Top tips for writing a winning CV
In journalism, there is no "one size fits all" CV. It's all about what you can do, how to make yourself look interesting and why you are the right person for the job.
- Write it with the employer in mind: the purpose of a CV is to get you a meeting; it must have impact, be focused, targeted to the reader and attractive to make you stand out. It's marketing you and what you can do for the potential employer.
- Tailor your CV: create different CVs to fit different needs. Make it relevant so that it clearly brings out the skills and experience that match what they are looking for.
- Keep it concise: CVs should be kept to a summary of two pages. Keep in mind a recruiter will spend an average of 10 seconds scanning it – so you need to make it easy for them quickly to get the information you want them to know. Consider creating a separate, longer attachment listing projects completed and imbed links to publications, video and media you have contributed to.
- Demonstrate what you contributed: to convince an employer you can do the work, you will need to back up everything with examples. So your "career experience" section should summarise your key responsibilities but, more importantly, highlight what you contributed and the value you added. Include what you did, along with the tangible results. Use bullet points to highlight these, so if readership numbers increased, give numbers or percentages where possible.
- Use words that have impact: don't start sentences with "I" – use phrases and start with "action" words such as created, instead of creates – or delivered, instead of delivers. The finished statement will be more proactive and have much more punch and impact. Edit ruthlessly – cut out as many unnecessary words as possible.
- Make no mistakes: always check carefully for spelling mistakes, grammar and use of words and phrases that are easily understood. Have someone else proof-read it.
- Use a clear layout: use a modern, clean typeface (Arial, Tahoma) and set it in 10 or 11 point. Make it readable, using white space well. Don't use too many jargon words or abbreviations.
- Make it keyword friendly: if you've uploaded your CV to job sites, use key words so recruiters can find you. Don't use templates. Save your CV in a widely-used format, such as a Word document or as a PDF file.
- Don't include unnecessary information: date of birth need no longer be included because of age discrimination laws. There's no need to include your nationality if you are an EU citizen, or you have the right to work here. Nor is there a need to include information about a "clean" driving licence (unless necessary for the role), salary details (unless asked for), a photo or offer to provide references on request (it's a given).
- Use different CV formats to fit different needs:
Chronological CV: the most common and frequently used format, presenting your information in time-based sequence. Start with the present and work backwards.
Functional CV: presents your work achievement and history in "skill sets", typically under headings specifying different and/or key aspects of your total experience. Use this format if you are changing careers, moving in to new sectors, returning to work after a long gap or if you want to emphasise specific skills not immediately clear from your chronological CV. These are difficult to write, so do your chronological CV first.