Job Hunting Basics: Creating a Great CV (or Resume)

Welcome back to my post series on planning and organising your latest job search! This week we’re covering creating a great CV or resume that is relevant and memorable!

If you have had to search for work recently, you’ll know that job hunting is no easy task. For most of us, the days of walking into a life-long career are gone. Instead, we face an endless slog of applications, most of which we’ll never hear back about. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, I know your pain! While job hunting will never be straightforward, I have some planning advice that should help you get some traction. I’m also sharing a free Planner & Tracker download, to help kick off your job search in style!

In this Post Series:

You’ve now set your job search parameters. The next step is, of course, to create an up to date CV or resume. While you can pay someone else to do it for you, a good CV doesn’t have to be complicated. Everyone’s career and educational history are different, but there are a few aspects of a CV that always apply.

Creating a Great CV: The Basics

  • Keep it compact. Aim for one page or two full pages maximum. If you’re struggling to do this, remember you only need to list experience that is relevant to your current search. You can leave out the babysitting you did ten years ago!
  • Include a summary; this is what kind of work you’re looking for, a sentence to summerise your previous experience and what you bring to the table. This is a short paragraph only; the aim is to catch attention and convince the recruiter to read the rest of your CV.
  • Spelling and grammar check!! This is so important. Having a lazy typo or sentences that don’t make sense can be a killer. Always use a checking feature- Word’s basic offering isn’t bad, or the free app Grammarly is amazing for setting tone and audience as well as picking up grammatical issues. Having someone else have a read-through is also a simple way to pick up any language issues.
  • Do I include a photo? Honestly, unless you’re applying for something that requires a face such as modelling or acting, what you look like should be irrelevant on a CV. Your experience should speak for itself, and most recruiters will research candidates on social media too, so there’s no need to include a picture on your CV.
  • Send your CV as a PDF! While you may create your CV as a normal document, always save the finished copy as a PDF. If you send a file in the original format- for example Word- you can end up with table lines or other layout graphics ruining the look. If you save as a PDF, recruiters get a clean page they can annotate, without accidentally messing up the spacing and making the whole page a mess!

Creating a Great CV: Previous Experience

  • When listing previous experience, only keep what’s relevant. If you managed a team in your last three roles, you only need to detail how in the most recent. You don’t need to repeat the same skills- you just waste precious space!
  • Your most recent experience should have the most detail, with details from previous roles only included where they are relevant to your current search. For example, being good at teaching breaststroke is irrelevant to my CV for administration, but planning and implementing lesson programs is a transferable skill, so I include it.
  • Use action terms to detail your previous experience. If you’re looking for examples, this post has a great table of ideas for you to use.
  • Make your experience and achievements quantifiable where possible. Did you save money? How much? Did you reduce processing time? How much by? Think from the recruiter’s point of view; what achievements would they find attractive?
  • Minimise time gaps in your CV. Even if you don’t have any relevant skills from a position, it’s still great to include its job title, company and dates; otherwise, you can be left with a gap to explain. It doesn’t matter if it was working as bar staff or volunteering at a local community centre, it shows you have a solid work history.
  • If you’re a new job seeker use your life experiences to showcase relevant skills. Captained a local sports team? Leadership. School exams? Managed conflicting workloads. You do have plenty of experience, you just need a relevant way to frame it!

Creating a Great CV: What Else?

  • Education can be tricky on a CV, particularly if you’re years out of school or university. If that’s the case, include your highest qualification and the major subject- if relevant. If you’re a recent school leaver, you can include more detail. For example, any extracurricular activities, as they can help demonstrate skills such as teamwork (sports) or creativity (drama.)
  • Contact details; a phone number and email are essential. Don’t forget that your email should be professional- no, please! It can also be a good idea to include a rough location; your town or suburb can help place you for recruiters looking at commute distance or local knowledge.
  • Skills and interests are great to include as some quick dot points. These could be qualifications such as having a driving licence, or any relevant interests you have. For example, I have blogging and budgeting listed, but I wouldn’t mention I’m a huge Lego fan! Limit your list to things that have professional relevance or highlight your skills.
  • References? I don’t include references in my CV. I’m happy to provide them when requested but I’d prefer to know when they’re going to be used so I can give my referees a heads up. At the end of the day, it’s personal contact information; how would you feel about your mobile number being sent out on dozens of applications?
  • Some industries, such as design, require a portfolio of work to back up your CV. While this is normally a separate file, if you have it online you could include a link. LinkedIn details are another option; as my finished CV is a PDF, I have a clickable link to my profile. You could do the same for any relevant webpage.

