Resume Writing Tips: CV Section By Section – In the previous edition of my guide I wrote that it takes as little as twenty seconds for your reader to assess whether your CV is worthy of their interest.
This was two years ago and I think that in 2013 it takes even less. It certainly takes me around ten seconds to decide if a CV is interesting or not. Have you tested how long it takes you? I like looking at it like this: you have somewhere between ten and twenty seconds to impress your reader and hook their attention.
This is the first and most important impression you’re going to make on your reader. It sounds cruel, I know. But if you don’t make the best impression possible in the first few seconds, your reader may not even get down to where you talk about your Master’s in Translation Studies or the fact that you’ve translated a published book.
Here are some most common first impression mistakes on CVs:
• Including too many personal details, such as nationality, gender, date of birth, place of birth, marital or civil status or number and even age of children
• Listing three telephone numbers, two email addresses and a full postal address • Describing education dating back to high school
• Saying you’re a beginner and newcomer
• Stressing the fact you’re always available, flexible, and self-motivated
• Adding too many irrelevant details in general Instead, you should make sure that you use your ten to twenty seconds to grab your reader’s attention with relevant and interesting information.
Make sure that the reader will learn you have the right skills and that you’re experienced in using them within this short timeframe.
It’s a good strategy to mention something that will make you look like an insider to your reader. For example, I mention my law-related education within the first few seconds to give a signal to the reader that we’re not so different. The more relevant you can be, the better.
To make sure that your CV passes the first impression test, measure how much of your own CV you can read in fifteen seconds and draw a thick line there.
This is how much your reader is going to see before they decide whether they should invest in reading on. What are they going to read? Is it interesting? Is it relevant?
Resume Writing Tips: CV Section By Section
Personal details are the first thing at the top of our CVs, but they’re often ignored by the reader on the first reading. And quite rightly so – they’re not likely to be the decisive factors in landing you a project.
Of course it’s important to add all necessary information, such as your name, surname, and basic contact details. You may want to add your Skype login, Twitter, LinkedIn, or a link to your website. Be sure to observe the points made before regarding excessive personal details – don’t waste those ten to twenty seconds.
As discussed, there is some debate when it comes to adding photos and I recommend that you take your target culture into account. Some of our colleagues also add logos of any organisations they belong to. I used to do that, but now I just showcase them on my website.
Professional headline Developing your edge and grabbing your reader’s attention start with an effective professional headline. Such a headline should reflect who you are and what you do, in as much detail as possible, taking care to remain concise.
Your headline should include your language combination, field of expertise and what you do. Mine is quite simple on my legal CV: “Polish – English Legal Translator”.
No unicorns or magic sparkles. I like this minimalist approach and I believe that clear-cut headlines work, following the principle of “it does what it says on the tin”. A good professional headline can also be used to enhance your relevance to a specific target group.
This is where we can make the right first impression. The profile statement gives you some space for two to three sentences that you can use to present who you are and what you do in the most appealing way. It should encapsulate your profile and work as a pitch.
This section of your CV is probably the most underestimated. But look at it this way: this is what your reader is going to read in the first ten to twenty seconds.
This is your one and only chance to hook your reader and make sure they continue reading. There are some pieces of information I think work particularly well in our profile statements: areas of specialisation, summary of experience, unique elements in our educational history, CAT tools we use, or even daily capacity (which often helps us to educate our clients).
I’m a fan of using impersonal grammatical constructions throughout my CV, but then again it may depend on the culture and traditions. Using first person is not wrong, but it may strike some of your readers as odd or even unprofessional, depending on their culture and preferences.
There is a bit of a debate around listing key achievements on a freelancer’s CV. I think we need to look at the role this section plays on our CVs first.
If you call it “Key achievements” it’s almost guaranteed your reader is going to look at it. This is a quite clever way of ensuring the reader’s interest is still high enough to continue reading after the first twenty seconds.
And if you have your reader’s attention, this is where it’s perfectly okay to list three to five bullet points with the most important and impressive facts about your career.
I know it’s difficult to think about key achievements and then list them. It can feel a bit pushy or overly confident. But this is the place where you can show you’re different from other translators who may be considered for the same project.
The section of our CV where we talk about our professional experience is the central point of every freelancer’s CV. It simply has to be effective. There are some points I think are essential, such as:
• Including the fact you work as an independent translator, even if you’re just starting out. Omitting it may give the impression that you’re not really serious about it.
• Listing the types of documents you work on.
• Mentioning previous relevant experience. For me, the crucial part of professional experience is actually a true
and detailed account of the work you’ve done so far. On my legal translation CV, I list types of documents I’ve translated under the areas of law I work in.
I try to give more detailed information for the most recent (or most interesting) projects, including the topic and word count of the document. I quite like numbers and I think they work well on our CVs, so the more numerical data we can include, the more convincing we look.