Businesses are increasingly using the résumé (also known as the curriculum vitae) to sift through hundreds of candidates that apply for each vacancy. Today we are going to look at resume writing and how to avoid your CV going into the bin.

Instead of the structure of an application form, a CV allows you to get information across but also show some creativity and flair and essentially we will show you how to make a CV. Many people turn to resume templates to write a CV but this means that an employer does not get to see the real candidate, but a mass-produced generic that hundreds of applicants have already used in the past and will use in the future.

How to Make a CV

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So let's look at the information that you must include on a résumé or CV. If you have completed an application form in the last decade then most of the information will be the same;

  • Name, address, contact details
  • Educational and Professional Qualifications
  • Employment history

A résumé though, also allows you though to include other pieces of information. It is wise to write each application tailored to the employer that you are writing a CV for; including a "personal statement" and "details of external interests".

Personal Statement

A Personal Statement should show where you are and where you are heading, highlighting the reasons why an employer should hire you. When I write my CV I make sure that I write something about my most recent work, about what I want to do and how that will benefit the prospective employer, such as:

After 10 years as a freelance writer, I am looking for an opportunity to use my editing and SEO skills as an on-line copywriter for an influential start-up company such as InfoMarketing Inc.

So in this example the personal statement has said that I have been a freelance writer for 10 years, I have writing, self-editing and SEO skills and I want to work for (the fictional company) InfoMarketing Inc; which I will have already researched on their website and know is a start-up company. the simple task of looking at an employers website and dropping an appropriate reference to them.

There is more opportunity for CV to show research and interest in a company than most application forms.

Details of External Interests

Call it "hobbies", call it "outside of work"; what you do away from the office is often as important as what you do inside it. I have a number of things that I do and have done that I always include when I make a CV; that I was a Chairman of a local registered charity and that I moved on to work with a national charity in the same field.

There are no right and wrong answers to this question when resume writing, an interviewer might enjoy the same interests as you; but equally it might be complicated if your charity work is in competition with the prospective employer.

Certainly it is not a good idea to be using your résumé writing to brag about getting drunk every Friday night; but it might be equally damaging to apply with an inactive remit and state that there is nothing better outside of work than to eat your singleton's ready meal for one and go to bed.

Explaining Your Answers

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So we have almost got the information that we are going to use to set up out free custom resume. We have made a lot of statements of fact about ourselves and our hobbies along with the traditional details of who, what, where and when. We have not related any of it yet to our future employer though and this is the last piece of creativity and flair that you need before making your resumes template.

For this bit of the CV we need to know what the company is looking for, what they are like and how they come across on their website and other promotional material. It is not always easy, but there will be hints to the company and how it likes staff to be.

If we head back to the fictional company of InfoMarketing Inc. we could find that their website shows that the company is vibrant and the staff working together around group tables in open plan offices. This would show that they are likely to embrace team-working and collaboration as part of their work ethic; so write a small piece about how you are a team player and give a very brief example of when you worked well in a team. It should only be about 75 words.

Ideally there needs to be 2 or 3 of these short texts pointing out just how well you would fit in with the employer and it's staff. A great source for that information is the employers website and if there is a chance for interaction as a "mystery shopper" then even better.

Your Best Resume Format

Quick Answer: There isn't one.

I am thankful that I never worked for the employment desk of a large human resources department. I have dealt with recruitment processes on a small scale in three different organisations that I have worked for; the number of bland, plain CV's that place as much importance on "Marital Status" as selling the applicant amazed me.

Before We Begin: Fonts and Formatting

Before we get into the writing; a few basic tips for resume writing and other professional documents:

  • Don't use an unprofessional font - If you want to format your name at the top of the page in a calligraphy style font then that is forgivable, but writing the CV in Comic Sans with it all in Bold will see a CV filed under B for Bin. 
  • Don't use a strange background image - I started with a few CV's for railway jobs and with a very faint image of a train in snow background. I got zero responses until I took the image out; coincidence?
  • Show you know how to use Microsoft Word or your chosen office package. If you are sending your CV electronically in a .doc format; pay attention to placing your personal details as a header and not in the body of the text, etc.
  • If you are using text boxes to format your CV then make sure all the formats are relative; text point size, justification, positioning.
  • Page length - 2 pages normally, 3 if you have had a really interesting life story that is essential to tell to your prospective employer.... no more though.

