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How to build your CV

Your CV is one of the most important documents you have. Think about how much time you have spent over the years on your studies, your work and everything you have done to get to the stage of your career where you are today. The time you spend writing or updating your CV is valuable.

A common misconception is that a CV should fit on one page. In fact, the format of a CV varies according to industry, role and country. It is important that the information is relevant, well-structured and concise, as discussed later in this section. Do not leave gaps in your CV and do not delete positions you have held that you do not consider relevant to the employer. This can give the impression that you are trying to hide something and the employer can draw their own (often negative) conclusions.

Do not use more than two fonts and make sure it follows a logical and chronological order. Using a creative layout to ‘stand out from the crowd’ risks causing more harm than good. A simple, clean and readable format is most beneficial to the person who will read your CV. Use bullet points to highlight and preferably quantify your career successes. It shows that you have the ability to communicate effectively, concisely and objectively and that you understand how companies measure you. Spell the document correctly and remove the red subtext that indicates misspelling if the program does not recognize the word. Have someone else read your CV before you send it to avoid spelling or grammatical errors that the system has not detected.

Relevant content

Avoid filler text or information that is bland or obvious. Examples of things you can disclose are “references provided on request”, where it is still assumed that references can be provided. Vague words such as team player, result-oriented and goal-oriented should be omitted if they do not have relevant or factual examples to provide context. They take up unnecessary space where you can instead give concrete examples of what you have achieved and how the employer would benefit from hiring you. Avoid giving a broad description of your general motivation in your CV. It risks being very broad and bland and taking up space that could be better used for other purposes. There is also a risk of drawing the wrong conclusions from the text if it does not match well with the role and the company you are interested in.

The main focus of your CV should be to highlight the successes you have had in your career, using short, concrete examples. It may be easy for some individuals in sales roles but very difficult for others who are not used to selling themselves and/or work in roles where performance is less clearly measurable. One way to start is to take your last role and write down the three most important benefits you gave your employer and where you stood out compared to your colleagues. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the new employer and think of examples of why a manager would hire you over someone else. If it is due to your work ethic, include some concrete examples of it. If it is due to your creativity, mention some projects where you can demonstrate results from it. If it is due to your technical ability, give examples of activities or projects you are most proud of. Have you increased revenue or reduced costs for your company? These are just a few examples to get you thinking in terms of what you can do for the employer.

Experience and concrete evidence

If you are writing a cover letter, be sure to link your experience and personality to what the company and the role are looking for early and often. Avoid vague wording and instead provide concrete evidence for your claims. For example, instead of writing that you are proactive and results-oriented, you can write that you are proactive and that it comes naturally as you grew up in a family that was entrepreneurial and that being enterprising and goal-oriented came naturally from your upbringing. You can write that you are result-oriented and that this was an advantage in your last role where you were a project manager constantly working with clear objectives and deadlines.

If you want more concrete advice and insights, don’t hesitate to contact one of our recruiters.

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