The CV Guide
Disclaimer: Most of the advice does not apply for ATS scanners. Still don't know how those work.
Let's say you've just been laid off unexpectedly, or you finally decided to put an end to your comfy NEET days, and you need a piece of digital paper to show someone because you wish to get paid. It's so overwhelming, where do you even begin? Well, you're in the right place, because this article right here is all you need to make a CV and actually land a job.
Before we start, there is a difference between a CV and a résumé. Curriculum Vitae (CV) is basically a your entire life, all your achievements, certificates, degrees, experience, all of it compiled together, while a résumé is a quick rundown of relevant information for the job you want. This is all completely irrelevant, because no one says résumé anymore, and no one except academia will expect your entire life course so far, but for the sake of brevity, the term CV will be used from now on.
Describe yourself in a thousand words
Firstly, sit down and write your academic achievements and all the work experience you have, in a single document. Try to be as detailed as possible. Mention everything, from fetching coffee for your slightly misogynistic boss to taking photos of university events. Anything that comes to your mind, just jot it down. Much like a lot of aspects of a job, it's easier to remove unnecessary fluff than to add it on the spot.
Next step is to translate your plebeian plainspeak to corporatese. You didn't stand in queue for 20 mins because your boss forgot his morning cuppa, you procured vital resources to ensure the team's success. You didn't just post some selfies from that boring conference, you created content to help boost the popularity of X university. It's mindboggling why humans have to communicate to each other in this way, but we live in a society.
Put aside that document for now, and browse jobs that are sort of within your expertise. As an example, we will be pretend that your desired position is that of Administrative Assistant, because it's a broad term that means literally anything and your dear author is not nearly as creative as HR. Administrative jobs can include the very general Assistant, Receptionist, AccountantLite, you name it. Then it branches off to specific establishments, like offices, hotels, spas, etc. It is all similar, but not quite the same, like how synonyms work in the English language.
Now we go back to your original document. Separate the experience you have based on the jobs you've scoured. There are customer-facing jobs, like a Hotel Receptionist, that also force you to deal with money and guest reservations, which is quite different than having to deal with social shenanigans in an office environment. Keep the original document intact, and create new documents for this step.
Designing yourself in a one-page document
Alright, the most daunting part is done. Good job! Pat yourself on the back, and follow this link to Canva, type "CV" into the search bar, and window shop for the one you like the most. Highly recommend these new sleek and modern ones, they are comfortable to look at for more than two seconds and people in HR won't discard them immediately. Choose a template or make your own from scratch, but keep in mind that people actually still use printers and will print out your application, so the contrast between the background color and the font color has to be high enough. Can't fail with a black-on-white approach, though a slightly darker white (#F4F4F4) and a slightly lighter black (#212121) work great and don't strain our eyes as much as the tried-and-true does.
Eye strain happens because of how our iris contracts with a lot of light being received, which is not a hard task for these miracles of nature, but then having to look at and actually read black words is a little bit hard for them. Absolutely demolished by simple text.
Pro tip: One page of CV = 10 years, or less, of experience. Do NOT go over one page. Make it fit.
The reason for the One Page Rule is simply because attention span of a person who is looking at potentially hundreds of CVs in a day is limited, and their patience might be thin. If a CV is unreadable, or looks absolutely horrible to read at first glance, it will be discarded. The point of a CV is to get an interview, not to get a job immediately. You want them to look at your pixels, actually read them, and give you a call.
There are a few good rules to keep in mind when designing a CV.
Make sure your name is clear, bold, and visible, in upper left corner or in the middle of the document.
Your future employers won't remember the exact details, but they will jot down your name as a potential new recruit. It should be visible, even from a thumbnail.
Contact information should be separated into a different "box", and should include phone number and e-mail address.
In case they wish to contact you, do not make them look for your information for more than a second, they will not bother with that. Adding a home address depends on where you are from, and the kind of job you want. If you are only looking for remote work, home address is not needed, but adding your address nowadays is usually redundant. Better to keep your sensitive information to yourself if you can, as you never know who's watching.
Bullet points are a great way to summarise previous experience, and they never end in a full stop.
Attention to detail and knowledge of proper text formatting etiquette is imperative in a lot of jobs nowadays. Show them you know what you're doing right off the bat with your wonderful CV. In case you are adding slashes (/), there should be space before and after the slash if there are two or more words on each side.
Ripe peaches / Spotty bananas
The order of all points should be in reverse chronological order, so the first point should be the most recent work experience or academic achievement, then go down the list with the second, third, and so on.
Font choice is extremely important.
Sans-serif basically means 'no decoration', and is generally perceived as friendlier and more relatable, but is often also more readable (which is why we're using it for this website).
'Serif' fonts have tiny little decorative ends to each letter, and are seen as more formal and professional.
