Here at Three Q, we know a thing or two about CVs, so we’ve put together our ultimate CV checklist. You may be interested in a job but does your CV have what it takes to get you through the application stage? Most recruiters won’t spend long looking at your CV, and research shows us that there is only a 16% chance of them reading your cover letter.
Employers receive hundreds of CVs for some positions. However, getting through to the interview stage is not quite as tough as you think. If you have your CV in order, you’re a step ahead- most CVs will be disregarded almost immediately if they’re not up to scratch. With just a small amount of time and commitment you can elevate your CV above the average. So with no further a-do, here is Three Q’s ultimate C.V. Checklist.
- A CV should never be longer than two A4 pages. The exception to this of course is if you are a senior executive with decades of experience. In this instance, you are allowed to stretch to three A4 pages. However, even though we want to keep our CV short and sweet, make sure there isn’t a lot of white space at the end of the second page- this makes it look as if you don’t have much to say about yourself.
- When you’re working with Word Documents, go to the Page Layout menu and make the Page Margins are 1cm all around. This makes your CV look neater and easier to read.
- Does it pass the ‘arm’s length’ test? This means it should be aesthetically pleasing and professional when you hold it at arm’s length in front of you.
- Keep paragraphs are condensed to a few lines each. 5-6 lines are usually enough, this will help to keep you focused while writing too.
- Instead of adding blocks of text, try using bullet points to list your attributes.
- Keep the most relevant information on page one of the CV so that the recruiter glancing over it will add it to the interview pile.
- Ensure all information about any particular topic is kept together and not spread out over the two pages- this just keeps the reader clear and focused.
Structure & Style
- Begin your CV with a Personal Profile then talk about Key Skills, Employment History, Education and Hobbies and Interests in that order. It may be a good idea to swap Employment and Education around if your academic career is more impressive than your employment history to date or if you’ve just recently graduated.
- It seems trivial, but there are certain fonts that look best on a CV. Arial and Times New Roman are generally considered best. Size 12 is recommended and size 14 and 16 is advisable for headings. Don’t use more than two fonts and stick to one if possible- your CV is supposed to be formal, not artistic.
- Always bold, underline or italicise important information that you wish to be highlighted.
- When listing information, use bullet points. This is especially useful under Key Skills.
- Use positive, proactive language throughout your CV. For example, “Created a database to analyse and interpret the subject matter” instead of “Used a database to track the collected data.”- make the most of all your experiences.
Spelling & Grammar
- It is recommended to not rely solely on Spell Check. If recruiters spot any mistakes in your CV it will be rejected. While Spell Check helps you find actual spelling mistakes, it doesn’t help find mistakes in context; i.e. ‘What is over their?” Some recruiters may see poor grammar as a sign of a sloppy worker which ruins your chances of being offered an interview. As well as reading through it yourself, ask someone else to cast their eyes over it. They will probably see things you’ve missed and might remember something about yourself that you forgot to include.
- Be careful when using capitalisation. A common mistake people make on CVs is to write ‘Bsc’ instead of BSc when adding their Bachelor of Science degree. Also, remember that the names of roads, streets, places and companies should have the first letter capitalised.
- Make sure that your name is at the top of the page in bold.
- Make sure that you have your postal address and your email address clearly on the page. Use an email that looks professional that doesn’t include slang.
- Add your mobile number. We recommend to only include your house telephone if you have added a proper answer machine message or else you have a housemate you can trust to take a message.
- Social media information should also be added; particularly your LinkedIn profile. Be sure to ‘clean up’ your Facebook and Twitter accounts if necessary, make sure that you haven’t got posts including offensive or unprofessional behaviour or language.
- This should be placed beneath your Personal Details. A Personal Profile is used to prove you are qualified for the role and that you are the best candidate for the job.
- Keep the profile short; 3-5 lines should be enough.
- Get to the point but also showcase your experience and special skills in what is essentially a marketing pitch to the employer- you need to sell your skills.
- Use this section to point out your main strengths.
- All skills included MUST be related to the job opening in some way.
- Stick to skills which are job-related and transferrable.
- Some employers tend to focus on candidates with soft skills such as Teamwork, Communication, Leadership, Friendliness and Problem Solving. Try to add a brief sentence demonstrating your skill after each one has been listed.
- If you have specialist knowledge in a field related to the job or if you speak a foreign language then include the details- extra skills could be the difference between you and the next candidate.
- List your past jobs chronologically with the latest role first- it is probably the most relevant to the one to the job that you are applying for now.
- Include job title, name of company and the dates you started and finished.
- While it is best if your dates include the months you began and ended the jobs, just include the years if there are gaps of a couple of months between roles.
- Given difficulty in the job market at the past few years, most employers understand that there may be small gaps between jobs.
- Include the key responsibilities you had in each role.
- Always look to be specific when adding in the achievements and outcomes of any job; quantify the results if you can. Instead of saying you helped the company make a profit; specify the level of profit: “Implemented cost cutting procedures that reduced the company’s stationery bill by 22% per annum.”- hard facts show that you can get the job done and know how to do it.
- Include the new skills you learned in each job.
- List your 3-4 most recent jobs only.
- List your qualifications/certificates/professional awards.
- Name the educational institution, full name of the course and the start & end dates of where you studied
- Add the grade/degree classification where applicable.
- Recent graduates should include the modules on their latest degree along with the name of their dissertation project- this will show your interest in the field where you can’t back it up with work experience.
Hobbies & Interests
- It is a good idea to include a wide range of interests as this suggests you are a well-rounded individual with the ability to relate to different people.
- Do NOT stick to one or two interests as recruiters often see this as a sign of someone unable to mix in different circles; this is a problem as most Irish workplace consists of diverse cultures.
- Make sure you include some active, group and social interests; it is important that you give the impression you’re able to get along with others. Too many ‘solo’ interests mark you out as an introvert, which isn’t overly helpful as an employer when you need a candidate to work as part of the team.
- Show that you have a serious interest in at least one hobby as this suggests you have determination, concentration and willpower.
- Try and include anything which shows the ability to lead others. If you want to climb the ladder, you need to be willing to take responsibility. An example of this is stating if you were were ever a team captain of a sports team, or a leader in a volunteering role.
- You don’t need to add references unless they are specified on the job opening. ‘References added upon request’ is usually sufficient. If you are asked for them , keep them on a seperate sheet.
- Always ask referees first to seek their permission- you don’t want to surprise them with a phone call from a stranger. Include their name, job title, address and phone number.
Always include a cover letter with your CV, this provides insight into your personality and enables you to add details that are not on your CV. Make sure that you personalise it to each job opportunity which will also show the employer that you are really interested in working for them. Ensure there are no gaps in your employment history. If there are significant gaps, you can address them in your cover letter. Try to be positive about the gap; perhaps you were studying a course, travelling or else you needed to take a break to focus on a career change. You don’t need to be too specific at this stage; that can wait for the interview. Assuming you are sending your CV by email to an online recruiter, make sure that all the hyperlinks work.
If you go through the above checklist carefully, you should have all the information you need to create a standout CV. Once you have it written up, take a look at our listings to check out all of the job posts that we update daily.