A professional curriculum vitae (CV) is a key document when looking for your next career move, and could even be said to be the face of your whole application. A well-written CV will help you stand out from other applicants and is a useful tool to highlight what will make you the best fit for the role. There are online tools that can help you build a distinguished CV, such as Elite CV or even LinkedIn. In this article, we will cover 10 steps to writing a professional and comprehensive CV for your next application process:
1. Ensure you have the right format
There are several types of CVs, including chronological, functional, and combination formats. Each format highlights different aspects of your background and skills, so it is important to choose the right type for your needs. This will most likely depend on a variety of things such as the industry you’re working in, the job you currently have and the job your applying for, and the types of companies you are looking at applying to. You can get more information here about the different types of CVs and when they’re used.
2. Do your research and include all necessary and relevant information
Before you start writing your CV, gather all the information you need to include. This should include your education, work experience that highlights important and relevant skills, any other special traits and qualifications, awards and achievements, and references from previous roles/projects. Some examples of this include a detailed list of any projects you have worked on, the various tools and technology you have used in previous roles, any relevant industries/sub-industries you have experience in, and other details that give insights into how you fulfilled your roles in the past i.e. KPI tracking, progress reporting etc.
Make sure you have accurate dates, job titles, and descriptions of your responsibilities, remember that CV fraud in South Africa can land you in prison!
3. Choose a professional layout
Once you have gathered all your information, create a layout that presents your information in a concise and professional way. Consider the type of job you are applying for and what information is most important to highlight, you might need to emphasize certain skills or experiences depending on what your current employer is looking for, this is why it is good practice to constantly update your CV. It is always a good idea to add a bit of a stylistic touch to make your CV appear more aesthetic and professional, however, you need to ensure the style of your CV is still formal and legible. This can be dependent on the type of work you do and industry/sub-industry you operate in. For example, if you are an engineer you can use a layout that centres around the various projects you have done, if you are in digital marketing and design you can add various design elements to your CV to showcase your marketing skills, etc.
4. Make sure your introduction is clear and captivating
Start your CV with a clear and concise summary of who you are and what you can offer in terms of unique skills and experience. Consider what kind of company culture and work structure you would best fit into, as well as what you need to best perform and utilise your skills effectively. You can use this as an opportunity to accentuate any significant achievements or career highlights. Don’t underestimate the value of company culture and synergies – include what is important to you in your role, be it independence and being able to oversee the entire scope of a project, or gaining exposure in certain disciplines etc.
5. Highlight your education
Include your educational background, the name of the degree, the name of the institution, and the date of graduation. You should also include any relevant honours or achievements during your studies. Any relevant courses and extra curricula activities should be mentioned here, especially if they are relevant to the job and/or company. If you have been working for 5+ years it isn’t necessary to delve too much into your secondary education, especially if you have an undergrad or postgrad qualification.
6. Focus on your work experience
This is one of the most important sections of your CV. It’s best for the layout to list your previous jobs in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent position. Include the job title, company name, dates of employment, and a description of your responsibilities. You can outline certain roles and achievements in more detail depending on the industry you work in and even the job you are applying for i.e. if you are looking at going into a C&I solar role then highlight all C&I solar work you have done in all your roles. Remember to include details here such as the sizes of the projects you have worked on, your key area of expertise on various projects, and any unique challenges you may have solved during your experiences.
7. Emphasize your skills
Include a section on your skills, including both technical and transferable skills. If you feel you have any lucrative transferrable skills, and are working in an industry outside of renewable energy/sustainability and wish to break into the industry, then be sure to explain in detail how these can be advantageous. Remember to consider the job you are applying for and showcase the abilities and skills you have that will make you a perfect fit.
8. Include noteworthy awards and achievements
If you have received any awards, certifications, or recognition, include them in your CV. This can include career-related achievements, education awards and honours, and even social responsibilities you have undertaken to participate in. This could be community service or outreach programmes, and even any activities during the COVID-19 pandemic to help others. This can help set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate that you are a dynamic and driven person, with a commitment to your field and giving 110% in all aspects.
9. Include professional and reliable references
Include the names and contact information of at least two professional references and be certain that these are up to date! It’s not a bad idea to check with your references before submitting your CV to confirm their details and just inform them that they may get some calls regarding a new job (chivalry goes a long way on all fronts). Make sure you have their permission to use them as references and inform them that they may be contacted by potential employers.
10. Be sure to proofread and make any necessary edits
Finally, proofread and edit your CV carefully. Check for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure all the information is accurate and up to date. This process is always made easier if you update your CV annually, and not just when you have to submit it. Ask a friend or colleague to review it as well, to catch any mistakes you may have missed. Remember, any errors can seriously hamper your chances of solid first impressions, so go through it more than once and utilise tools such as Grammarly or Wordtune.
In conclusion, compiling a professional CV takes time and effort, but it is worth it when you are looking for your next career move. Your CV is your first opportunity to make a significant impression on potential employers, so make sure it is both accurate and professional, as well as consider the overall presentation and layout. This should be an ongoing process and even when you are not seeking a new job, you should constantly update your CV. When you partner with a recruiter, like AltGen, you will have a career-building buddy who will help you tailor a professional and relevant CV and format it to make it stand out from the standard submissions.