CV writing is the perfect opportunity to sell yourself to prospective employers by highlighting your years of professional and life experience. By now, you’ll likely know your professional self pretty well, which should make identifying your strengths much easier. Our guidelines below will help you translate your positive attributes into a CV you’re proud of.
If done successfully, CV writing can give you a huge confidence boost. There’s no time like the present to show future employers why you are the right person for the job.
Our guidelines below will help you translate your positive attributes into a CV that you’re proud of.
Before writing your CV, you should carefully consider which job role(s) you’ll be applying for. This will help you decide which skills and experience you should showcase – and it’s important to be as selective as possible. Even if you have a wealth of experience, it’s unnecessary to include lengthy details about work that has no relevance to the role you’re applying for.
Your CV should be no longer than two pages long (a real challenge when you have over 30 years of experience, but no less important). Employers are busy and usually don’t have time to read pages and pages about each candidate.
It’s helpful to read the job specification for roles you’re interested in so you can identify which skills and experience match yours, and ensure you highlight these in your CV. It’s quite normal to have two, or even three versions of your CV – tailored to the different types of jobs you’re applying for – because this enables you to highlight the strengths you have that are most applicable to any specific job.
Having different versions of your CV can be particularly helpful when you’re going for a career change, as you’ll have many transferable skills that could make you a valuable asset for the right company.
If you’re struggling to put together your CV and start your job search, and have been unemployed for six to 12 months, Allen and Overy’s ReStart Programme can provide personalised support. This holistic 13 week course offers one-to-one coaching and tailored interventions to help you set achievable goals, build your personal brand, and plan for success.
Always include a personal statement
Start your CV with a personal statement or summary about you as a professional. This snippet will give employers a brief idea about your professional background, your career aspirations, and your skills. It’s important to get this right as it’s often the first thing an employer reads, and can even be the only thing!
Try to keep this short and sweet – it should be no more than two or three sentences long. If you’re not currently employed, give a brief outline of your skills, professional background, and ambitions.
Prioritise your skills and experience
Future employers are going to want information about your work history, starting with your current or most recent role. Include the job title, company, and a brief outline of the role – then continue listing other relevant work in chronological order.
You’ll need to account for all of the time you’ve spent working, and also the time that you haven’t so an employer can build up an overall picture – but often, you can group up a large number of jobs and roles you did in your 20s and 30s to save space, unless they’re particularly relevant to the job you want. If you have gaps on your CV and you’re concerned about how to explain them, then our article here will hopefully help with this.
Education and qualifications become less important once you’ve gained years of professional experience, and these can be placed in a separate section after your work experience. You should also include a section about your skills, hobbies, and interests to showcase you as a human!
Be as specific as possible and include things that’ll make you stand out from the crowd. This stuff really matters. If you’ve played an active role in organising a local community club or charity, then you might be amazed at how many transferable business skills you can demonstrate from these areas of your life.
When giving a brief description of each job role, try to keep it concise by using lots of relevant keywords/buzzwords (e.g ‘accountable’, ‘driven’, ‘tactical’). And rather than listing everything you did at a company, it can help to think about two or three things that defined your time there – focusing on how you helped the company be successful. This way, if an employer is searching online for someone with your skill set, they have a better chance of finding your CV.
Many companies also now rely on CV algorithms to quickly sort through CVs and identify those which are most relevant to the role. These algorithms will accept or discard CVs based on a set of criteria. For tips on how to beat CV algorithms and get your application in front of a human employer, check out our article here.
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Things to remember when writing your CV
Stand out from the crowd
Employers receive hundreds of CVs and many use the same cliches, such as ‘I work hard’, ‘I work independently’, and ‘I am proactive’. Generally speaking, most employees will say they have these qualities – it’s your unique qualities, examples, and experience that will set you apart.
Try to avoid using cliches. Instead, tell employers what you’ve done that others may not. Mention specific achievements in past roles and give clear examples.
A cover letter to accompany your CV is also a must if you really want to make a lasting impression. Our article, Tips for writing a cover letter when you’re over 50, can help with this. We also have a few different cover letter templates available here.
Keep it clear and professional
Your CV needs to grab future employers’ attention and huge blocks of text will be off-putting, so try using bullet points and sub-headings to make sections clear and concise. Employers will be sifting through hundreds of CVs, so the easier it is to read yours at a glance, the better.
Keep your CV classy and professional by sticking to one colour: black. Colours on screen displays and printers vary, so by using other colours in your CV, you risk making it difficult for prospective employers to read.
Also avoid using backgrounds, borders, or fancy fonts because this is unprofessional and distracting.
Highlight technology skills
When writing a CV over 50, you should aim to reassure employers that you can work with technology and understand its value. You should name specific software you’ve used, explain what you’ve used it for, and highlight recent or future training to show you’re a keen learner.
Technology is constantly evolving and things become outdated quickly, so do your research to ensure that the skills and software you list on your CV are still relevant in modern technology. Our article 8 digital skills that you can learn from home might come in handy if you want to brush up on your IT skills.
If you don’t have LinkedIn, now is the time to set up your profile. Once they’ve read your CV, it’s likely that an employer will search for your LinkedIn profile, to judge the quality of your online presence in the professional world. You should include a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV to show employers that you are up to date with current technology trends. But, always make sure that the information on your LinkedIn profile matches that on your CV.
For more advice on how to use LinkedIn to help with your job search, you might want to take a look at our article: How to use LinkedIn to get a new job.
Use the right tone of voice
Your CV should radiate confidence and energy. The use of action verbs (e.g. ‘achieved’, ‘participated’, ‘accomplished’) can help to emphasise productivity and bring your CV to life.
When talking about yourself, also use the first-person pronoun ‘I’ to connect with future employers on a personal level.
Remember: You don’t need to include your date of birth or dates relating to professional experience
Age is nothing but a number and when it comes to your CV, this couldn’t be more true. So there’s no reason to include any information that gives away your age. Give employers the chance to judge you on your skills, knowledge, and experience – not on the year you were born.
Photos are unnecessary
Unless you’re applying for a modelling or acting job, what you look like is irrelevant. Photos take up valuable space and give employers additional information about you like age and ethnicity, which shouldn’t be taken into account when judging the suitability of individuals.
As a general rule, there’s no need to include any work history that dates back further than 10-15 years, as this will be less relevant, and will make it harder for an employer to make assumptions about your age.
Use a professional email address
Employers will take you more seriously if you have a suitably worded email address to put on your CV (e.g. [email protected]). You should also avoid using an email address that gives away your age if you want to be judged on your skills and experience alone.
Proofread (and again, and again)
A well-written CV is one that’s grammatically sound. Bad grammar and spelling mistakes suggest a lack of caring or poor attention to detail, which will discourage employers from inviting you to an interview.
Read your CV at least three times to check for errors. If you’re still unsure, you can give it to a friend or family member to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes.
Consider using a CV building website, or our free CV template
If you’re short on time and looking for a fast-track route to creating a CV, then you might want to consider using our own CV template.
We also offer a number of CV review and rewriting services. If you’re unsure which service you want to use, then you can book a free 30-minute call with one of our coaches who can help you choose the right package for you. To find out more, you can visit our page on getting help with your CV.
Writing a CV is a great opportunity for personal reflection and a chance to celebrate your successes. It could be years since the last time you updated yours, and you might surprise yourself with how much you’ve accomplished since then.
If you’re over 50, you’ll have experience on your side, so it’s important to show employers just how much they can benefit from your skills. A new job is an exciting new chapter in your life and by following these top tips, you can increase your chances of getting hired.