Fundamentals of CV Writing: Language, Precision & Quantification

CV Writing

Fundamentals of CV Writing: Language, Precision & Quantification

Your CV (or resume) is the most important document that can pave the way to your dream job. It is the key that will help you get your foot in the door and secure an interview. Needless to say, it is absolutely critical that you follow the best practices and the fundamentals while developing your CV.

For most positions, and in particular the top ones, there are hundreds of candidates applying. The reader (mostly an HR person) spends somewhere between 30 to 60 seconds glancing over each resume. Therefore, it is critical that your CV (and achievements) stand out and make an instant impression.

In this article, we will cover the fundamentals of writing a CV and then highlight the most crucial aspects that will make your CVs / resumes more effective and help them stand out.

CV Writing: The Basics

Get the Basics Right

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV but there are some common sections that should be covered.

Start off with your personal and contact information; name, phone number, email address and your current city & country of residence.

In the following section, mention education and qualifications; mention the institution name, programme and your majors; mention your grade/CGPA only if it’s worth mentioning. Additionally, you may mention the relevant courses from your degree that you feel will be helpful for the position that you’re applying for.

The next section should cover your professional work experience, research & projects, and extracurricular or voluntary positions that you undertook. You may also create a subsection and mention the honours and awards that you have received during your academic or professional life to highlight your capabilities.

Finally, you may mention some other skills that you possess that will help you stand out. Ideally, the content in the previous sections will highlight your analytical and leadership skills. Therefore, this section can be utilized to point out some soft skills that may include the following: interpersonal skills; teamwork; problem-solving. Additionally, you may also point out some programmes or languages that you may have a strong command over. For example: Microsoft Office; STATA; R; C++; Python

Presentation and Length

An effective CV is carefully designed and presented. Remember that the reader will simply glance over the CV for a maximum of 60 seconds. Hence, it is imperative that the CV is designed in a way that clearly highlights your accomplishments and is easy on the eye. This can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Always use a formal font while designing your CV or resume; Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman are the fonts that we always suggest
  • Be consistent with font style and size; the entire document must have the same font type; headers must have the same font size and style (suggested font size is 12 pt. and font should be bold); all the text must be in the same font size & style (suggested font size for text is 10-11 pt.)
  • While describing your role in the text, highlight the keywords and the quantified data so it immediately catches the eye. See below an example:
    Lead a team of 6 members that implemented the new marketing strategy and increased sales by 7%

Finally, your CV must not exceed two (2) A4 pages. It is optimal if your resume is covered on a single page (if you’re a new graduate, make sure to abide by this rule and do not exceed your resume to more than one (1) page). Be concise, be precise and to the point.

Understand the Job Description and Tailor the CV to the Role

When you come across the posting, read the job description from start to finish. Highlight all the major job requirements and see if you have the relevant work experience to showcase to the reader. If so, that’s great. Use the opportunity to make an instant mark on the reader by prominently pointing out the role that you played and the impact you created in that position in your previous role. However, in case you do not have the relevant experience, then think of the skills that will be essential in that position and highlight how you’ve acquired those skills through previous roles. Here’s an example:
Suppose you want to apply for a sales position but have no prior experience. A sales position generally requires strong interpersonal skills. Thus, mention an experience or a role where you made use of your interpersonal skills and got a favourable outcome. This can be expressed through any leadership position that you took, or any other where you were a strong negotiator and received a positive outcome.

To conclude, let me just reiterate that you must tailor your resume (CV) to the position. Create a CV that is specific for that role. There is no such thing as a generic CV or resume. Every time you apply to a potential job, your CV must be tailored to its specific requirements. This way, the employer will understand your proactive nature and it will increase the odds of you being shortlisted for the next stage. Besides, you don’t need to re-write the whole thing, just adjust according to the details so your experiences and skills become relevant.

CV Writing: The deciding factors

1. Language

For effective CV writing, it is imperative that you ensure impeccable language and grammar, without any spelling mistakes.

Play special care towards your sentence structure and grammar. Your CV must be written in the same tense and grammatically correct. In addition, always spell check before finalizing and sending your resumes. Grammatical or spelling errors reflect quite poorly in front of the reader or HR manager and shows carelessness and a lack of attention to detail on your part; a crucial trait for all major positions. See below for an example:

Incorrect: Evaluated customer contracts and supporting renegotiations that enhanced revenue by 25%

Correct: Evaluated customer contracts and supported renegotiations that enhanced revenue by 25%

2. Precision

As mentioned earlier, it is optimal to have a single paged CV document. Therefore, you must be concise and precise while writing your CVs. Instead of stretching the sentences, provide a concise bullet point that clearly states what you did in your earlier roles without unnecessary details.

Incorrect: Executed a new marketing plan for Company ABC that helped sell 15% more units as compared to the previous year

Correct: Executed a new marketing plan with a key customer that increased sales by 15% YoY

3. Quantification

As aforementioned, the recruiter normally has hundreds of CVs for each position. Thus, he or she will spend a maximum of 60 seconds glancing through each CV. As a result, you must make sure to highlight your accomplishments objectively such that it creates an instant impact. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to quantify your achievements and accomplishments in your prior roles. Quantified numbers make an instant impact and showcase exactly what you achieved in your previous roles. To elaborate this further, consider that you’ve worked in the marketing department, don’t just show you executed a marketing strategy, highlight what you or your company achieved as a result of that marketing strategy: viewership increased by x%, or sales increased by y%. See the example below:

Incorrect: Developed and executed an inbound marketing strategy

Correct: Developed and executed an inbound marketing strategy that increased website traffic by 20%

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