Writing a CV is like exercising: You may not look forward to it, but you feel better once it’s done. And like a good workout, a well-presented CV can help you keep your career in shape.
But when writing a CV, what works and what doesn’t? We thought we’d turn to Monster members like you for advice. Here are some tips from both job seekers who write CVs and hiring professionals who read them for a living. Keep in mind that like CVs, opinions can vary -- what works for one person may not work for you.
Title and Objective
A strong, descriptive CV title will help you stand out in a sea of CVs. “Titling your CV ‘Joe's do-it-all CV’ or ‘1985 hottie looking for a job CV’ gets your CV passed over by a busy recruiter,” says one Monster member who should know -- he’s a recruiter himself. “Make the title useful. For instance, ‘Nursing Director, Pediatrics Labor and Delivery’ or ‘IT Telecom Project Manager, Microsoft and Cisco Certified’ or ‘Enterprise Software Sales Manager, Life Sciences’ -- enough with the stupid titles we dismiss and make fun of. This is your career we're talking about.”
And an objective must get an employer’s attention quickly or it won’t get any attention at all, says a district manager for a wireless company. “I receive hundreds of CVs on a monthly basis,” he says. “Two-thirds of the CVs are rejected due to the applicant having no clear objective in seeking employment with my company. Your CV must grab my attention within the first few words of the objective. It must be clearly written and relevant to the position you are applying for. Take a little extra time and customize the objective to the position you are seeking…. If you cannot sell yourself with your CV, you might not have the opportunity to sell yourself at an interview.”
Look and Feel
As for typeface, you had definite opinions. “Don't use Times New Roman font,” advises one seeker. “Your CV will look like everyone else's. Georgia and Tahoma are both different, professional and pleasant to look at.”
But another job seeker’s font advice is more practical: “Use Times New Roman or Arial Narrow instead of other wider fonts to keep your CV to only one (or two) pages and save paper.”
Monster CV Expert Kim Isaacs recommends using a standard Microsoft Word-installed font so the layout will be consistent when an employer opens your CV. No matter what font you use, she suggests you stick with one per CV. “Also, the type should be large enough to be read on screen without causing eye fatigue,” she says.
For the hard copy of your CV, make sure you invest in good paper stock, says one HR professional who has also composed and drafted CVs for professional clients. “Before our prospective employer even takes one glance at our CV, there is something they do first, and that is FEEL it,” she says. “Having handled nearly hundreds of CVs each week, I think most people would be amazed how much notice you can get with a CV on good-quality paper. Sometimes it is not even a conscious thought, just as you shuffle stacks of CVs from here to there, making all the appropriate piles to serve your needs, you always tend to linger just a little longer over that one CV with paper that feels a little heavier, like the cotton/linen blends or the one that feels just slightly different than normal, like the parchments. You can double the effect if you choose good-quality paper in a professional color other than white.”
When President Lincoln was asked how long a man’s legs should be, he said they should be able to reach from a man’s body to the floor. Likewise, your CV should be long enough to sell you properly without overstating your accomplishments.
But of course, you had opinions on this, too. The consensus on CV length is simple: Keep it short. There are exceptions, though. “Never exceed one page, unless you have 15-plus years of experience and are applying for a job in upper management,” advises one job seeker. “Make sure that your CV remains one page and formatted properly, even when viewed in different formats and different views -- if someone opens your CV in a view other than the one you created it in and sees a hanging line, it looks unprofessional.”
Style and Grammar
Finally, it may seem like grade-school advice, but it bears repeating: “Although I try to counsel people on how to write a raving CV and an awesome cover letter, I'm consistently shocked at how many CVs and cover letters I receive from people that are plagued with misspelled words, grammatical mistakes and basically little or no time spent proofreading prior to sending,” says one Monster member who’s been in the staffing industry for 15-plus years. “In an era when competition seems to be one of an applicant's worst enemies, it seems that one would want to do everything possible to stand out in the crowd. Trust me: I won't give a second thought to deleting a CV and/or cover letter that is fraught with mistakes.”