Do’s and Don’ts of Preparing a Curriculum Vitae

By Relebohile Sera

Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash
Photo by Tamarcus Brown on Unsplash

Writing or revising your CV? Here are a few pointers to always keep in mind.

Do put contact information (name, address, phone number and e-mail) at the top of your CV.

Do include an objective or summary statement that is relevant to the position being applied for. Mention the value you bring to the employer, not just what you wish to gain from the job.

Do include professional affiliations, certifications, or educational programs attended.

Do show that you have the necessary skills. Include both paid and volunteer accomplishments and experiences.

Don’t include irrelevant information. Some employers make a decision about a CV within seconds, so a CV containing information about the ages of children could be rejected before the employer has even finished reading it.

Do include POWER words such as ‘achieved’, ‘supervised’, ‘launched’ and ‘co-ordinated’ when describing your work achievements.

Do include accomplishment statements that quantify where possible (e.g. “increased sales by 20%” is more effective than just “increased sales”) and shoe cost savings, increased quality or productivity.

Don’t go back further than 10 years on your CV unless you have done something exceptional. Some employers believe that what you learned or did more than a decade ago is outdated. If you do list earlier employment, include only a couple of bullet points about each and describe more recent accomplishments in greater detail.

Do organize CV sections to highlight the most relevant experience near the top. If you have lengthy employment history, this is especially important as earlier accomplishments may get lost. One way to do this is by beginning the document with a professional summary or key accomplishments list.

Do proofread. Spell check programs are great, but they do not catch all errors and are never a substitute for careful editing and a good eye. If possible, have someone else read it too; you’ll be surprised at how many mistakes someone else can pick up that you missed.

Do add details of professional qualifications. If you completed a course and received a qualification relevant to the job opening, be sure to include it. This added bit of expertise could be the difference between getting an interview and being left disappointed. However, you shouldn’t include details of minor courses that offer qualifications which have no bearing on the job.

Don’t go overboard and use too many different fonts on one CV. This can be disorienting and disrupt the flow. Make sure the design matches the industry culture (e.g. is it a conservative or creative industry?).

Do tailor your CV to the role you are applying for. Hiring managers are typically very experienced and can spot a generic CV in a heartbeat even though they skim applications. Rather than trying to force in all your skills and achievements, focus on a select few that perfectly match the role you’re applying for. This allows you to expand on these attributes and show how you will be a good addition to the team.

Do create several versions of the CV in different formats including Microsoft Word and PDF (which preserves formatting).

Do save an electronic CV with a file name that uses your full name or first initial and middle initial and last name. This will allow the employer to locate your document rather than wading through thousands of files simply names “CV”.