Four Steps to a Perfect CV


When I first wrote my CV, it ended up being just a list of my education, experiences and skills. I didn't think about the length, formatting or what perception I was giving the reader. One of the things I later found out was that an employer spends just a few seconds looking at a CV. This is before either thinking ‘I want to know more about this person’ or ‘nope, not for us’! There are a few standard rules to follow when writing your CV so you can get over these hurdles and make sure you are giving the best impression possible. Here are some tips to write your perfect CV:

1. Keep it to 1 page

Employers don’t spend long looking at a CV. They are more likely to scan it for a few seconds and check whether you have relevant skills and experiences. And this is just to get you to the next stage of the application process. This process filters out candidates quickly so you need to grab their attention as fast as possible. The best CVs are concise and kept to 1 page, but you can go to 2 pages if necessary. Be careful of writing a CV that is 1 ½ pages long, as this looks messy – it may require you to edit and format so it takes up a full page but it’s worth it!

2. Put the most relevant experience first

For some people, their education is most relevant to the job they are applying for, and for others, their experience is. Tailor your CV according to what you are applying for and don’t be afraid to change the format so that the first thing an employer sees is what you want them to see! For example, if I have a Biology degree but want to apply for a role in banking, and have done an internship at a bank, I could put my experience section at the top and education further down. They will still want to see your education but it’s not as relevant for the role so you can include it later.

3. Look forward, not back

A really common lens that people look through when creating their CVs is that it’s a historical document, all about their past experiences. Contrary to this popular belief, the best CVs are actually forward looking – they position you for the next role you want to go into, rather than limit you to what you have done in the past. Yes, of course you are writing about the experiences you have had, but especially if you want to make a change in your career, think about how you are positioning yourself by pulling out things that show your potential for the future role you want.

4. Use keywords

This all goes back to catching the reader’s attention in the first few seconds of them looking at your CV. If you are applying for a specific role, look at the language used in the job description and see what key words you can match to your experiences and therefore use in your CV. If you are preparing your CV for future applications, think about the most relevant skills you need for the type of role you are applying for, and use those words when you are describing your experiences.  

All of the points above go back to putting yourself in the reader’s shoes when writing your CV. If you were hiring someone, what would you look for? How long would you spend if you had hundreds or even thousands of candidates applying for a position? What would they need to put on their CV to stand out to you? Keep it concise, relevant, future-focused and use key words relating to the role you are applying for.

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.


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