How to write a CV

How to write a good CV...
Text: Stein Tore Nybrodahl .

Imagine yourself as a recruiter with an overloaded time schedule. You have 10 "must do"-cases on your table, many of them burning operational issues you need to handle before you break for the day. At the same time you need to go through the list of applicants for the last position as a SW engineer in your company. Your company has a web-based recruitment system, and it's easy for you to find the CV's and applications - they are just a click away. You open the inbox and see 40 applicants. How long time will you spend reading the individual CV and application?

The answer will of course vary from recruiter to recruiter, but think of this estimate: If you spend 15 minutes on each applicant it will take you 10 hours to go through everyone. Will you have time for this? For almost everyone the answer will be a clear NO! Let say you will use maximum 2 hours. This means that you will spend 3 minutes on each applicant, reading both the CV and the application. Let say one minute for the CV, one minute for the application and one minute to rate the application in the recruitment system. When you do the rating you think three categories; "Not applicaple" - "Questionmark/ wildcard" - "Candidate". In this first round it's all about getting in the "Candidate"-category, and be invited to an interview. No interview = no success...

So let's have a look at some important things related to the CV. How to catch the recruiters eye - either in a positive or negative way - in your one-minute attention from this person who will decide your future opportunity...

1. Max two pages: How much are you able to read in one minute? Not much. This is your personal ad! "Myself Inc."... Do not overload the CV with needless information. Be informative, concise and objective.

2. Do the company use CV-forms in their recruitment system? There is a reason for this: they want all information from you in the same format. It makes it much easier to overview and compare candidates. Many applicants bypass this extra work by uploading their existing CV and just write "See CV". How will the recruiter interpret this answer? You are not willing to take your time = you are not enough interested in the position. But don't overload this information in a recruitment system. And always upload your CV (in a pdf-format).

3. The CV must be accurate in content, spelling and grammar. Writing errors and "bad language" gives you negative points, and could be the small details making the decision tipping in your disfavour. Ask someone else to help you check!

4. Headlines - not details. Give the recruiter the big picture. Details is for the interview. Too many details showing inability to structure things and lack of ability to prioritize.

5. Structure. It should be easy for the recruiter to follow the red path in your education and work experience = your career. Use sections, bullet points, bold/ cursiv text = easy to overview. And make space in your CV.

6. Do not lie or hide anything obvious. The recruiter is especially looking for "black periods" ("holes") in your CV. Periods not described related to education and work history. This could be periods of unemployment, periods after loosing your job etc. Don't try to hide anything. The recruiter will find out in the interview anyhow.

7. List just relevant jobs in your CV. Consider if you should list all summer jobs/ internships/ part-time jobs. They need at least to be a bit relevant to be at the CV...

8. Try to link keyword from the position to the CV: In the recruitment ad you will find a lot of information what the company is looking for. This could as an example be work experience, education or personal skills. Try to match this keyword as best as you can in your CV. Another source for information to this keywords is the contact person mentioned in the ad. Make a phonecall, ask relevant question, and take notes of what is important. Use this information to "tailor" your CV.

9. Show your key competencies: Many people start their CV with a summary of their key competences. This is a nice way of presenting yourself from a "bird-view", but be sure that you check and change this key competencies according to the job you are applying for. Many people always use the same CV for all different kinds of jobs, but if you choose this way to make a summary of yourself you maybe do a bad shoot. (The recruiter don't see the direct link between your key competencies and the actual job position).  

10. Exclude "Tribe-language" and proffesional terminology. What you have written may seem simple and obvious to you, but not to a recruiter. Have someone else to look through your CV. The recruiter is not the expert and acronyms could be a real killer!

11. Include a picture of yourself? No good answer to this one, but; never try to oversell yourself by chosing a picture showing Mr. or Ms. Wonderful. This only creates high expectations before the interview and a possible bad start when you meet in person. Another better way is to show yourself from an untraditional angle by the picture, giving you a bit of the x-factor. Examples could be yourself in an sporty "outdoor-environment", showing your hobbies etc. This could be the little detail bringing you in to the interview.

12. References: Could be both in the CV or in the application. If the CV is long; put them in the application. References should be independent and credible. Examples of good references are managers/ supervisors. Examples of bad references are customers and collegues. You should also have references from several former employers - in acsending order for the last ten years or the three employers - if possible.   


How to structure your CV:

There are several ways of structuring a CV, but some quick guidelines i right order:


At least: Some creative tips: