It’s a common misunderstanding that the CV is just an appendix to the application. In the private sector especially, there is a tendency to read the CV before reading the application. Therefore, your CV may very well be the first impression a potential new employer gets of you. A good CV is targeted at the job in question as well as being structured and clear.
Below we have gathered a few tips on how to produce a good CV. We have also listed different ways in which you can improve your CV.
It can be difficult to decide what is important to include in a CV. For instance, shelving books at your local library during upper secondary school can be relevant if you’re applying for a job as an information officer at a library. However, it’s less relevant if you’re applying for a job as a sports journalist. It’s often a good idea to explain what you have worked with, and not only that you have worked in telemarketing for two years without further explanation. Your job is to communicate your experience in your CV. This includes your education as well. Which competences have you gained through your studies? It may therefore be a good idea to choose which of your jobs to include in your CV.
Many people make the mistake of working on all parts of the CV at the same time, the idea being that you can just add information as you go. But this means that your thoughts are not focused on the individual parts of the CV writing process, and you can therefore become inconsistent or forget something. By sticking to the four-step plan set out below, you can avoid focusing on more than one thing at a time.
1. Make a complete list
Work on your CV in a structured manner. It’s a good idea to make a complete list of everything you have done over the years that is relevant to put into a CV – from your part-time job at the local gas station in upper secondary school to being stationed in Bosnia with the Danish International Brigade. Save your complete list on your computer (an exhaustive CV). Then you can use the information that is relevant for each application and tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for.
You can find a template for your exhaustive CV here.
2. Divide your CV into categories and patterns
Review your complete list and try to find patterns in the things you have done. For instance, if you were an exchange student for a year, took an Interrail trip one summer or worked at a ski resort for one semester, this can be categorised as ‘international experience’. The individual activities can easily be represented in several categories, as long as they are represented only once in the final CV.
3. Select the most important things and present them
When you have finished categorising your experience, you need to select which of these categories are relevant for the job you’re applying for. Making yourself and your qualifications seem attractive is the main goal. That’s why it’s important to consider how you express yourself in your CV. Many students have a tendency to be too modest about their own qualifications, but modesty won’t get you a job interview. Remember that the CV is not an academic genre where you have to argue for and against. On the contrary, it’s a genre that has more in common with, for example, advertising.
4. Make sure your CV is clear and concise
The most important thing to remember when writing your CV is that the employer should be able to skim through your competences and past experiences fairly quickly. Your CV should therefore be as concise as possible and easy to read. Many students believe that making their applications creative will get them to the top of the pile of applications – but this isn’t necessarily the case with the CV. If the creativity affects the ‘skim-ability’ of your CV, you run the risk of being rejected without ever being properly considered. On the other hand, it’s important that your CV is prepared carefully. A CV full of spelling errors and with an unstructured layout sends a bad signal. And even though you haven’t been creative in the actual design of the CV, you can still give it a nice layout.
The layout has to be clear and concise. If an HR officer has 200 applications waiting on the desk, the applications will only be skimmed. If your CV is six pages long, it shows that you don’t have an understanding of what a CV is. Instead you can use the layout of your CV to show the employer some of the competences that are not included in your list. You can show that you’re organised, that you can prioritise and that you write well and without errors. These are all aspects which are highly appreciated by HR officers.
Remember: Name, address and contact information must be placed visibly. And preferably on every page.