One thing that will get your CV to the top of the pile

Your CV is your own personal marketing tool. It creates the first impression of you, and it’s your one chance to secure an interview for your dream job. Ideally, your CV should be short, clear and focused. How short is short? Stick to a maximum of two pages, unless it’s an academic CV.

Remember, your CV is not a generic list of everything you’ve done – it is targeted for a specific purpose and should be tailored to the position you’re applying for. It should provide evidence of your skills, accomplishments and activities in different areas of your life. This way employers can get an idea of your ability to do the job based on your academic history, work experience, extra-mural activity – and what skills and experience you can demonstrate through these areas.

When getting started with your CV, brainstorm your activities and achievements in all areas of your life and think about what these things say about you. Think about what you’ve learned or what skills you’ve gained from each experience. For each piece of information you put in, ask yourself – how is this relevant?

What to put in

The basic CV has to include your contact details, your education and your work experience. Create clear logical sections to categorise this information and make it easy to read. The way your CV is formatted is an important part of delivering your information in a way that is easy to follow. The last thing you want is a CV that is confusing and unstructured – if it’s hard to read, it might not get read. So keep formatting styles – such as font style, font size, bold, spacing, heading styles – consistent. Also, use a font that is easy to read such as Arial or Calibri with 11 or 12-point font.

It’s also useful to save your CV as a PDF so your layout doesn’t change.

For your personal details - don’t waste space with a cover page or title. Use your name as the title. A physical address is optional, but definitely include your phone number and email address. Make sure your email address sounds professional – if it says something like sexy.sam@gmail, then change it.

Your education and work experience sections should be listed in reverse chronological order. When describing your work experience, include voluntary, paid and unpaid positions. Remember vac jobs, full-time or part-time experience. These all add up to giving you the work experience employers are looking for. Also include leadership roles or community involvement that demonstrates skill and the ability to handle responsibility.

A good tip for keeping things clear and concise is to use bullet points. Avoid lengthy paragraphs for job descriptions - rather list your key skills and accomplishments for each position.

What to leave out

Unless it is requested, you do not need to include a photo. You can also leave out your age and date of birth; ID number; marital status; dependants; gender; health issues; religion and reasons for leaving previous employment.

What to avoid

Try not to use templates – they may not be appropriate for your needs and may not fully showcase your talents. Certainly, look at examples and CV samples on the Careers Service website but don’t try to copy them perfectly – remember when it comes to CVs, one size doesn’t fit all.

Also, try to avoid the use of the personal pronouns “I” or “me” and stay away from overly formal language such as “herewith”, “whereupon” and “hitherto”.

Our top tip

So, as promised by the headline of this article, the one thing that will increase your chances of getting your CV to the top of the pile is this: Proofreading. This may sound too simple, but think about it – this is the only information your potential employer has to go on, and they are good at reading between the lines. If there are spelling mistakes or inconsistencies with punctuation and formatting – what does this say about you? That you don’t pay attention to detail. That in itself may be a skill they are looking for. So get your CV the attention it deserves by asking a friend, or a careers advisor at Careers Service to proofread your CV for you.

If you want to take advantage of free, professional and personalised CV advice then bring your CV along to the CV Lab at the Epic Job Expo on 8 August at the UCT Sports Centre. You can bring your CV on hard copy or on your laptop and professionals will be available for a 15-minute slot with you.

The Epic Job Expo is one day only, from 8am to 4pm, so don’t miss this opportunity to make use of the specialised CV Lab. Appointments are on a first-come-first served basis.

While you are there you can also meet 100 future employers from a huge range of organisations that are interested in recruiting students from all areas of study. The Epic Job Expo will also feature a full day of inspiring TED-style talks given by industry leaders. Bookings for the talks are limited so sign up on MyCareer.

Own your Future. Sign up for the Epic Job Expo today and be sure not to miss out on this opportunity.