A Great CV Showcases YOU

Don’t forget, you don’t have to create your CV in a vacuum. There are heaps of good examples online to cherrypick from, as well as lots of great templates. Even Word has some decent templates; my CV uses it’s Green Cube resume template, with some tweaks, which has had great results so far. I also recommend asking a friend or family member you trust to have a look at your finished product. We get so familiar with our work that a different viewpoint is an important way to check how a recruiter will view your CV.

At the end of the day, a CV is a hook to get a recruiter interested. You don’t, therefore, want to sound like every other applicant. Having a point of difference can make a reader curious and want to know more about you, rather than candidate number five. The balancing line between relevant and eye-catching can be difficult, but I believe both have a place in a successful CV. Given this, while templates are a great place to start, make sure to change them up a little, so they suit you and your brand rather than being generic.

Creating a Great CV: In Conclusion…

Don’t panic about your CV! It only needs to be one page long, and there are heaps of great examples and ideas out there. If you’re not sure about what to detail for your previous experience, have a look at the selection criteria for roles you’re applying for, then use those keywords as a basis for what you’re writing. While some advice recommends a fresh CV for every job application, I think that’s overkill. It should be changed if you’re applying for a different role or tweaked if you find your dream job, but otherwise, a solid CV will work for most applications.

If you want more job hunting tips and advice, including CV ideas, check out my latest Pinterest board. Otherwise, I hope this was helpful and don’t forget to subscribe below to receive your FREE job hunting planner & tracker printable worksheets!

Check out the Series:

Creating a Great CV Pin

44 thoughts on “Job Hunting Basics: Creating a Great CV (or Resume)”

  1. This is a fantastic resource for jobseekers especially at such a challenging time! Really looking forward to the rest of your series even though I’m not currently looking for a job myself. 🙂

    1. Thanks Hayley, job seeking is so difficult so I just wanted to create something to help people ☺️ thanks for commenting

  2. I’ve been a hiring manager for 10+ years and you touched on a couple of things that are paramount for individuals I select for interviews. First and foremost is spelling and grammar, it is absolutely critical that a potential candidate shows attention to detail in this capacity. I work and hire for tech where attention to detail is a must. An individual that will submit a resume without confirming misspelled words and such will not be a good fit to excel in tech in my opinion. Second is submitting as a pdf, I’m not as gung ho about that one but it is an easy way to avoid formatting discrepancies with employer applicant software platforms. It’s an easy thing to do to ensure that hiring manager doesn’t disregard your resume immediately due to formatting, that individual may or may not know their own software may have altered the formatting versus the candidate. Great information in this post for folks looking to stand out professionally!

    1. Cheers Shane, I’m writing this series based on my experience as a job hunter so fantastic to hear that someone like yourself with experience on the other side of the table approves of the advice I’m offering! Thanks for commenting ☺️

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  4. Soooo so many great tips in this post! I fear that there will be lots of people accessing this post over the next few months and I hope that this helps them!

    1. Thanks Rosie ☺️ and yeah; I wrote it because I’m currently on the hunt and everything is fresh in my head! Also in the hope that I can help people as they end up looking for work over the next few months.

  5. This is such a valuable post, especially right now with many people trying to find new jobs in light of the crazy world that we live in. I know that resume writing was something that I always dreaded. Not that the process was bad, I just had no idea where to start. I wish I had come across something like this back when I was on the job hunt!

    1. Thanks for commenting! Yeah I definitely wanted to get something of value out while I had everything fresh in my head. Job hunting can be really intimidating so just wanted to give people a boost ☺️

  6. It’s been years since I’ve had to do a CV, but I wish I’d had something like this as a reference. Writing a CV is one of the worst bits about job hunting for me. I do actually need to redo mine and make it more current. I’ll definitely be using some of the things you’ve mentioned in this post 🙂

    1. Writing a CV is hard! There’s also a heap of conflicting advice out there so I wanted to create something universal and easy to understand- so really glad you’ve found it useful! ☺️

    1. So happy to be able to help! My main LinkedIn tips would be to make sure it’s consistent with your CV- I copy and paste the same descriptions- saves writing up twice. Also make sure you’re recording jobs as you start them; really handy for recalling dates down the line! Apart from that, add people who have something positive to say about you from a work perspective- I’ve not really got into LinkedIn more than that. It’s not used much as a hiring tool in Australia 😂

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    1. Glad I could help, but so sorry to hear you’ve lost your job. Lots of people are in a tricky place right now so wanted to be able to help ☺️ best of luck with your search!

