The top questions about writing a quality CV, answered

Create a top quality CV with these tips and tricks.

When you are on a career building journey, a quality curriculum vitae (CV) or resume will be a key companion throughout every step. This document is the first impression you make on a potential employer, which is why it needs to be carefully written and formatted.

In today's busy, time-poor world, your CV needs to be polished, succinct and memorable to give you a better chance of being shortlisted for the interview or next step of the employment process. In fact, Tom O'Neil, a career consultant, said in an interview with The Economist that Human Resource professionals decide on whether or not to read further/set up an interview within the first 10 seconds of reading a CV! Make those 10 seconds count by using these helpful tips and tricks, as detailed by industry experts.

1. What is the best formatting style for a CV?

Don't use fonts that are difficult to read, but rather, stick to simple basics such as Times New Roman or Calibri. A 12-point size is the standard, as too large or small font sizes can be troublesome to read and look untidy on the page. Use sub-heads and sub-sections for a skimmable appearance, and aim for no more than two pages. Your qualifications, previous work experience and skills should each get their own section.

Many employers will print your CV and bring to an interview, so make it easily skimmable and well-formatted for easy reading. Many employers will print your CV and bring to an interview, so make it easily skimmable and well-formatted for easy reading.

Bullet points are good for such sections, whereas writing in prose is recommended for the personal profile – a short paragraph should suffice as a general introduction about yourself. Save more detail for your cover letter, which should be tailored to each job you apply for, emphasising why your skills are best suited for that specific role (top tip: see the skillset they advertise in the job advertisement and respond to these by highlighting how you have each of their desired skills). Add your referees at the very end.

Finally, always convert your document file to a PDF before sending off an application – otherwise, your prospective employer will be able to edit the word document, but a PDF CV looks more professional as a finalised product. 

2. How should I display my work experience?

Kerry Hannon, a recruitment expert, penned an article for Forbes magazine suggesting writing your previous work experience in a reverse chronological order. This means you list your current or most recent role at the top, and work your way down.

HR professionals decide on whether or not to set up an interview within the first 10 seconds of reading a CV.

For recent graduates who may not have years of professional experience built up yet, stick to listing jobs that emphasise the skills needed to succeed in most roles: customer service, time-management, team player and hard working. Even retail or hospitality experience working as a waiter or shop assistant counts because it shows you built these skills even as a student. Ms Hannon recommends writing statistics, numbers or key points in bold – for instance, increased profit by 31 per cent or was top sales performer five months in a row. 

3. How can I make my CV memorable?

Ms Hannon suggests including a personal story if it is quirky or memorable, as stories sell – for instance, if you grew up on a farm or sailed the seas. However, these should be short and reserved for the personal profile. Ultimately, make your CV memorable by highlighting why you would be an asset for any company to hire by treating your CV like a personal brand marketing document. 

"The hiring manager is the buyer, you're the product, and you need to give him a reason to buy," explains resume expert Jane Heifetz in an interview with the Harvard Business Review. 

These tips will help make your product stand out and shine. Good luck job-hunting, and feel free to talk to the experienced lecturers here at Auckland Institute of Studies about being a potential referee on your CV. 

Good luck on your career building journey! Good luck on your career-building journey!