How To Make A CV: The Top Half of Page 1

If there are many applications for a job then it is doubtful that an employer is going to read the whole CV for every one so applicants have to sell themselves with the résumé writing ability of the first half of the first page. Most people use this for personal details; why? Many employers won't care if you have a driving licence and others will be able to work out that if your name is Mrs Melissa Bloggs that you are female and married.

The important information must go first though; name, contact details, date of birth. To balance space and prominence you could write these in a similar to a professional letter:

Mrs Melissa Bloggs
1 Any Street, Anytown, AB12 3CD
01234 567890

I would personally use around a 12 to 14 point font for the name and 10 to 12 point font for contact details.

Important Note Always be careful what e-mail account you use for your CV's. If you are using your current employer's e-mail domain it might breach the conditions of contract for Internet use, likewise if you have an e-mail account with offensive language in it you are less likely to be considered.

Some people like to put a photograph when resume writing. I admit I do but I also know that others don't. If you are known in your field it might aid recognition, but at the same time if you are applying for a vacancy that is dominated by visual impressions then not having the perfect photo might hinder your application. If you are going to use a photograph then as close to the top right hand corner would be a good idea to get it noticed.

Once the résumé template has your personal details and photograph we should consider your personal statement. This should be around 3 to 5 lines when typed on the page and written to grab the attention of your interviewer. Depending on your font this should be around 12 to 14 point, but 1 or 2 points bigger than the text below it. Using italics or (with caution) bold text here might make it stand out a little better. Personally I like to see the personal statement not need a title; having a title wastes a line of text which could be better used selling yourself.

How to Make A CV: The Bottom Half of Page 1

This is where the creativity and flair comes into play along with your knowledge of computer office software. I can not tell you the best way to lay out your CV; but making it interesting and readable is a must. This is where you should be ideally putting your small pieces of selling yourself that we wrote earlier and making them look like they want to be read. We should be looking for a font size of around 11 point (less than 10 is certainly too small) and if you are referring to a specific skill for all your blocks of text; a title, same size as the text but using bold might help.

In my current résumé template I have three blocks of text and I align them into three columns using text boxes. If you are confident doing that then give it a try; otherwise you can format them one under the other, or in any way you think will work for your prospective employer.

How to Make a CV: Page 2

This is the point that I place all my educational and professional work history. This information does not sell you as much as what we have put on page 1 so far. I also find a small space for my hobbies and outside interests section which personally I use to start page 2 of my résumé writing, in a text box alongside my professional qualifications and competencies.

Whether you put your work history or your education history first depends on how new you are to the work market. those recently coming out of education should put their education first, likewise for someone who has been in the job market for many years then their work experience should take preference.

Finally we come to references. It should be obvious if you have a work history that the last employer will be contacted, but this is more difficult if you have had a period of unemployment or are coming straight out of education. Whether you should include a reference in your résumé or CV is another question though; there are those that recommend that you do include reference details, but many more that say you shouldn't.

Either way, you must make sure that your references have been asked in advance if they are prepared to do so and that as far as you are aware the references will show you in a positive light. Some employers will offer a "No Comment" reference and that is unavoidable, but still ask them if they are ready to offer a reference. Likewise it is not essential to offer your most recent employer as a reference if you have an alternative such as a business acquaintance or a local influential leader such as a charitable organisation to offer instead.

Resume Writing

We now have the foundations of a solid CV or resume.

Resume writing is not hard and you do not need a professional resume template or even a free resume maker to get an effective template for resumes that you have created yourself. 

How is your résumé going? Do you do something different? tell the rest of our readers below!