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How to write the best resume or CV

Your resume is your personal billboard, so learn what needs to go into making it great!

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Nowadays, recruiters take a maximum of 6 seconds to decide whether or not to read your resume. The key is to hook him/her during these first seconds. Your CV or resume is your advert, your personal billboard if you will, and while it should be simple and easy to read, it should also be eye-catching and comprehensive. Tough to do, right? We're here to help.

We spoke to Gareth Clayton, Senior Director at Charterhouse in Dubai, to find out what exactly goes into making a good CV. 

“The CV is often the first contact a prospective employer or recruitment consultant has with any candidate” says Gareth, who boasts over 15 years’ of experience in recruitment. “This is your opportunity to quickly gain their interest, display your experience, qualifications, and skills while retaining their attention.”, he said.


How many pages should a CV be?

Two pages or less


"Keep it brief, few people have time to read a 20-page CV”, said Gareth, adding that you should. “Focus your CV on your most recent experience; keep it brief for anything over 10-15 years”, he said.

Ultimately the physical length of your CV does depend on your career level and the nature of the job for which you are applying. For example a CEO or director may need a four-page CV, whereas most of us applying for more typical positions should not go beyond two clear pages of A4. 

Use a conservative font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri at a size between 10pt to 12pt.


What is the best way to present your employment experience?

Prioritise your experiences, most recent first followed by those in order of relevance


A common error made by those writing a CV is that they try to cram too much information onto it; the net result is a text-heavy booklet in which the reader – your prospective employer – simply will not have time to read.

The best advice is to, where possible, list things out in bullet points. You should aim to keep it simple, and when paragraphs are required, keep them short.

Focus on the big, relevant details; no one will want to read about your amazing coffee making skills or how well you can keep up with the Kardashians.


Should I include a photo on my CV?

In this market, photos are a good addition, though not compulsory


In some countries the standard practice is to never attach a photo to your CV. The reasons behind this generally revolve around risking prejudice - sad, but true. In this region, however, Gareth recommends attaching a professional passport photograph to your CV, although states that it is not strictly required by all employers.


Should I include my date of birth on my CV?

Date of birth should be added, maybe as part of the "Other details" section at the end of the resume.


Much like the debate over whether or not you should include a photograph with your CV, the inclusion of your date of birth is also contested in other countries, and relates to ageism. In the Middle East, however, a date of birth is essential as certain age limits apply for visa approval.

Candidates are also advised to include their nationality, marital status, home address, and relevant contact details.


What should I avoid putting on my CV?

Avoid repetitive terms - a tip from us - try making your experience profile a list of achievements rather than a set of given responsibilities


As we have agreed, your CV is an advertisement for yourself; therefore the information on it has to be accurate. Carefully chosen prose can certainly help tidy it up, but providing inaccurate information that cannot be backed-up is a massive no-no.


How many times should you proof-read?

A million times at least


“Be accurate and honest as it is likely that examples of your work will be required” he says before adding, “Proof read your CV. Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors do not make a good first impression.” It is a good idea to ask a friend or relative with good English skills to give your CV the once over before you send it off with your cover letter.


CV checklist - what to include

  1. Full name, date of birth, nationality, country of residence, and marital status. Also mention if you have a driving licence
  2. Professional passport size photograph
  3. Contact details; including phone, email, and address
  4. Personal statement; who are you, what are you looking for, what do you offer?
  5. Career history; start with the most recent and work back in time. Include duration of employment and a short description of your responsibilities
  6. Key achievements; which can take the form of a short paragraph
  7. Qualifications; including institution, subject, grade, and years attended. Also mention additional training and qualifications.
  8. Personal interests; a short note of your relevant interests and hobbies.

Gareth summarises that “This [your resume] is your opportunity to sell yourself. Emphasise previous wins, promotions, and rare skill-sets. You should aim to make yourself very difficult to disregard”

This article was written by Martin Fullard, former Web Editor at gulfnews.com and has been updated.

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