Frequently asked questions about CVs and résumés
Here at How to write a CV we get a lot of questions about writing CVs and covering letters (there are currently a staggering 196 in the queue that we’re battling through!). So what are the questions we get asked most about writing a CV? Here they are:
Q: Do I need to tailor my CV each time I apply for a job?
A: Yes, your CV should be tailored, not just for the role (e.g. “Secretary”) but for the exact job you’re applying for, matching your skills and experience to the requirements of the job as set out in the job description.
If you’re replying to a job advert, look at the person specification and make sure you mention the skills that you actually have, both in your covering letter and on your CV.
If you’re applying to a company generally (who aren’t advertising at the moment), consider what the job would typically involve and what the employer might be looking for. Search online for descriptions of jobs that other employers have put up and make a note of desirable skills. Go on the Company’s website and pay attention to the values and attributes they look for in their staff.
Q: How long should my CV be?
A: Your CV should be no more than two pages long. Make sure the information is spaced out well – don’t try and cram as much as possible into the two page limit.
If you have a lot to put in, you can free up space by being brief on less important details, such as jobs you held a long time ago and skills that aren’t really relevant to the current position.
Q: What style of writing do I use?
A: Your CV should be concise and easy to read, use facts, stats and examples as often as possible. Use powerful words like managed, led and achieved. Avoid flowery language and throwaway sentences like “I work well alone and as part of a team”. Don’t write in the third person!
Always check your final CV for spelling and grammar mistakes. You can use a computer spelling and grammar check but it’s also a good idea to get it double checked by somebody else.
Leave out any unnecessary information – your age / date of birth / number of children / ethnicity / nationality and marital status, for example, are not needed and can lead to presumptions being made and even prejudice before the interview stage.
Q: Should I lie on my CV?
A: No. You should sell yourself, highlighting your achievements, skills, experience and qualities. Never be tempted to invent qualifications or previous jobs. You might be asked for more information about them at the interview stage and if you’re found out, you definitely won’t get the job.
Q: Should I ‘jazz’ up my CV so it stands out?
A: Aside from applications for graphic intensive jobs, ‘designer’ CVs look pretentious and childish. Print your CV on white A4 paper using a standard consistent font all the way through, with bold and bigger font sizes to bring out headings. Times New Roman or Arial are preferred fonts.
The layout should be as simple as possible and make use of white space, rather than lines or graphics, to separate sections.
Use good quality paper but nothing fancy or unusual. Don’t include photos unless you’re applying to be a model or an actor!