Ask yourself these 14 questions before you submit another CV for your job search

It's no secret that there are some CV slip-ups that drive recruiters crazy and are likely to jeopardise your application.

So, before you eagerly apply for a job that's right up your street, ask yourself the following 14 questions to ensure your CV's in good shape.

1. Have I started my CV with my first and last name, rather than the phrase "curriculum vitae?"

If you've started your CV with the title "curriculum vitae," then give yourself a rap on the knuckles.

Under no circumstances should you ever start your CV with that phrase. You wouldn't title a book "book" and then put its title in smaller print underneath.

It's the same for CVs.

If you've submitted your job application, recruiters and companies know that they're looking at either your CV or your cover letter. Therefore, you don't need to include a phrase to tell them what it is. Instead, much like the title of a book, your CV needs to showcase what it's all about: you.

Instead of writing "curriculum vitae" at the top of your CV, insert your name so that it shines proudly.

2. Have I added my contact details so I can be contacted easily?

Contact details are a must on your CV. They should sit just underneath your name, so that recruiters can locate them easily.

At the very least, detail your mobile number and your professional email address on your CV. You might also like to include a link to your LinkedIn profile. Not only is this a chance to show your prospective employers what a great network you have, but it's also a chance to show off additional skills that you couldn't fit on your CV.

3. Is my personal profile relevant to this employer and vacancy?

Your personal profile is the next component of your CV. Its purpose is to concisely and effectively state who you are, your top skills that are relevant to the job or industry, and your career goals.

It's essential that you tailor your personal profile to the employer, industry, or vacancy. If you don't, the recruiter or hiring manager is unlikely to continue reading because they'll assume you're an unsuitable match.

To tailor your profile to the role, sift through the job description and identify frequently-mentioned industry keywords and skills. Then, inject these keywords throughout your personal profile. Recruiters will instantly see you're a suitable match and that they should continue reading.

Need help writing your CV? Learn how our CV experts can help.

4. Is my personal profile concise?

Your personal profile must be short and snappy. Recruiters don't have time to read a lengthy autobiography before they get to the main body of your CV.

Aim to keep your profile to around four to six sentences, or 50 to 200 words. Be as specific as you can, too. You want recruiters to be able to spot your best traits as quickly as possible, rather than pick apart a pile of words like they're mining for gems.

5. Is my employment history presented in reverse chronological order?

Your employment history must be laid out in reverse chronological order because your most recent experience is the most relevant. Plus, structuring your CV in this way allows the recruiter to read back and see how you've progressed.

Since your most recent role is likely to show your most impressive skill set, you want the recruiter to read this first.

6. Have I included employer names, job titles, and start and end dates for each position?

At the very least, each position listed in your employment history or career summary must feature the company name, your job title(s), and the start and end dates of each position. It's also customary to include the location if it's relevant. You could write the details like so:

Mmm yyyy – mmm yyyy    Company Name, Location

                                                Job Title

7. Have I focused my CV on what I'm currently up to, rather than what I did years ago?

Employers are interested in your most recent experience above anything else, because it's usually the most relevant. Therefore, your most recent role should encompass the most detail regarding your skills and achievements. You can afford to reduce the details as you trek back through your employment history, but, as ever, keep the experiences tailored to the job posting for which you're applying.

If you're quite far along in your career, there's less need to detail skills and experiences from over 10 years ago.  However, to avoid looking like you were unemployed, you should list the employer name, your job title, and employment dates at the very least.

8. Have I given specific examples that prove I possess the skills and abilities I've mentioned?

All too often, job hunters list basic responsibilities in their employment history without any evidence of their use. For example, many job hunters will list phrases such as "serving customers," "taking phone calls," or "stacking shelves," without providing additional details. As a result, the experience doesn't seem as strong as it could be.

If you support your skills and responsibilities with examples of when you used them and what you were able to accomplish as a result, then you'll make your experience more impressive. For example:

  • Served over 50 customers a day 
  • Handled phone calls and customer requests effectively, contributing to a 98% customer satisfaction rating
  • Systematically stacked shelves to meet or exceed daily targets

9. Is my education presented in reverse chronological order?

Much like your employment history, you must list your education in reverse chronological order. This is because your most recent schooling is likely to be your highest qualification and therefore the most impressive.

If you're a decade or more into your career, the amount of detail in your education section can be top level. Therefore, list your most advanced qualification. This will most likely be your degree (or equivalent) or your A levels (or equivalent).

10. Have I highlighted relevant modules that match the job description I'm targeting and showcase my strengths?

If you left education fairly recently, you might like to expand on the skills you developed. However, you must hand-pick skills and experiences that are relevant to the job description in order to highlight your suitability for the role.

If the job requires a candidate with a range of soft skills, you might like to focus on teamwork skills developed via group presentations, the ability to work under pressure by completing exams, and excellent time management skills from handling multiple tight deadlines.

Alternatively, if the role requires someone with experience in a specific area and you completed a module on this topic, be sure to reference it in detail to show you're an obvious match for the position.

11. Have I concentrated on a couple of key interests rather than a list?

Your hobbies and interests section can be a tricky one, since this is optional on a CV. If you're including this section, it must add value.

To do this, insert a couple of key interests that are relevant to the role or will genuinely interest the recruiter. For example, reports suggest that listing "reading" as a hobby could be detrimental to your application because it's not unique in the slightest.

12. Have I included my references' contact details or said they were available on request?

It's no longer customary to include the line "references available on request" at the end of your CV.

However, if you have a couple of references in mind and have asked for their permission, you could include their name, job title, and contact details on a supplementary page after your CV.

13. Have I proofread my CV for spelling and grammatical errors?

If you read a book or an article littered with spelling errors, what would your first thought be — unprofessional? Incompetent?

If your CV is anything other than immaculate, recruiters are likely to have similar thoughts.

As a result, a thorough proofread is essential before you hit submit. It's wise to use a spellchecker, but don't rely on it. If you wrote the word "out" but meant "our," spell check won't pick that up because technically it's spelt correctly.

Therefore, read your CV aloud to help identify grammatical and lexical errors and awkward phrasings. You might also pass your CV to a family member or a friend to sense check your changes. Or better yet, request a free CV review from a professional CV writer.

14. Does my CV look good visually?

We're not suggesting that your CV must look worthy enough for Instagram, but it must look good on a professional level.

The contents of your CV should comfortably fit on two A4 pages. If it's just shy or just over, try tweaking or adding a section or increasing the font or margin sizes. Also, choose an easy-to-read font such as Calibri or Arial and bold headings to highlight each section clearly – and keep the formatting consistent.

Overall, your CV should be pleasant to look at, with easily-digestible information. Not only will you look like a true professional, but you'll make the recruiter's job a lot easier when it comes to scanning your CV and extracting relevant information.

Not sure if your CV is ready for your job search? Request a free CV review today.

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