The 5 stages of writing a CV from scratch…

If you are writing a CV from scratch then let me manage your expectations. Those who start by typing straight onto a Word document really need to take a step back. We’ve put together 5 stages of writing a CV from scratch to help you understand what to do.

Depending on your skills, background, experience, and career you will need some time to gather all the information. There are lots of things to consider before starting to write. It would be better to start gathering information first and planning out what you are going to include.

It will take some quality time to put together your first CV. So, before you start typing away here some things to consider.

There are several stages to putting together a CV:

  1. Draft out the content by mind mapping
  2. Decide on the style of CV – Reverse Chronological or Functional/Skills-based or Master Copy CV
  3. Start to write up the content in a logical order onto the format you’ve selected
  4. Shape the content – check it flows and is written well. Consider the main message and try to get to the point and make concise and punchy
  5. Proofread – this is the very last stage and one that deserves some dedicated time

1. Draft out the content

The first stage is really important and doesn’t include any typing!  First, you need to gather some information.  So, before you start typing up random sentences decide what you are going to include.

Think about your daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly tasks, and consider the following:

  • People you work with such as colleagues, clients, customers, suppliers, 
  • Systems you use such as databases, MS Excel, Accounting software, HR systems, etc.
  • Data and information you manage, collate, interpret, present, and communicate.
  • Policies and procedures, regulation and legislation, and key performance indicators. 

Think also about the behavioural competencies you need to perform the tasks well.  The most common behaviours most jobs require are, communication skills, planning and organizing skills, relationship building, customer service or problem-solving skills and the list goes on…

Consider each of the following topics:

  • Experiences
  • Knowledge
  • Skills (Hard and Soft skills)
  • Qualifications
  • Training 

CV sections:

These are some of the typical sections you’ll see on a CV.  It is your CV and you ultimately decide what content you share.  

  • Contact details (Name, Mobile phone, and email.)
  • Profile (opening paragraph)
  • Key skills or strengths 
  • Employment history including:
    • Tasks and duties 
    • Responsibilities and accountabilities
    • Budget
    • People responsibility 
    • Key Performance Indicators
    • Achievements
  • Education and qualifications
  • Training courses and certifications
  • Professional memberships
  • Hobbies and interests

2. Decide on the style of CV

There are a variety of styles and formats and templates. If you are writing a CV from scratch my biggest advice to you is to keep it simple. Don’t get carried away with fancy fonts and bullet points. If you go crazy on the page – because you are delighted at finding different styles it can look cluttered and busy.

3. Write up the content

So, you’ve put together your duties and tasks and know what you want to write up on your CV. You’ve also decided on the best style or template. Now you can write up in sentence form on your CV. You don’t necessarily have to write in the first person. This means you are cut out some of the filler words.

Use the sections above to start collating the information you’ve mind mapped and start adding to your CV.

4. Shape the content

Just because you’ve written up the content in the last stage doesn’t mean it’s ready to be sent. You can always reduce the number of words used to get your point across.

Some people will find this stage rather challenging. The trick is to ensure the reader understands what you’ve done but not reduce the number of words so much that it ends up vague.

You don’t have much time to make a first impression on paper.  Unfortunately, it can be as low as 6 seconds.  Keep this in mind and ensure every sentence is punchy and concise. 

Writing out your achievements in full is a worthy practice. You’ll need this information when you get to the interview. Select a few sentences from the full example that matches the main criteria of the job.

5. Proof-reading

Spell checking and proofreading are the very last things you do. And, there is a difference between proof-reading and checking spelling and grammar.

You need to be happy that the content flows logically and makes sense initially. Then once you are happy with the structure of the sentences do the final spell-check.

It’s particularly challenging spell checking your own writing because you know what you were meant to write. So, we suggest reading out loud each word. This deliberate method of reading forces you to identify errors and spelling mistakes.

MS Word is sophisticated these days and will point out both spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. However, it’s not 100% accurate. So, it’s still worth manually checking.

CV Checklist:

  • Has your CV got CLARITY?
    • Concise:  A tailored CV should be 1-2 pages.  Most of the information needs to be relevant to the job.
    • Laid out well: It needs to be easy to scan and presented neatly and aligned.
    • Achievements:  Your CV must include achievements, quantitative, qualitative, or anecdotal, and preferably in that order
    • Recent:  Most recruiters don’t expect volumes of information over 10-years ago.  
    • Interesting:  The first opening paragraph is the most important section to get right.
    • Tailored:  No one CV should be sent for more than one vacancy. 
    • Your personality and characteristics:  It’s not just about cold hard facts.  Match the culture of the company. 
  • Proof-read and Spell check 
  • Consistent font, style, format, and presentation

CV Tips

  • Tailor your CV to every single vacancy 
  • A tailored CV should be 1-2 pages
  • The first page is the most important
  • Always include a Cover letter (it’s an additional page!)
  • Font size is generally 11