Tips for writing your CV

Did you know that on average a recruiter in the private sector spends just 6 seconds to read your CV? Did you know some companies use software to select CVs on keyword?

At CERN we do better and read each and every CV and application form we receive,  but it is nevertheless key that you catch the recruiter’s attention within the first seconds. In order to increase your chances, we share here a few tips and some useful advice on how to achieve this!

Do submit your CV!

While our application form is intended to gather structured data, your CV is like your signature, your opportunity to give more information about why you may be the right person for the job.

Content: keep it relevant.

  • Your CV must guide the reader and give clear indication of why your experience is relevant for the job, so keep any job-unrelated material to a minimum. A typical CV contains five sections, usually in the following order:
    • Personal details (name, address, nationality etc…). Don’t feel obliged to tell us about your gender and family situation, this is not job-related. A picture is not necessary either: it doesn’t tell us anything about your competencies and we’re not hiring on looks!
    • Profile summary or your objective to succinctly present your skills and motivation and invite the reader to read on.
    • List of your key competencies, relevant for the job. If you do so, be selective and job-related: an overloaded list will lose its impact
    • Relevant work experience, in reverse chronological order. This is the most important section, as past experience will inform us about your potential for the position. Refer as much as possible to specific  achievements e.g. size of team you have managed, length/budget/scope of projects you have worked on, gain in efficiency you have achieved etc.
    • Educational background, languages, trainings: mention only background which is relevant for the job (if you have a university degree, we guess you went through high school before that!).

Format: keep it short, clear and concise

  • Aim to fit your CV on no more than two A4 pages, whatever the length of your experience.
  • Avoid using standard CV templates you find on the web. Writing a CV is personal, so an opportunity to be creative! But do also be reasonable, it is not an art contest either!
  • Take care of layout, headings, spacing and font: your CV must look attractive, easy to read and professional.
  • Check any spelling, grammar and other mistakes: a CV littered with errors affect the credibility of your application.
  • Bullet points are an effective way of presenting the information in a digestible way. Don’t use a narrative style: recruiters have little time to read it.
  • Please submit all application documents either in French or in English, the two official languages used at CERN.

And now come the tips: how stand out from the crowd!

It is key that you catch the recruiter’s attention within the first seconds. Here are 3 tips to make your CV stand out of the crowd.

  • Tailor  your CV to the position in question: with many years of professional experience you may want to share all your experience acquired so far and as a result end up with a 15-page CV.  Overcome such a challenge! There is no such thing as a unique CV for all jobs you apply for.
  • Read the vacancy notice carefully, tailor your wording to the job and emphasise those experiences that are relevant to it! If you have been waiter at a restaurant, fine, but it’s probably not very helpful in designing superconducting magnets.  Recruiters at CERN don’t use software to search for key words, nevertheless their eyes unconsciously seek them out when they have to read over 200 CVs. The sooner the recruiter identifies key words that relate to the job, the higher the probability you will make it through the first stage.