A quick and easy template that you can use to make your CV stand out (in a good way)

free CV template

Because of the Covid and lockdowns, the job market crashed, and it hit many households hard. With everything going on, businesses close, people are being laid off or moved to zero-hour contracts. Suddenly employees that held steady full-time contracts or part-time arrangements are left in the dust.

Honestly, the situation is not great for many. It doesn’t seem that it will get any better within the next few weeks – or even months for some sectors. Personally, I believe that getting rid of your employees so quickly when the crisis hits is not responsible, and it shows that some companies are not prepared. Not ready to tackle an emergency. When the situation clears a bit, they may have considerable problems getting back all the qualified personnel, especially since they broke the trust put in them as employers.

But life must go on, and everyone that has already been laid off or is anxious that it may happen to them soon should be preparing and working hard to secure a new role.

The job market is not fully recovered yet. The competition is fierce. Companies that are still recruiting are swamped with applications, so make sure that whatever you do, you maximise the chances for your CV to be at least picked up and looked at by a real person. 

Covid impact on jobs: There were 50% less online job postings in 2020 then in previous years.

I am fully aware that not everyone will have the means to splurge on a professional CV review or CV writing service; those can be expensive. But there are many things that you can do to improve your current CV massively – and it just takes a few hours to do so.

I will walk you through a step by step process of optimising your CV.

It will take you around 1-2 hours (and an extra 20-30 minutes to check your work the next day, just to see if there’s anything else you can fix or tweak).

It’s not exactly the same process that I use when I write a new CV for a client. However, since you know your job inside and out, it’s more straightforward. I will show you a lot of shortcuts to get your CV where it needs to be. This method is not perfect, but it’s quick, efficient, and can be used by anyone, even if you have little to no practice creating a CV from scratch.

This process is best for people who have at least 1-2 years of experience. Student CV works a little bit differently and this method won’t quite work for fresh graduates.

It’s not an academic CV template. If you need one, I will cover that CV writing process in the future.

I present a straightforward CV template that will strengthen the chances of being noticed among hundreds of other applicants. 

Download the free CV template, open the file, and follow me.

Download button

I use MS Word, but most text editors will do if that’s something you’re more comfortable with. Just bear in mind that if you are not using MS Word, the formatting may be off, and you will need to tweak it a bit for it to look neat.

Decide what kind of CV you will need – depending on a role you are going for

There is such a thing as a generic CV, but it should be only used as the master copy holding all of your information. You don’t want to use this kind of document when actually applying anywhere. 

Why?

More often than not, there are too many applicants. It’s impossible to look at every individual CV. There’s not enough time in the day for that.

Because of how Recruiters do their jobs. Recruiters use ATS systems, Boolean search, and keywords to skim through the piles of CVs they get in response to job ads. If you don’t have the right content in your CV, you risk being overlooked.

Suppose you are looking for a finance role.

You worked for the last 15 years, and the next job you are going for is, let’s say, Senior Finance Manager. In that case, your generic CV with full 15 years of experience, starting with some internships and temp jobs at a local bank as an Assistant, then multiple positions in a completely unrelated department that you had to take along the way to progress, will not perform as well as a tailored one focusing only on leadership and finance-related roles. 

Before you start writing your CV, you need to decide what kind of role you are interested in and find some job ads that you’d like to apply to. Open a few ads that match your criteria and fit your profile.

Also, get some ads for roles more senior than you’d usually go for. Most people look for positions where they meet almost all of the criteria from the job ad, not realising that meeting just a few key ones can land you a job – if your experience, attitude, and personality are a great fit with the company culture. But I will write more about that in a different post.

With that in mind – Set up the CV base

Write your name and surname at the top. In the following line, write your desired job title. If you found a specific role you’d like to get, use the job title from that job ad. It has to be close to your current position, qualification you hold, or volunteer experience. Don’t use a title that is far removed from your experience.

So – if you are a Key Account Manager and the role you’re going for is Business Development & Sales Specialist, you should be fine.

