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CV Tips – The Do’s and Don’ts


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Our top CV tips for writing a successful resume

With so much competition and so many applicants, it is crucial for your CV to make an impact quickly. An employer will probably only scan a document for a matter of seconds before passing judgement. Here are our top tips to maximise your chances of success.

The Do’s

Make your CV easy on the eyes

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good CV format. Use a traditional layout with a simple professional font and formatting. Use bold font for headings and don’t be afraid to leave “white space” between sections to make it easier to read. A good resume should ideally be two or maximum three pages long, depending on your experience.

Keep it Simple

Be concise and make sure it is easy to find the important information quickly. Contact details should be immediately obvious.

Write in the First Person

Write in the first person using “I” instead of “he/she”. This gives a better impression than a resume that talks about a person as if it is somebody else writing it. (Particularly if English is not your first language. It may give the impression that you cannot write well and got somebody else to do it for you).

Have an interesting introduction

Your personal summary should an engaging outline of who you are and what you can offer a potential employer. You will want to entice the employer to continue reading but be sure to keep it brief.

Lay out work experience clearly and in reverse chronological order

This section should generally precede your education, unless your education is more relevant to the job for which you are applying. Start with your most recent employment back to your earliest.  Keep your details up to date and relevant to the job application, using clear job titles and responsibilities. Ensure all previous employments have a start and end date (including the month and year). Make sure it is easy to see the dates at a glance. A busy employer won’t have time to search out dates if they are hidden among the text. Check that your dates don’t overlap.

Highlight achievements

Any significant awards or achievements in University, sport or in a previous employment can demonstrate a strong level of commitment and a good work ethic. Any key achievements relevant to the job application or in a similar employment are particularly useful to illustrate what contribution you can offer the company.

Include Qualifications

Third level qualifications should be listed, again in reverse chronological order. These can include a brief description where it is specifically relevant to the particular job.

Include skills and keywords

Do include particular skills you may have. List any keywords – software packages/computer systems/programming or foreign languages you have experience with. These are often searched for on a database.

Check and re-check your spelling and grammar

There is no excuse for not getting this right and it can put an employer off straight away if there are mistakes. Ask a friend to proof-read it for you as it is easy to miss things you have written yourself.

The Don’ts

Avoid over-formatting

Don’t use boxes as they can make a CV look cluttered and often don’t load properly onto a database. Fancy fonts and colours may be great if you are going for an artistic role but in general should be avoided.

Don’t Exaggerate

No matter how tempting it may be to embroider the truth when it comes to your experience, never do it! It is more than likely to be found out, with embarrassing consequences. Remember it is the recruiter’s job to recognize when an applicant is being untruthful.

Do not Include Irrelevant Work Experience

Leave out unnecessary information like casual or Summer work. Very short term temporary work, ie. only a few months can be left out unless it specifically relates to your chosen career or the particular job application.

Don’t Leave Unexplained Gaps in Employment

A large employment gap with no obvious reason is always a cause for concern. If you took time out to achieve a qualification, you should say so, giving dates to match. If you decided to go travelling or be a full-time parent, it is better to mention this on your CV. However, don’t be tempted to make up false information or change your dates to hide a period of unemployment. Recruiters have many ways of checking the if your details are truthful.

Avoid Repetition

Avoid repeating exactly the same duties from one employment to another. Most jobs will differ in some way from a similar job in a different company. If you just cut and paste the responsibilities from one job to the next, it can appear lazy.

Don’t Just List Skills or Responsibilities

For each group of skills or job responsibilities you should elaborate, giving examples from previous experience. A long list of skills without any context will not have much impact.

Leave Out Personal Information

Marital status, age or your kids’ names are not things the employer will need to know so leave it out. It will just increase the clutter the employer has to read through before they find the relevant information.

Don’t Include Dangerous or Time-Consuming Hobbies

While an eccentric pastime may be a potential source of conversation or amusement, it might also make sure that you don’t get an interview. Hobbies should be included so they can give an idea of the type of person you are eg. A team player, a leader, a logical thinker. Bungee jumping might sound exciting but the employer may wonder if you will make it to work on Monday.

Do not use jargon

Your CV should look professional so leave out jargon and waffle and keep to the facts.

Omit References

If you get to the stage where the employer wants to reference check, they will ask for them. 

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