The best design choice is to combine both font categories. Use 'serif' for job titles you've previously held, and the additional information about them, like the company you worked at and the time that you spent there (with the time span being in italics so it doesn't look too uniform and stands out). The bullet points should be in a 'sans-serif' font of your choice, as they usually mean more text, so it's easier to read.
There are many font families to choose from, and most people default to Times New Roman for 'serif', and Arial for 'sans-serif'. Switch it up a bit, and use Garamond instead of TNR, and Calibri instead of Arial. It's the little things that matter the most, and you want to stand out among the crowd, so min-maxxing like this is a good idea.
Keywords should be found, and they should be bold.
First impressions are everything, as often times, the only chance you'll get is a quick glance, unless you pull them in. Words that are bold seem more important, and people will look at them before anything else, so use the bold to highlight the things you want them to look at. A good trick is to bold up the keywords that the employer used in the job description. They mentioned one of the responsibilities is scheduling office meetings? You bold that stuff right up in your CV.
Finding the keywords in job descriptions is basically the same game as bolding them in your CV. There's a lot of corporatese fluff they use in these descriptions, same as we have to, so it's a tug of war from both sides to figure out what the hell everyone's talking about. Here's an example of the first job that popped up on Indeed!
This is a highly effective method, because it works in real life as well. Mirroring gestures and repeating back slightly different words to people we're talking to makes them subconsciously kinda like us. They think we're cool, because they usually think they themselves are cool. Also, it makes sense that if an employer is looking for these specific things, you'll want to mimic them to get a call back. You want them to look at your CV and say "Yes, this is exactly who we need!". It really is that simple, though it will take a little bit more time upfront, but it pays off in the long run. Rather spend 10 minutes on this, than send out hundreds of applications with no results.
Most jobs within a field have very similar responsibilities, perhaps just worded a bit differently. Create a few different versions of your CV to apply to these slightly different jobs.
An important note to all the above is to keep an eye out for any big names. HR loves knowledge of industry-standard software, so if you are proficient in MS Excel (god bless), you put that in and you bold it. Same goes with numbers. Any "increases in volume", or "saved the company X amount of money through this unique special trick of knowing what you're doing", and they will drool at your CV. Big name software and actual quantifiable numbers should always be included and always be bold.
Should I use a photo of myself?
Probably not. There are a thousand different biases that people have, and you want to avoid that like the plague. You might be too blonde, too brunette, too skinny, too pretty, too
I don't have any work experience, what do?
First of all, do not lie outright. If you went through university/college, did you organise any study groups? Did you write any articles for the school's newspaper, or publish any killer essays? Were you a cheerleader? A leader of a book club? Include that. Fluff it up. You probably did something, even if it's having awesome grades. Include professor references, too!
I'm not sure if I should apply to this job.
Apply to literally any job that you feel you can do. On average, women seem to be very shy in applying for jobs they are not at least 90% qualified for, while men don't seem to overthink as we do and just apply to anything that resembles a job description. The worst that can happen is be ignored. Enjoy the rush of euphoria as you hit that Send button!
I'm an American and we are prompted to disclose our very personal information that is usually illegal in other countries.
Disclosing your religion, sexuality, and race can be a double-edged sword. There are many diversity quotas that companies are dying to fill, but if you're unsure about sharing this information, do some stalking of the company's website. They usually have a page dedicated to all their employees, and if you notice a staggering lack of women in there, it actually might be a good idea to apply. Women often offer unique perspectives to problem-solving that men just don't even think about until it's too late. If the company's website mentions any of the new buzzwords, you may fluff up your personality a bit, but make sure the info you provide is not verifiable or outright questionable. You want to go for plausible deniability.
I have large time gaps between jobs.
That is nothing to fret about, unless you're applying for some high-rolling intense corpo job we see in movies. One way to minimise the initial impact of the gaps is to only state the month and the year you spent at a job (August 2019 - March 2020). When you land an interview, and they ask about it, you have three options.
Claim family issues. People are generally more lenient about this when it comes to women, which might seem like a cool life perk until you realise they are lenient because women are expected to take care of family members. This option also allows for mental health breaks from working, and you wouldn't technically be lying because you are someone's family.
Claim travel. If you claim you went abroad to volunteer at animal shelters for a year, they will ask you why haven't you put that down in the CV, and that is just an awkward situation. But, if you claim you went abroad or to another state to protest against testing on animals because you feel strongly about the cause, they might even be impressed by your passion. Travelling to see family abroad also works. Make sure your social media accounts are private.
Claim NDA. The very nature of Non-Disclosure Agreements is that you cannot talk about whatever you did. Can't put it in CV, can't talk about it, that's that. This option requires very good lying skills and a good delivery. If they stay silent after your claim to try to get you to talk, do NOT break the silence. Stare into their soul and wait until they break first.
If you are still worried about the gaps, you can try to fill those with completed certificates and courses that are somewhat related to your field and will help you in the long run.