Writing a new CV? Make sure you read this first

Writing a CV is not easy. One of the hardest parts is making sure it provides the best impression of you and clearly conveys your skills and strengths, and that the contents are relevant to the role you are applying for. But if it’s been a while since you wrote a CV, there are some important changes you also need to consider…

There is every chance that your CV will not be read by a human being in the first instance. Instead it will be put through an automated system called ATS – or Applicant Tracking System. ATS is designed to match keywords on your CV with keywords in the job description and scores your CV accordingly. If the score on matching keywords is not high enough, sadly your CV will be rejected at this stage.

So the Number One rule is to make sure you carefully tailor your CV to match as many keywords as possible from the job description. If the job description requires relationship building, or event planning, or working to tight deadlines, make sure these are on your CV in both a key skills section and in your career history so that they are picked up by ATS.

As well as keywords, there are some other important things you need to watch out for with ATS:

  • Don’t use fancy fonts – ATS readers don’t like them (nor do most human readers). Keep it nice and simple. I mostly use Calibri or Cambria fonts. Arial and Times New Roman are rather dated now
  • Don’t use columns or text boxes – ATS can’t read these. Just keep the format clean and straightforward
  • Don’t send your CV as a PDF. Some ATS systems are not great at auto-reading PDFs plus recruiters or company personnel may wish to add their own notes to the digital copy of your CV.

Once your CV has made it past the ATS machine, a human will then read it. Unfortunately this may be along with a big pile of other CVs they have to read, so give some consideration to the person who has to wade through dozens of CVs and consider the following:

  • Decisions on CVs are typically made in less than 30 seconds – your CV must be able to be read quickly
  • CVs are best read without squinting! Font size 9 or 10 are too small. Size 11 is good.
  • Use black font only. If your CV is printed out in black and white, any coloured text will be grey, which equals more squinting!
  • Keep font styles consistent – multiple fonts or over-use of italics doesn’t add impact, it make fast-reading harder
  • Make sure attention to detail shows throughout your CV. Double check your spelling, spacing, punctuation and formatting
  • A maximum of 2 pages is often the ideal but it does depend on the field of work you are in and your experience levels
  • If you have a long career history, concentrate on the last 10 years and use an ‘Earlier Career Summary’ section for anything earlier

Finally, take your time writing your CV, a good CV can’t be written in a few minutes. Or consider having it professionally written to give you an excellent targeted CV which you can then tailor going forwards.

If you would like a free review and advice on your CV, email your current CV to me at [email protected] – I will review your CV and provide you with feedback and advice on how you could improve it.

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