Seven steps to writing a CV that will land you the job
If you’re looking for a new job, having a well-written CV is essential. It’s part of your job search tool box. But where should you start?
To help you, CV writer, founder of the British Association of CV Writers (BACVW) and author of Your All-In-One CV and Job Search Companion: Conquer Internet Overwhelm and Land Your Dream Job, Laura Harmsworth takes you though the seven steps of writing a CV that will land you the job.
1) Choose a format
Firstly, consider the CV format that is most suitable for your situation. Here are three types of CV format.
Everything is written in reverse chronological order with your most recent experience and qualifications showing first. This CV is logical and makes it easy for recruiters to see your experience and progression. This format is for you if you’ve been following a natural career path.
Functional (also known as skills-based)
This format focuses the reader’s mind on what you can offer in terms of skills, abilities, and professional expertise, rather than in which role you acquired them. This highlights your transferable skills and any gaps are less obvious. This format is for you if you’re changing career direction or have a career gap. Just be aware that recruiters are often wary of this type of CV.
A functional CV isn’t favoured by all recruiters and hiring managers so a hybrid of functional and chronological works well. The “Skills” section can be more informative, to include examples and achievements but not to the extent of a functional CV.
You will keep a lot of that information under reach role. This format is for most job seekers and particularly suits those just starting out, changing careers, or returning after a career break.
2) Plan your CV sections
Now open a new document on your computer and add in the sections on your CV:
- Personal details
- Key skills
- Career history
- Voluntary roles
- Education, training, and qualifications
3) Brainstorm your skills
Next, grab a blank piece of paper and start brainstorming your skills. Recruiters see hundreds of CVs and when you apply they’re looking to see if your skill set matches the role requirements. Your CV must therefore have the relevant key skills for that role littered throughout it. If you’re changing career, focus on your transferable skills.
Write a list of all your skills:
- Seek input from others
- Find adverts for your ideal role
- Highlight the skills, write them into a document, group them, and delete duplicates/ones you don’t have
- List the top four to six skills in the “Key Skills” section of your CV.
4) List your achievements
Another brainstorming task now – your achievements. This is an area a lot of people struggle with but it’s essential your CV doesn’t read like a job description, with a list of responsibilities.
You need to prove you can deliver results for the company you’re applying to – can you solve their problems, impact the bottom line, increase efficiency, decrease costs, or improve customer service?
Start by gathering your achievements. Think through all your roles and write down positive feedback, awards, targets achieved, challenges overcome, initiatives that have saved money etc. Next, brainstorm. Write as much as you want on each achievement using CAR (Context, Action, Result).
When you are ready. refine into a succinct sentence or two, starting with the R, quantifying where possible. Here are some tips to help you:
- Don’t start every line with “Responsible for” – remember, it’s about your achievements not your responsibilities
- Use the strongest action/power word you can find at the beginning of a sentence to ensure your CV is impressive
- Avoid jargon words
- Don’t overuse the same phrases or words
- Ensure the action verb is relevant to the key words in the job advert/description
Finally, copy and paste the achievements relevant to the job ad into your CV.
5) Format your CV
Ensure your CV is easy to read, with white space, clear headings, consistent use of formatting.
6) Check your spelling and grammar
Make sure you proofread your CV. Use spell check and the Read Aloud function in Word, and ask someone else to read it.
7) Tailor your CV for each role
After achievements, tailoring your CV to each role is the most important thing you can do (and what so many jobseekers don’t).
Writing a generic CV and using it for numerous applications without changing the content is unlikely to land you an interview. The hiring manager wants to know how you fit the bill specifically and what you can bring to the company.
If you submit a generic CV, the reader will have to assume certain things, read between the lines, or think you’re a poor match. Spend time tailoring every application – believe me, it will be worth it! Here’s my advice:
- Read the job advert
- Use the keywords from the advert in your CV
- Highlight all the parts of it you have experience of and ensure an example/achievement is on your CV to evidence each skill/requirement
- Only include relevant responsibilities or those that demonstrate transferable skills they’re looking for
- Take out anything that isn’t relevant to this particular role
Would you like an even easier way to write your CV?
Love more help to write a CV that lands you the job you want? I expand on all of the above in my book, Your All-In-One CV and Job Search Companion: Conquer Internet Overwhelm and Land Your Dream Job.
I provide you with more detail, things to exclude, the use of AI, and extra tips. You also have access to tools, templates, and advice on:
- Cover letters
- Keeping positive during your job search
To help you in your job search there are also chapters dedicated to specific situations including:
- Career changes
- Career gaps
- Student CVs
- Advice for the over 50s
You can buy a copy of the book now on Amazon.
Laura Harmsworth is the founder of Caversham CV and the British Association of CV Writers (BACVW). She’s also author of Your All-In-One CV and Job Search Companion: Conquer Internet Overwhelm and Land Your Dream Job.