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How To Make The Best CV

There’s a lot of confusion and needless anxiety out there around CVs. Here are some pointers you’ll find helpful.

Your CV reader is not your official biographer

Don’t pack your CV with too much information. Yes, it needs to tell a story, but we don’t need all the ins and outs. (I once read a CV for an admin role by someone nearing 65 and it contained a full breakdown of their Inter Cert and Leaving Cert results.) Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise. And what do you prioritise? Easy: that which is relevant to the role you’re applying for. We’re talking skills-led and keyword-led content. Active verbs, please (‘Implemented x’ is so much better than ‘I showed great work ethic in helping to achieve…’). All else either goes altogether or gets touched upon with elegantly ruthless brevity.

Your CV reader is there to judge you as a candidate not as a human being

It sounds cold, right? But there is a logic to it. The response your CV needs to elicit is not ‘What a great person this is’ but ‘Damn, this person could be a great asset to us’. These two responses are not—I repeat: not—the same thing. So here’s the key: read your CV from the perspective not of your own need for the job but of your potential employer’s need for the right person. Your first and last question should be: ‘What need is this role meant to meet?’ Don’t let that question out of your sight for a single solitary second—it will keep your CV on track.

Your CV reader is not a person sitting on the job interview panel

Okay, so everyone on the interview panel will have eyes on your CV. But this doesn’t change the fact that your CV is there to do one job and one job only: to get you to interview. The way a candidate is ‘read’ in CV is not the same as the way they are ‘read’ in interview. In order to reach the point where you can charm the socks off everyone at interview, you need your CV to do the talking for you in the initial phase. Successful job applications are built on getting the CV to do its bit with laser-like focus, while holding back lots of great stuff for the interview. A great CV gets the candidate to interview; a great interviewee shows themselves to be even more compelling than their CV.

Your CV's best friend is the job spec

My English teacher in school used to say to us, ‘Mine the exam question for all its worth’. The equivalent in the job application sphere would be: ‘Use the job spec as your primary language and information resource’. Tune in very carefully to its lingo, its keywords, the crucial insights it is giving you as to the kind of candidate who is being looked for. And then make darn sure to deploy this lingo, these keywords, these role desiderata in your CV. Step into the employer’s shoes and—excite them.

Your Cv needs to be digitally up to date

Include a LinkedIn profile address and hyperlinks. Be aware that your IT skills section should, if possible, go beyond the basics like Microsoft Word, Excel, etc. Include Project Management Skills, CRM systems, internal communications platforms like Workday, and data visualisation. For many roles, this stuff is essential; for others, it can be a nice bit of sugar to sprinkle at the end of your CV.

For more tips on how to make the best CV listen to Jane Downes, founder of Clearview, on Newstalk’s Hardshoulder.


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