Crafting a good CV is a careful balancing act. But our top-ten tips should give you a helping hand:
1. Use a professional format
A good CV will be concise and punchy. It should stand out because of substance and achievements, not elaborate design and flourishes. Avoid ornate borders, fancy fonts or photographs.
2. Start with the absolute essentials
Put your name and contact details at the very top of the first page. Only include your work telephone number and email address if you are actually happy to be contacted on them.
3. Convey the basics on page one
You need to get across (a) your academic and professional qualifications, and (b) your current role and career history. If someone can't ascertain these facts from a twenty second glance at the first pages, then you've probably made a mistake. Despite what you may have heard, two pages doesn't have to be the limit. A bit of additional detail can be useful, and in certain professions CVs are almost always longer than two pages (a standard academic CV for example will likely include page after page of publications, conference addresses and research grants). Don't rely on anyone absorbing everything in the first sitting though. The first page is always the most important, and you need to make sure your CV can stand up on the basis of the first two pages alone.
4. Include metrics and a bit of narrative
The more specific you are, the more helpful it'll be. Be honest. How many staff do you manage? What's your budgetary responsibility? Who do you report to? How big is your organization? A spot of narrative can also be effective. There's no point in listing the reasons why you left each of your past jobs, since this can be answered in interview, but a punchy summary of what you were tasked with doing goes a long way.
5. Use bullet points
Bullets allow you to get your points across quickly and with the minimum number of words, thereby making the information you provide easier to absorb. Avoid verbosity at all costs!
6. Don't leave gaps
If you took time out at some point in your career to travel, to have a family, or because of redundancy, then be honest about it and simply explain the situation. If you try to hide something like this by fudging dates or just leaving a gap then you risk people assuming the worst or mistrusting you on other counts when they find it out later through referencing.
7. Be brutal
A secondary school certificate of attainment in Drama or a weekend job at Woolworths when you were 16 might have meant the world to you at the time, but it's unlikely to excite a potential employer today. Cut out the filler so that it's easier to see the real achievements.
8. Leave your hobbies until last
Including a couple of sentences about what you do in your spare time isn't a bad idea, but you should avoid trying to be too whacky and eye-catching. Keep it short and focused on attainment. For example you might want to include the fact that you've climbed all the Monroes, swam the English Channel, or can speak four languages, but you might want to exclude mentioning your stamp collection or your worm farm.
9. Never lie
Your lies will be found out and they will ruin your application. In our cynical times, the details in candidate CVs are double and triple-checked. Honesty is the only safe policy.
10. Proof read carefully
You should make completely sure that your CV is free from spelling and grammatical errors. Ask a friend (or a couple of friends!) to check it through before you send it.