How to write a winning curriculum vitae

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Rebecca Williams – Talent Acquisition Manager at WWF International


When it comes to finding a new job, there are many factors to consider but one of the most difficult hurdles to tackle is writing your CV (or Résumé as they call it in the US). If you’ve not changed jobs for a few years, then this can be a momentous task and one, which occasionally, stops people from even starting their job search in the first place. So here are a few pointers, which might help you…

I have seen thousands of CVs and honestly don’t believe that, you need to rigidly stick to a CV ‘formula’. The best CVs catch your attention immediately by being well written, beautifully presented and capturing the true personality of the individual which in turn makes you want to meet the candidate. However, I have also seen some shockers and some key red flags to watch include, spelling mistakes (obvious but all too prevalent), badly taken photographs, poor quality print/paper, too many graphics, unclear and confusing layouts.. I could go on.

When you sit down to write your CV, try not to be too selective in your first draft. My advice is always to start with a blank piece of paper and write down everything that you feel is relevant to your career history. You can then start formatting your CV into a coherent chronological structure and edit rigorously, but by getting everything down on paper in the first instance will enable you to assess what should definitely be included or not.

Secondly, remember your CV is a sales document – it represents you and needs to be a written ‘ambassador’ for your skills and knowledge. Don’t assume employers will understand by simply reading your job title, what you actually did- be sure to highlight projects or responsibilities that set you apart from other s and equally be aware that job titles can be misleading in the first place. So try and highlight your abilities succinctly and concisely without writing a book. If you are struggling to remember the details of your past roles- see if you have any old appraisals, assessments or job descriptions from your previous positions, which might help you

Make sure you include the basics– which are often forgotten. Your contact details for example (sounds obvious…but you’d be surprised), eligibility to work in the country for which you are applying, your languages and your IT skills. I also find it very interesting to read about an individual’s interests, as this allows an insight into the candidate’s personality. I have interviewed people purely on the merit of their interests if they are very original. However be honest- I’ve caught out a few people with innocent enquiries around their stated topics of interest..!

People often ask how long/short should their CV be? Personally I believe 2-3 pages are fine. Any longer, and you will lose the employer’s interest. Should you include a photo? This is very individual choice and can definitely be a positive if the photo is professional and well taken. However, it can also work against you if not well done, so use your best judgement.

Finally, once written, remember to keep your CV updated as a ‘working’ document even if you are not considering moving right away. It will make life a lot easier if and when you do decide to move on in the future.

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