The essentials of CV writing

7 things you must do if you’re gunning for a stellar CV.

By The Notch Team
July 2016

Getting your CV (or resume) noticed is no easy feat. You’re often competing with hundreds of other qualified applicants for a single spot. The last thing you want is for your CV to be pushed aside because it didn’t appear appealing enough to the reviewer.

Here are 7 CV writing essentials we think you should keep in mind to make it through the crucial screening process.


Keep it short and simple

Writing a 1-page (or 2-page, if absolutely necessary) CV is hard, but definitely worth the struggle. Most CV reviewers only have a few minutes to read your CV before they move on to the next candidate. Furthermore, they are unlikely to read the entire CV in detail; instead they will probably skim over it and focus on the information most relevant to the role that they are hiring for. If those key points are somewhere in the sea of a 4-page CV, there is a good chance it won’t get picked up.

It should be noted, however, that keeping your CV short does not mean you use a small font-size, zero-spacing and no margins to make everything fit. Instead, push yourself to share with them only the most important information, in the most efficient way possible.


Make it relevant to the job

One of the most common mistakes that job seekers make is to have just one (generic) version of their CV which they use for all jobs they are interested in. But these ‘one-for-all’ CVs are usually missing a very important element – relevance to the job. It is important for your CV to not only summarise your credentials, but also to present it in a way that demonstrates what makes you the right fit for the job. Make sure that your CV for each of your applications is adjusted in a way that it addresses some of the core competencies needed for that specific role.

A good place to start when customizing your CV is to ensure that you are including activities and achievements from your past experience that share skills with the job you are applying for. For example, for a job in management consulting, you could focus on a quantitative assignment you have done. However, for a job in an operations role, it would be more relevant to focus on a process that you put in place or implemented.

Push yourself to share with them only the most important information, in the most efficient way possible.

Structure it strategically

Instead of using the standard CV template, you should strategically think about the framework you are using. A good place to begin thinking about the framework is starting at the top. The upper-middle section of the CV is the first thing a reviewer looks at, and is the part of the CV that they are likely to focus on most. Make sure that this part of your CV has the pieces of information you think they would find most appealing. Often, this is the candidate’s most recent experience, but you can break that norm if you think something else you did is more appealing for the role that you are applying for.
Some questions to ask yourself when you’re writing this section are ‘What are the most impressive things on my CV?’, ‘What in my experience will impress the reviewer the most?’, ‘What are some elements of my CV that I know is a box that needs to be checked for the job I am applying for?’. If the beginning section of your CV addresses some of these questions, you are more likely to draw the interviewer in.


Include statistics of success

Knowing exactly what level of specificity and detail to go in to when writing a CV can be hard, especially if you’re trying to keep it short. However, those statistics often help the reviewer to appreciate how successful you were in your previous roles. For example, saying ‘Worked with a few clients across the globe’ is less impressive than ‘Worked with 8 clients across 5 countries’. It gives the reviewer a metric to keep in their mind as they read through the rest of the CV.

It should be said, however, that you should use numbers and statistics only if they really matter, and are honest. Reviewers have a keen sense of when someone is exaggerating the truth or taking credit for something that wasn’t quite their own work.

Once you’re done proof-reading it, proof read it again.

Let your personality show

While it’s important that your CV is professional and focuses on your education and work experience, it should also tell the reviewer a little bit more about you as a person. A bulk of your personality and fit is assessed during the interview itself, but you can let this show in your CV as well.
There are a few ways in which you can do this, the most common of which is in the ‘Extra-Curricular Activities’ section of the CV (typically placed at the end). If you’re a state level tennis player, or you DJ on the weekends, or are a hobby-coder, tell them! A lot of firms look for candidates who are different to the cookie-cutter candidates, and this is one way of showing them that you’ve broken the mould.


Proof read… twice

You will find yourself editing your CV multiple times to get to a final version. But even once you get to what you think is the final version, you should review it – multiple times. Look out for spelling or grammatical errors – those full-stops, commas and semi-colons can be tricky. Make sure it’s consistently formatted – that you’ve used the bold font efficiently, everything is aligned and the same font size. Most importantly, though, make sure that it reads well – look out for those extra words you don’t need or forgot to erase while making an edit. Once you’re done proof-reading it, proof read it again.


Get an expert opinion

The points mentioned above are just the primary essentials of CV writing. Depending on the industry you are applying to, your own experiences and the country that you are in, there are many other things to keep in mind to make sure you are putting together a stand-out CV. It always helps to get advice and guidance from an industry expert. They have the ‘inside-scoop’ on what companies are looking for, what industry-specific pet-peeves are and what you might need to update to make sure your CV is as stellar as your wealth of experience.