10 steps to writing the world’s greatest CV

So the thing is, no-one likes a boaster. It’s not cool, it makes a terrible first impression, and anyone in the near vicinity is likely to take the money for that drink they were going to buy you, and spend it on heavy clods of dirt to throw in your eyes. But dammit, it’s what you’re going to have to do. A good CV is a beautifully presented, unapologetic boast, and remember; people who exchange drink money for dirt clods are idiots and don’t deserve your attention.

Recently, I got a job. And I got it through the ancient art of Making Sure My CV Was Brill. It’s fine -the papers are signed, my employers are locked in, we’ve all got the tattoos; there’s very little anyone can do about it at this stage. Tricking people into hiring you – this is what we’re talking about, and having done a fair amount of hiring in my time, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way. A 10 step guide to the best CV ever, with little to no use of threats or crying:

1.       Keep it clean, keep it clear

 In the harried panic of being lost in a sea of swirling graduate desperation, it’s quite easy to succumb to the desire to Get Creative with your layout. “Look, magical neon CV swirls, that will show how exciting I am!” “My CV has an 80s SOUNDTRACK, which means I’m worth loads of cash!”  “Give me a job please, this CV is also a car” – some obvious examples. But although it might give your credentials a shallow boost (not counting the CV-car thing, that’s obviously amazing and I’m already working on a patent), canny employers appreciate a CV that is easy to read, clear and confident far more than the urgh-factor of a couple of loud, potentially confusing gimmicks.

2.     Your intro. Make it a cracker.

You know what sentence every CV in the world starts with? “I am a hard-working, passionate individual with great creative flair and a passion for *insert job applying for*” – you’ve written it on your CV, haven’t you? Don’t deny it. It’s right there, below ‘CURRICULUM VITAE’ in flashing pink. It might be true, but it’s boring. Boring to the point of invisibility. Find a way to say what’s great about you, but do it in a way that will mark you out as different. It’s the first sentence your employers will read – don’t waste it on generalisations.

3.       Keep asking yourself – so what?

When describing your work experience to date, it’s important that you pause after every sentence to ask ‘SO WHAT?’ Employ a grumpy, overweight New Yorker in an apron or the pop-rock sensation Pink to shout it near your ear for added motivation. It’s not just about saying what you’ve done, it’s about quantifying the value of those things. So you been in a certain job for a year – so what? So you recently implemented a certain scheme – what benefits came out of it? You were put in charge of a project – why did that turn out to be the best idea ever? SO WHAT? SO WHAT? SO WHAT?


4.       Write like it’s the first job you’ve applied for

I know it’s arduous, I know it’s boring, I know it means you can’t just copy/paste from your fifteen other applications you’ve slogged through that day – but trust, it makes a difference. As hardened as you may become to the horrors of job applications, don’t let your standards slip. Employers can spot a CV that has been carefully put together to suit the job at hand a mile off; not only does it show a sense of purpose, it shows them that they’re in the presence of someone who is canny enough to manipulate their achievements to date to their own selfish advantage. Someone just like them. And they love them.


5.       Think Sherlock – provide proof

No matter what industry you’re going into, how creative you think you are or how delightfully untrackable your genius may be by conventional methods – all employers understand cracking numbers. Try to find a way to boil down your achievements into hard nuggets of undeniable, triumphant facts; percentage boosts of social media uptake, sales figures raised over how much time, number of co-workers you made weep with joy, etc. Specificity is next to cleanliness, as they say.

6.       Remember your dream team

In my experience, a brilliant cover letter can hook you an interview before your employer has even had a chance to dismiss your CV for looking too much like a car. Allowing you to stretch into the reasons why this company is the right one for you and vice versa, it’s your CV’s trusty steed and requires utmost respect. And remember – your CV is all about why you’re great. Your cover letter needs to be about why this company, THIS company is too. Enough about you – talk about them, and why YOUR skills fit THEIR objectives.

7.       Remember to be a human, not a job-bot.

As it stands, my CV cheerfully references Nicolas Cage. Twice. And I’m not taking it out, no matter what you say, Mum.

8.       Obey the 2 page rule

There aren’t many straight-up, no messing, put your hand down, wipe your face, take your shoes off rules when it comes to CV scribbling. This is one of them. Two pages. That’s what you get.

9.       Scrap the stuff you know doesn’t matter

You got 10 As at GCSE, did you? Gosh. In Design Technology, wonderful. You must be great with a soldering iron, five years ago. You have very little space here for conveying very important information. Don’t waste it on facts you’ve put in just because it’s What People Do.

10.   Don’t attach a picture. For God’s sake, don’t attach a picture.

If you’re so attractive that you think it’ll boost your CV credentials, everyone will hate you for it. If you’re not so attractive that you think you’ll boost your CV, why bother?

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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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