Make your CV easy to read | CV tips and advice

Updated: Sep 14, 2019


#CVtipsforGraduates 4/5


The first three blogs in this series (CV Tips for Graduates) focussed on page 1 of your CV.

This blog covers the rest of your CV and layout.

There are basically 7 sections in a standard CV:

Personal details (name, brief contact details etc) and possibly a photo

Personal profile and career objectives (these are sometimes split into separate sections)

Achievements

Skills

Academic history

Work history (which could also include vac work, internships, volunteering)

References

(Some people include hobbies and extramural interests on student CVs however, unless your hobbies are extraordinary, things like watching TV and movies should probably not be listed in your CV as they don't really distinguish you).

Give some thought to layout

The more succinct you make your CV, the better. Being able to summarise and decide what information will be relevant to include in your CV is a skill in itself, and if done well, will make a potential employer want to read your CV.

Try and keep your CV to no more than 3-4 pages and make sure that you use page 1 to summarise the most important information. Page 2 (and if necessary page 3 and 4) can then provide more detail.

There is no shortage of websites to go to for CV layout ideas and some even provide free templates. Google "free CV templates" and you will find an overwhelming number of sites wanting you to pick their templates.

No matter what templates you decide to use, or if you design your own, I really do recommend that you consider setting up your CV as follows:

Page 1

This is prime real estate and acts as the executive summary of your CV - i.e. the most important information needs to go here.

  • Contact details. Put them at the top of page 1 where they are easy to find.

  • A photo. There are different schools of thought on whether to include a photo or not. In South Africa, graduate CVs should definitely include a good clear head and shoulders photo (just not a photo that is an obvious selfie!!)

  • Personal profile and career objectives. These are critical and should go in the top half of your first page (refer to Blog 3/5 in this series for details on what to cover here).

  • Achievements and leadership positions. You might refer to some of these in your personal profile. Make sure you also summarise your key achievements in a section on their own, preferably in bullet format so that the reader can scan over these easily.

  • Skills. List the skills that you have developed including technical skills, soft skills, and any skills that may be specific to the job you are applying for. If the job profile lists required skills, make sure that if you have these skills you use the specifications wording to make sure they match up in your CV for purposes of key word searches.

Page 2 (and 3 if necessary)

Here you can elaborate on information that you summarised on page 1.

As a student or recent graduate, the biggest selling point you have, unless you have significant work experience in addition to your studies, are your academic qualifications and the marks, competencies and skills gained during your studies so your emphasis should really go here, both in terms of discussing them in your personal profile and elaborating elsewhere in their own sections.

Someone recently asked my why university marks are important. She went as far as saying to me "surely if I have passed then that should be good enough!" . I must say this did remind me of my university days when we all used to joke that "50% is a pass, 51% is brilliant and anything above 60% is a waste of social time" . But the reality is no, that is not enough. Your marks can indicate to a potential employer that you have the ability and drive to apply yourself, to comprehend and interpret and to think for yourself. So if you have good marks, tell everyone this.

  • Discuss your your academic history making sure you discuss your more recent and/or most relevant qualifications first. For each qualification include your subjects and marks (especially if they are good), include any leadership positions and achievements and discuss your research/dissertations/thesis.

  • The transition from student life to the world of work is a massive transition so potential employers really like it when candidates have had some experience of the working world as it makes that transition much easier on the employer. If you have no formal work experience then include any volunteer work, vac work, community work, and learnerships or internships that you may have had - ANYTHING that may demonstrate that you have had some experience in the working world.

Make your CV eye-catching

Try to use a font and layout that is simple but eye catching. If your CV is in a pile with lots of other CVs - you want it to stand out from the rest.

Use a little bit of colour to highlight important information.

Use bullets to make it easier to scan your CV.

Use text boxes to give emphasis to critical sections.

Make your CV visually appealing and make sure you check your grammar and spelling and then recheck it, and then ask someone else to check it. It always amazes me the typos that I have missed after reading and re-reading my own work a few times.

Here is a suggestion on how to layout your CV - you can download this image as a PDF file from my website by clicking here. This will take you to the members-only section of my website - it's a free section with several resources and just requires you to sign in with an email address.



So what's next?

The last blog in this series will cover your LinkedIn profile - why you need one and what to do with it once you have one. So please come back to read the final blog.

Enjoyed this blog? Read the full series of CV tips:

  1. Grab their attention on page 1

  2. The most important information to place on page 1 of your CV

  3. How to write your personal profile and career objectives in your CV

  4. The importance of CV layout

  5. Use LinkedIn to support your CV and career journey

I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.

I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.

I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.

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