How to write a CV that tells a story

Curriculum Vitae, (abbreviated as CV) is a written overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity, says Wikipedia. Did you note the word “overview”? It is NOT an essay about yourself and how great you are. It is not about what MS Word “features” you are familiar with. It is solely about giving your potential employer an understating on how well you fit the position you are applying for. It is the most powerful first-impression maker and is the best way to tell your interviewers that they should hire YOU, rather than anyone else.

At JMC, we are receiving a big number of CVs daily. Even though there may not be additional vacancies available, many enthusiastic personnel are competing to work with us. And yes, we DO open each and every job application we receive. Do you know what happens when we start reading them? Before we tell you that, let us tell you how our hiring process goes. Your job application (online or offline) is evaluated by three executive staff of HR and Admin department. We read your cover letters, browse through your CVs and see if you have the potential to work with us. If you are, as a next step, we are listing you as a potential recruit or queuing you to be considered when a vacancy arises, as applicable. If your CV is not really a CV, we have to tag your CV as “deferred”.

Getting back to our main story, when we start reading most of the CVs we receive we have no option but to defer your CV. Many people who are well-qualified get tagged as deferred simply because we cannot quite understand their story. In the recruitment process of each and every company, it is believed that if you cannot tell your story on why we should hire you, then you might as well not be able to serve the customers (in our case, students) with your best. That is why we say that your CV is the best first-impression you can give. Since our deferred application bundle seems to be piling up, we thought we’d share some valuable insights with you, on how to tell your story perfectly and steal the heart of the interviewer with an awesome first impression. Go through the following and see if everything checks out on YOUR CV.

  1. Font and page settings
    Use a simple font and an average font size. We recommend Arial 10.5pt and Calibri 11pt. Do not use various font types. Set your page size to A4 as your CV may be printed.
  2. Colors
    Sometimes you may feel that a colorful CV is nicer to look at. But if you are applying to get selected, limit your colors to three. Never use flashy colors. Dark blue or dark green with black text is recommended.
  3. CV header
    Use a header to denote yourself. Your name (in full or with initials, as appropriate) and key contact information (address, email and mobile number) shall be readily visible for quick reference. Optionally you can insert a photo here. Please make sure it is a front-facing photo. Your Facebook profile picture or a selfie is NOT to be used here.
  4. Profile
    Add a simple paragraph, with around 2-3 sentences to say who you are. Be genuine. Simple clear profile description excels than a big-worded paragraph. Copy/paste will not work.
  5. Overview
    Provide a summary about yourself here. Recommended minimum is

    • Your full name
    • Your date of birth (when we know your DoB, we can calculate your age. Don’t say it here)
    • Your gender
    • Your civil status
    • Your NIC number (this is found to be useful to file your information until you are given an employee number, of course, if you are selected)
    • Your highest professional achievement to date (e.g. Associate Member of CA Sri Lanka)
    • Your highest academic achievement to date (e.g. Holder of B.Sc. Accounting)

    You may choose to indicate your Alma mater(s). We (like most companies) do not solely rely on how good your school is, rather we prefer seeing you at the interview and decide how well you can work with us.

  6. Professional qualifications
    Briefly describe your professional qualifications in descending order. Following is an example;

    • Associate Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (CASL)
    • Senior Accounting Technician of Association of Accounting Technicians of Sri Lanka (AATSL)

    You do not need to go on describing how hard you studies to get these qualifications and how valuable they are to you. We know. Save your speech for the interview day. 🙂 Bring relevant certificates to the interview as proof.

  7. Professional experience
    Did you work somewhere else? Share your exposure on those employments. Also be prepared to answer the question, “Why you left that company?” Again, no details are required here. You can describe then at the interview. But make sure to include the time period OR duration at each company.
  8. Academic qualifications
    A bulleted list is sufficient. You may not need to tell you grade for each and every subject of you’re A/Ls and O/Ls. You may mention you Alma maters here, without mentioning them in the overview. Bring relevant certificates to the interview as proof.
  9. Achievements
    Tell your 5 topmost achievements. If you have too many, group them into 5 points. Lengthy set of achievements may signal that you are over qualified. Bring relevant certificates to the interview as proof.
  10. Extra-curricular activities
    What ex-curricular activities did you do, at school/university? Rule of 5 applies. It would be unnecessary to mention all the memberships you held in your school’s clubs and societies, unless there is a significant task you did.
  11. References
    We do trust you with what you are saying in your CV. It is a universal fact that you cannot tell EVERYTHING about you in your CV. Also we do not quite know you yet and before we take you into our team, we would like to have someone else’s thoughts on you. Provide details of two persons whom you are personally known to them. Tell them that you have nominated them as their referees. Obtain updated contact details from them as we will be contacting them. If your referee is not responding to us or if they can’t remember you by your name, we have to consider that you may have provided bogus information.
  12. Declaration
    Your CV is a representation of yourself. You have to provide an affirmation that the particulars you have provided are true and correct. A solid declaration of accuracy adds value to your CV and gives the interviewer confidence about your honesty. Bring all documentary proof as required since this declaration has to be backed by them if necessary.
  13. Signature
    Since you are declaring the accuracy you have to sign the document. DO NOT leave empty space for a soft version of your CV. Write the letters “Sgd., which is the abbreviation for “Signed”. Then state your name in BLOCK CAPITALS. State the date as well. Make sure the date is not too far from the date of application. Alternatively you may insert a scanned image of your signature or digitally sign the document (in PDF files only), but those do not have any preference over the simple typed signature. (e.g. Sgd. SIDATH WIJEGUNAWARDANA)
  14. Proofing and grammar
    Final step is to proofread everything. Start from the header and finish at the singed date. Check for punctuation errors and spelling mistakes. You are not required to decorate the CV is big words and lengthy sentences.

Save the word file and save it again as a PDF. Otherwise your CV may not look like in your interviewer’s computer due to compatibility issues. Name your file using you name (e.g. Sidath Wijegunawardana.pdf) Now your CV is ready to be uploaded. Keep in mind that your CV should tell a story and if you prepare yours with above points in mind, your CV will become a lovely story to read. This story is not about your qualifications, not about achievements nor is it about how reputed your referees are. It is a story about why the interviewer shall hire you, rather than anyone else. With a lovely story, you will always be the most preferred applicant.

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