    1. Yeah, a blog is a great thing to add- so many skills! The PDF one is funny; once you think about it it’s obvious but can be easily overlooked! Good luck ☺️

    1. Unless you’re relying on personal introductions, your CV is that vital first impressions! And you’re right, it’s a lifelong skill that’s so important to keep working on!

  8. Abundance of Flavor

    This is a great resource for someone tidying up their resume! I wouldn’t have thought of half of these things, especially sending it as a PDF to avoid formatting issues! Thank you for sharing

    1. We all know word formatting; move a picture 2mm and it messes up the whole thing! Saving as. PDF is such a great way to avoid that! Thanks for commenting☺️

  9. These are such helpful tips. I always struggled trying to develop an impressive CV and even today In sure I can do so much better but lacked the knowledge of how. This will help me significantly. Thanks so much.

    1. Always happy to help ☺️ if my tips in this post series can help just one person find a new job I’ll be over the moon! Thanks for commenting!

  10. It’s been a while since I’ve updated my resume. I’m glad to see that you don’t include references because that information changes over the years. Thanks for this detailed and helpful post!

    1. References are weird, some employers want them immediately but I feel like I don’t want to be handing out contact information for other people until I’ve got an interview! I wouldn’t want my details put out on someone else’s CV which will be all over the internet! Glad to reassure you though ☺️

  11. This is such a helpful and useful post! I wish I had had this when I was left jobless after I graduated. I spent many days creating my compact 1 page CV but once you do it well, you only need to do small tweaks on it. Loved reading this because it seems I’ve ticked pretty much every box 🙂 Hopefully won’t need my CV any time soon though!

    Teresa Maria | Outlandish Blog

    1. It’s true, once you have a solid CV tweaking it for new experiences or skills is easy- it’s just about having a decent base to start from. Glad to hear this helped confirm your own CV choices; and fingers crossed you won’t need it anytime soon ☺️

  12. Absolutely helpful tips. CVs need make over too! Since it represents the applicant it must be in a good package.

  13. Great things to think about when creating a resume! It can be pretty difficult to make a resume stand out, but I think for starters, it’s especially important to show that you have goals and that you work hard, for instance by mentioning extracurricular activities.

    1. Yeah I think for trick for people just starting their working life is to focus on what you have done and how it’s relevant for your search- we do have a surprising amount of job-relevant skills we just have to frame them the right way! Thanks for commenting☺️

  14. Great advice, and very timely. The job market can be extremely challenging right now, and it’s important to craft a concise, high quality CV that stands out from the crowd.

    1. Cheers Anthony, and you’re completely right, it’s a very challenging market at the moment, which is why I wanted to get my knowledge out there to help people ☺️ thanks for commenting!

  15. Hi Helen. Great job. As somebody that now sits on the other side of the fence, so to speak, I’d offer two thoughts:
    1. Tailor your CV for the job that you are applying for. Now, obviously you can’t change what experience and qualifications you have – but you can change the emphasis. Show the prospective employer that you would be a ‘good fit’ for the role.
    2. Strike a balance between selling your skills and not being too ‘salesy’. I want to know what skills you have that will help the business – I don’t want paragraph upon paragraph of unsubstantiated generic hype.

    1. Hi Richie, thanks for your thoughts!
      Regarding the first one, I’ve found it really interesting that the critical skills required for similar roles hardly vary. If this is the case, I think having one solid CV is fine. Where you’re looking at more bespoke roles, tailoring is probably required- or if the key criteria are very different. The trick is using the time and effort to change up a CV where it’s going to make an impact- not on the 70% of applications you never hear back from!
      Your second point I completely agree with. Make what you’re saying relevant and enough to hook a reader- not so much that they think you’re just embellishing. Add quantifiable figures where you can and by keeping a CV to a single page, you won’t have time for fluff!
      Thanks for your feedback on this, much appreciated!

  16. Helen, it’s a handy, simple and yet detailed article on some basics things, which people totally ignored or don’t know how to do it, when they are creating their CVs. I liked the tip of not handing out the mobile numbers and references on the resume’. This is a helpful and beneficial series you have started. Thank you. Happy spring! 👏🌹

    1. Thank you! I wanted to make a series that would help everyone, regardless of where they are in their career- except people applying for CEO roles; who knows how that happens 😉 The references one is interesting, I honestly think in the world of GDPR ect contact details are precious. If an employer is interested enough in what you have to offer they’ll ask for references. Sometimes online applications ask for details when applying, which is fine, a direct application isn’t downloadable like a CV stored on LinkedIn! Thank you so much for all your likes and your comment. Happy spring to you too! 🌼

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