The importance of writing a great CV

Employers will at times reject Curricula Vitae containing incorrect grammar and spelling.
Employers will at times reject Curricula Vitae containing incorrect grammar and spelling.

Your Curriculum Vitae is your selling tool to gain an interview -- often it's the deciding factor that gets your foot in the door for an interview.



3 September 2008

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Employers will at times reject Curricula Vitae containing incorrect grammar and spelling.

Creating — and maintaining — a good CV is an essential part of your career progression. Here are some expert tips on getting it right:

1. Don’t skip the gaps

Don’t leave any gaps on your CV. It is important to tackle any career breaks head on. Missing years will be seen as either suspicious or lazy. A year out travelling is not necessarily a bad thing and should be highlighted on your CV. Valuable life experience can be gained in time out and is important to employers.

If a previous position has not worked out, leaving a gap in employment, this needs to be explained in a reason for leaving paragraph, thus adding honesty to the document. Remember the CV is a selling tool and needs to sell, try to take something positive from each role and experience and highlight that.

2. Spelling and grammar

Employers will at times reject Curriculum Vitae containing incorrect grammar and spelling. It does seem obvious that this is the first thing you should check but many people don’t do it. Turn on your spell checker and use a Thesaurus and make sure a friend or partner reads the document before sending it off. A small typo can make the difference between the acceptance tray and the rejection tray.

3. Avoid any irrelevant information

Think about your job role and the competencies required. Employers may not need to know that you were the 1983 ping pong champion of Munster or you have a passion for acid jazz. Vague and irrelevant hobbies such as ‘socialising’, ‘going to the pub’ or ‘listening to music’ are irrelevant and take up valuable space.

If you are going to include hobbies on your CV, try to make them relevant, for instance if they include team sports it shows an ability to work in a team. Remember you’re not 12 anymore and this is a professional selling document, keep it professional. Your martital status is not relevant, it is not a date you’re going on. There is no need to write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ across the top, it is pretty self evident what the document is.

4. Get your dates right

It is astounding the amount of candidates who haven’t got a clue about their dates of employment. One of the first question on a standard reference checking form is ‘can you confirm the employees dates of employement’. Do not have discrepancies when it comes to dates, it will falter you in interview and lead to suspicion. Find out what year you completed your leaving certificate or finished your education, and work up from there. Have a think about where you were for the Millennium and that may jog your memory of what job you were it. Work it out, this is very important.

5. Formatting

Avoid graphs, bar charts and lots of graphics. Avoid whacky fonts, shiny paper, sound effects of the overuse of logos. You want to stand out, but this is a professional document. If including a picture of yourself, make sure you look professional in the shot. Keep the formatting basic and only save your CV in Word format 2003-2007, otherwise prospective employers may have compatibility issue and may not be able to open it.

6. Sell, sell, sell

This is your opportunity to sell yourself, a CV should outline your role and responsibilities, but also the achievements you have had in each role. Do not be afraid to ‘big’ yourself up (but no lies), remember it is a selling tool. When exploring your responsibilities, think out each role and what you do on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis – this will remind you of what you actually do and your achievements within each position. Get a colleague from your industry to look at your CV. A fresh pair of eyes may add valuable information to it.

Don’t forget!


I can’t emphasise enough the importance of a strong Curriculum Vitae. Often candidates throw one together when they have had a bad day and the motivation to do so. This is not sufficient in today’s market, this is your first chance and may be your only chance to make an impression with a prospective employer.

Bary Whelan is managing director of Excel Recruitment



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