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A top-notch CV or 6 rules you should bear in mind when preparing your application documents

Preparing attractive application documents is the first step to effective movement on the labour market - so when you are on the threshold of your career, it is worth spending some time on the thorough preparation of your CV.

But where should you start? Is it worth preparing a single CV for all offers, or perhaps a separate one for each individual job? Should you include a photo? Should all the information really fit on one page?

Responding to the needs of students and graduates in their job search, the Jagiellonian University Careers Service is pleased to present six universal rules for preparing a CV that will become your best hallmark.

Rule 1: Tailor your CV to the offer

The basic rule for preparing effective application documents is to thoroughly read the job description and the requirements set by the employer. Before you sit down to prepare your CV, read the advertisement carefully and think about the following issues: 

  • What is the job description for the position offered?
  • What competencies (qualities, skills and experience) are essential for this position and what competencies are desirable?
  • Which of the expected competencies do you have?
  • Why did you become interested in this offer?
  • What are the experiences, skills and knowledge that you should tell your recruiter about in the context of this offer?

Thinking about these issues will not only help you to consider whether the job offer is as attractive to you as you first thought, but it will also give you a good indication of what you should include in your CV to get the employer interested in you.

Rule 2: Use an appropriate template

Nowadays it is easy to find many interesting ready-made CV templates and free resume builders online. When using them, however, bear in mind that the appearance of the CV should not overshadow its contents - it is important that the CV is aesthetically pleasing, but make sure it contains all the essential sections: personal details, professional summary, experience, education, skills, languages, interests and a personal data processing clause. This information does not have to fit on one page, but it is important that it is presented in a concise and accessible manner.
As regards colours and typeface choice - keep it simple, do not let a flashy template make it difficult for the recipient to focus on your strengths.

Rule 3: Be specific

When describing your previous work experience or skills, be precise and specific – there is no room in your CV for the beating around the bush. The more the recruiter learns about the tasks you undertook in your previous position, the more accurately he or she will assess your competences in the context of the position on offer. To make them more visible, describe your previous responsibilities in the form of sub-items, focusing on what you did and what tools you used. 

When describing your skills, focus on those that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Drop such phrases as ‘computer literate’, as nowadays employers take it for granted.

Rule 4: Emphasise essential information

When constructing your CV, try to put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes: what information will they be looking for? Look for hints in the offer. If the ad says that they prefer people with your background, make this information visible, for example on the first page of the document. If the employer is looking for people with the certification you have, make sure it stands out on your CV - for example by using bold print or a different typeface colour.

Rule 5: Allow them to get to know you 

Although your photograph or interests are not mandatory sections of a CV, consider including them. On the basis of genuine information about your interests, a skilful recruiter may find out about what distinguishes you from other candidates. This is important, especially since when looking for a new employee, the recruiter takes into account not only your hard skills, but also how you would fit in with the team or organisation they are recruiting for. In addition, the interests section is a gold mine of ideas for the questions aiming to initiate the interview or slow it down. 

What about a photo? A CV with a photo is easier to remember and helps candidates to distinguish themselves from other applicants. It is important, however, that the photograph you include in your CV demonstrates your professionalism - so you should be wearing an elegant outfit, keep the frame simple and use good lighting.

Rule 6: Take care of the details 

Remember, your CV is your business card - so it should be as well-prepared as possible. Before sending the document, make sure there are no spelling mistakes or typos, and check whether the text formatting is consistent. Make sure the file name is unique and professional, for example: Surname_Name_CV_Company_Name. When saving the document, use a closed format (e.g. .pdf) to ensure all contents stays in place.
Remember to check whether your CV contains an up-to-date consent to the processing of your personal data - without this short clause, the recruiter will not be able to contact you!

Applying these simple rules in practice may turn out to be a bit more time- and labour-consuming than you might think at first - but I am convinced that it is well-worth it in order to achieve recruitment success. All persons who would like to consult their application documents or learn more about the labour market are welcome to visit the Careers Office - do not hesitate to ask for our support when taking the first steps towards your career!

About the author

Emilia Latała-Cudecka – psychologist and professional advisor for persons with disabilities. She is a graduate of Psychology at the Jagiellonian University and Human Resource Management at the Tischner European University and currently she is undergoing training in psychotherapy at the Postgraduate Medical Education Centre of the Jagiellonian University Medical College. Her interests include socially oriented trends on the labour market, such as diversity management and intercultural management, as well as CSR activities. Her focus is psychology of human development in the life course, in particular developmental changes and transferrable skill building as well as their significance in successful career development.