Killer Applications - Part 3: How To Write A Golden CV

“You cannot be really first rate at your work if work is all you are ” – Anna Quindlen

Welcome to Part 3 of our Killer Applications series. Today, it’s the big one…your golden ticket to the major leagues...your CV.

CV, Curriculum Vitae, resume, vita, bio, rap sheet…CV is a Latin expression which means “the course of one’s life”.

Whilst your cover letter gives you scope to show your personality (see our earlier Cover Letter post), your CV is more formal, and provides a proper record of your roles, experiences and achievements.

Below are our three key tips on how to make your CV shine amongst all the competition.

1. Double Down on the “Extra-curricular” Section

A typical CV structure will include these sections which you need to get right:

  • Your details: name and contact details

  • Education: list your uni degree and high school and WAM / TER

  • Employment or Professional Experience: list relevant roles, dates, and summary, and list of key achievements

After these come the “Extra-curricular” section which gives you a chance to really show some unique achievements. This is where you can really shine as a standout candidate, and is often what recruiters will remember you for. Some examples include:

  • Volunteer work

  • Student association involvement

  • Non-academic competitions / projects

  • Sports teams

  • Mentoring roles or tuition roles

  • Organised groups / activities / events

In all of the achievements you conjure up for this section, you want to ensure you tick off evidence of the below three qualities (it’ll be what your CV reviewer will do):

  • Leadership Experience: Leadership is a quality that everyone wants to see - we get that you’re still young and that you’re probably not going to be managing a billion dollar company, but it’s good to see something here. Some easy-win examples:

  • Captain of a sports team (doesn’t matter if you’re good)

  • Coordinator / organiser of community or association (could be a student group, a book club, esports group, chess team, a running or hiking group, etc.)

  • Teamwork: Your employer will want to see that you know how to play nicely with others…

  • Similar examples to the above, but focus on activities where you collaborated with others to achieve an outcome

  • Ambition: This one is important. Employers can tell when someone has really gone for it versus when they’re just limping into the process. Do your best to show that you’re a real “go-getter” - some examples include:

  • Volunteer work experience that is aligned to the role you’re applying for

  • Involvement in Competitions (i.e. Investment Banking, Business Case or others)

  • Memberships in relevant associations (i.e. Accounting / Consulting groups or Investment groups)

2. Go with a Proven Structure

This is a formal document so it’s OK for it to look (professionally) boring. That’s OK, you’re not applying for a creative designer role, so our advice is to play it safe:

  • Use a simple, professional layout - you won’t get marks for being fancy. Start with our Aced It CV template file provided here

  • Use headings and bullet points - make it EASY for your reviewers to scan your achievements

  • Imagine it’s the 20th CV you’ve been asked to review in the last hour… you’re probably not going to be hanging on every word so don’t lose the reader’s attention. Keep it punchy and to the point

  • 2-3 pages max

  • Some recruiters (e.g. in the US) like a one pager, and this can work in Australia too. But as a young professional, some of your achievements will need more explanation (i.e. part time work, competitions, volunteer work )

3. Basic DON’Ts

  • DON’T include a career objective. We don’t think these are relevant for campus hires who are only just starting out their careers

  • DON’T include a list of generic skills. Yes include relevant awards, but don’t belittle yourself by including “Microsoft Excel or Office” as a skill, or listing “Leadership, Teamwork, etc.”

  • DON’T include referees. It’s a waste of space, and recruiters will ask for referees if they want them

  • DON’T let any spelling mistakes through. No one can handle grammatical errors and poor drafting! Proof read your CV. Print it out and read it with a red pen. Get a trusted peer to take a look too. And make sure whatever is in your CV is consistent with your LinkedIn profile because there’s a good chance you’ll get stalked here (which strangely… is a good thing when job-hunting)

These tips should help you tidy up your CV and put you in a good spot to get shortlisted for an interview (and actually have a solid doc to talk to in that interview).

Best of luck and stay tuned.