If you are a Retail Sales Assistant and are going for a Junior Accountant role…well, maybe not so much. Unless you just finished an accounting course or support a local non-profit with their books.

Before we start writing, we need to know what to write. Not all the details that are important to us personally will be relevant to Recruiters. Ideally, you don’t want your CV to be a massive block of text. That’s why we need some key sections to make everything more accessible and visible.

make your CV obvious

Take a look at the template that you downloaded. Inside you will find my notes and questions that you need to answer. I marked them in red, so they are easily noticeable.

Start at the top left in the Contact section and slowly move down the column as you write your answers. Delete every question and note after you’re done with it to minimise confusion.

When you are done with a whole section – for example, you finished your Contact section, change the text colour to black to mark IT as complete.

In the left column, we have:

  • CONTACT
  • KEY SKILLS
  • EDUCATION 
  • COURSES & TRAINING
  • QUALIFICATIONS
  • TECHNOLOGIES 
  • LANGUAGES
  • MEMBERSHIPS
  • OTHER

In the right column, we have:

  • PROFILE
  • ACHIEVEMENTS
  • EXPERIENCE

Sections marked with * are optional. Only use them if they are relevant to you. If not – delete them.

Notice that the left column is considerably smaller than the right one. It makes sense when you think about it – you will need more space for your experience than for all the additional details.

Answer some questions and start writing

Start at the top left, in the Contact section, and slowly move down the column as you write your answers. Delete every question and note after you’re done with it to minimise confusion.

When you are done with a whole section – for example, you finished your Contact section, change the text colour to black to mark IT as complete.

When completing your Key Skills and Experience sections, you want to open those job ads that told you to find. Why? Because you can’t write an effective CV if you have no idea what the employers are looking for.

Read through the ads and see what kind of qualities are needed on the market and what experience can make you a great match in the Recruiter’s eyes. Dive into the Requirements and Duties section of each ad. What can you match or mirror in your CV? Remember, it’s not about copying word for word. You want to describe your own experience, but in a way that the Recruiter can relate to and understand.

Some people say that every CV should fit on 1 page, but that is a myth. Realistically, the finished product should fit either on 1 or 2 pages. 

If you have less than 4-5 years of experience, 1 page is absolutely fine. If you have more experience, don’t force yourself to fit everything on one page. It will probably not work that well at all.

3 pages are sometimes used if you have extensive experience, and most of it is relevant for the role you are applying to. It is pretty rare to see that or, frankly, to need that. Remember, you are not writing an essay. If you are not an executive with 20+ years of experience and your CV is spilling to 3 pages, you should reconsider if all of the information in there is really needed and relevant. 

Remember that the purpose of your CV is to grab Recruiters’ attention and get your foot in the door.

You write a CV to get a chance for a job interview, not to describe your life in detail. Not every single small thing you did throughout your career matters enough to be included in the CV. 

After you finish, delete all of my notes, and make sure to hide the table borders. You can also change the line spacing to fit all of your content exactly on 2 pages. Play around with it. Is one column too long? Squash it a little bit (not too much!). The other column doesn’t have that much information? Space it out.

There’s a great tutorial on how to do it here. They even have a video to guide you through everything.

Save your CV and come back to it tomorrow

After you finish with all the instructions, notes, and roles, save your CV. Make your file name your Name Surname CV.

Leave it, sleep on it, and open it again the day after. Read through everything and see if you made any mistakes – they are easier to pick up with fresh eyes.

Remember to save your file as .pdf – most employers require that format unless they specifically mention something else in their job ad.

I hope that you found following my template quick and easy.

Let me know if you have any questions, as I went over quite a lot in one post. This is by no means the ultimate CV template that will give you the best document possible, but it covers all the tricks, including basic keyword research that should at least give you a fighting chance in the current job market.

And if you haven’t yet, you can download the free template here.

Have a great day and stay motivated. You can do this!