element which is true regardless of the view you take; it is time consuming and a lot more challenging than it first appears.

 In section one of this post I will cover some basics which include basic layout suggestions, content and how to give a good overview of yourself that is both recruiter and employer friendly. In the second section I will show you how to use your LinkedIn profile to create a CV that is quick and easy to keep up to date and can help to take some of the pain out of CV writing.

Section 1

Your CV should tell a story, now we are not looking for War and Peace nor are we looking for just a list of positions and dates but somewhere in between. The layout of your CV should be clear and concise, a recent article on Glassdoor.co.uk indicated that your CV only has around 7 seconds in front of a recruiter so making it easy to read is essential.

 The best layout I have seen tends to be the simplest, reading in a logical order with the most recent experience/position at the top then working backwards. The level of detail for each position also diminishes as you go further back in time (not many employers are going to be interested on how great you are with Windows 95).  For positions that are over ten years ago it is perfectly acceptable to provide just the job title, company and dates.

Within the employment section the layout below I have found works well as a framework:

Job title

Employer

Dates of employment

A brief description of the business, what it does, size and scale.  This allows you to put context around the position and set the scene. You can’t assume that just because ABC Limited is the leader in their field that someone from outside of that sector will be aware of who they are. In order to quantify scale use examples such as turnover, number of employees, size of team.

  • Use bullet points to draw out key elements of information. They should be brief and provide a framework for you to build upon in the next section
  • This is a good area to put some of your unique skills e.g.
  • “Consolidated group accounts under US GAAP” or “SOX Compliance”
  • This is the area that recruiters and hiring managers often look at next after your job title/employer so it’s important to grab their attention

The main body of text should look to “flesh out the bones” by building on the framework that you have already provided yourself. This is where you can go into more detail to really bring the role to life and provide more narrative to what you do on a daily basis.  This is also where you can go over anything you did in addition to your “Core role” that could help to demonstrate that you’re a team player who goes above and beyond.

(*Tip, if you are struggling to think of what you do, create a separate list of everything you do in a day/week/month. You can then go through and highlight the elements of the list which match the job you’re applying for and include these in your CV.)

Once the employment history has been created the rest of the CV should be relatively straight forward. Key elements to remember are:

Contact details – Phone number/email

Location – This does not have to be your whole address but a town or area is useful to prevent your CV being picked up in areas which are impractical to get to

Systems/Programs – We all use multiple systems throughout our career and employers/recruiters are often seeking systems knowledge to determine whether you could be fit for a role, so by providing a simple list of systems you have used, makes it easy for this to be identified

Professional Qualifications – This can be included in your education section, your personal introduction or if you use post nominals after your name. It is important to remember to make clear if you are a current member or a lapsed member of a professional body. Leaving professional membership ambiguous can often lead to problems further down the recruitment process even if the employer accepts you being a lapsed member.

Education – Unless you are a recent school leaver most employers will put less weight on your GCSE results than they will on relevant work experience so no need to go back and relive that E in French.

Hopefully, this has given you a good framework to get you started in writing or improving your existing CV. 

If however you still feel you need a bit more assistance or just don’t have the time then have a look at section 2 where I cover how to create a quick and informative CV using your LinkedIn profile.

Section 2

We live in an age of instant gratification, so a fair few people are not going to relish the idea of spending hours writing a CV, because why do that when you can print one off your LinkedIn profile? A lot of positions and potential candidates are now found on LinkedIn, so having a good profile and LinkedIn CV is important, and has the added bonus of ensuring your digital profile matches your CV.

There are currently a couple of options available; the free version and the paid for resume builder which is part of the premium careers package. The paid for resume builder is intuitive, so I will talk you through the free version.

The first thing you should do, if you are serious about looking for a new role, is make sure that you have and up to date LinkedIn profile. You want to make sure you have all the job titles and employment dates correct along with ensuring that you have provided some information about the positions and what you did. It is important to ensure that this is accurate and if you have decided to write a separate CV ensure that they match up.

(*Tip Hiring managers often check LinkedIn profiles of perspective candidates to ensure that CV’s and profiles match and that job titles are the same.)

Once you are happy that your profile is up to date and gives a good account of what you have been doing its time to turn it into a CV. This in fact is the easy part and can be done in just a couple of clicks, firstly you want to login to LinkedIn on a computer (the function is not available on mobile and tablets). Once you have opened your profile go to the page where you can edit your profile, you can access this from your news feed by clicking your picture.

On your profile section if you click on “More…” you will have the option to “Save to PDF”. Click on this and it will download a PDF version of your profile in a CV format. To ensure your “Contact section” is up to date, you must ensure that you have put your contact details onto LinkedIn. You can keep these private so no one will see them, but it will still appear on your PDF CV.

That is a very quick overview of using LinkedIn for a CV, if you then want to further edit your CV you will need to use a PDF – Word convertor (there are quite a few free ones online) which will then enable you to be able to further edit your CV.

If you are looking for a new role or would like some additional help with your CV then please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team at Findem and we would be more than happy to assist.