Computer Skills for a CV in 2023 [+ Top Software Skills]
Everybody knows that putting computer skills on a CV is a must these days. But very few know how to put them to good use on their CVs. Do you?
Writing a CV is hard work, but with our best CV tips and advice, it's a piece of cake. Here are over 50 of our professional CV dos and don'ts, along with CV mistakes to avoid.
Back on the lookout for the job and curious: what should a CV look like?
Or maybe you’re a fresh graduate wondering how to write a CV for the first time?
You’re in the right place.
In this guide, you’ll find:
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If you don’t write your CV specifically for one job, it’s good for nothing. The recruiter will see through your trick and move your CV to the “no” pile. So instead—
Tailor your CV just for them by ensuring CV keywords they want are there.
Match your skills to list on a CV to what they’re looking for, and adapt your experience to the position.
As this guide from Trachtenberg School of Public Policy states, a CV must effectively answer these questions: “So what? Who cares? Why does it matter?”
Don’t over-tailor, either. Copying what the employer is looking for word-for-word will hurt instead of help writing a CV. They want your CV in their inbox, not their original job ad!
Choose the best CV fonts that a machine scanner (ATS) is able to parse, and keep your normal text to around 10-12 pts. Leave your CV margins intact. Oh, and no cursive script!
Don’t underestimate the importance of white space. You may want to fit everything on there, but you’ve got to make it easy for a recruiter’s eyes to scan—white space keeps things organised.
The common CV formats are the reverse-chronological, combination, and functional (skills-based). However, don’t just pick the one you think looks best. Select the correct CV format based on your employment status and history.
List items in reverse-chronological order. This holds true for your education, work history, volunteer, and any other date-based CV section.
Check out our CV formats guide for more tips and hacks.
Want to know a simple way of how to improve CVs?
Use subheadings to highlight each and every CV section, about 4 pts larger than the regular text.
Subheadings let the employer easily skim to the parts of a CV which interests them.
Make sure the text is aligned to the left, or you’ll lose any skimmable benefits.
I’ll just read up on the job if and when they call back, right?
A lot of candidates just see a matching position title in a job ad and shoot off that email, not bothering to understand what the job entails.
Well, you can do the same, but you’ll be severely reducing your chances of getting called back.
Plus, if you read the ad thoroughly, you’ll easily spot the ideal candidate for them: the coursework they’d like you to have, the skills and experience, etc.
To really write the CV right, keep the job ad open as you’re making your CV. And, never guess what they want when all the info you need is right there in front of you!
CVs of yesteryear were boring, ugly things.
These days we can add colour and style to make it pop. A second colour can help differentiate a sidebar, and icons can help save space while drawing the reader’s eye.
Keep it classy, and don’t go overboard. Too much of anything is good for nothing.
Here’s an example of a good email to give, and a bad one:
See what I mean? It’s one of the best, self-explanatory CV building tips. And if you don’t have one, make a new one.
The key word is relevant. Always add your LinkedIn URL (fix that up now, as well!). Don’t add Facebook just because. However, Behance would be an excellent addition for graphic designers, for example.
A link to your personal site or portfolio is good practise to showcase your work when you can’t on your CV. But—
A personal blog with your government conspiracy theories will hurt your case, so again, relevance.
You want to get the call, don’t you?
Always give your cell over your home number. And make sure your voicemail message sounds professional.
What about adding an address on a CV?
Firstly, your home address is not necessarily your mailing address.
Secondly, it’s the XXI century—there’s only a small chance you will receive your interview invitation by mail.
In the US and most other English-speaking countries, a CV profile photo is a no-no. Skip it, unless you’re in a trade requiring it, such as modelling or acting.
You can either create a CV summary or CV objective, also called a CV profile. They look similar and go in the same place, but they are two different heading statements with two different goals.
Write a CV summary if you want to focus on an overview of work experience.
Go for a CV objective if you wish to highlight the skills which make you the perfect candidate for the position or if you are writing an entry-level CV without experience.
Remember that you want to be the candidate they need, so don’t needlessly tell them what you want from them:
Such-and-such candidate seeking challenging position and growth opportunities…
Such-and-such candidate seeking to use such-and-such experience and skills to benefit such-and-such company…
Can you see the difference? So let the recruiter know how you can transfer your valuable skills to the job you want.
It’s one of the top CV objective tips: Don’t tell them you’re a results-oriented candidate; show it to them by giving them actual results with figures.
Likewise, telling them you’re an effective cost-cutter would be easily proven if you mention how you reduced costs on a previous position by X%. Check this example:
Created and implemented Agile ideation plan, gathering and acting on 25% more employee ideas than previous year. Saved £1.5 million in costs.
Objectives or summaries shouldn’t overwhelm the rest of your CV. Make it a short paragraph, about 2-4 sentences.
Got more to say? Add it to your cover letter or save it for the interview!
How far back should a CV go?
It’s best to keep it down to positions from the past 10 years at most, and just the relevant ones.
Pick past positions which add to your CV and will help you score an interview—no fluff or filler. List 3-5 bullet points per work entry just like this:
Many people make the CV mistake of writing “responsible for such-and-such” under each work experience entry.
But, here’s the thing—
They know you made coffee and helped customers as a barista, and they know you catered to passengers as a flight attendant.
What they don’t know? How well you carried out those tasks.
To prove you’re the best, show CV achievements and accomplishments under each entry. Use numbers to quantify them along with verbs such as increased, reduced, improved, etc. For reference see the example above.
Speaking of verbs, if the hiring manager reads another work history line starting with “Responsible for …,” they’re really going to hit the roof.
Stop using weak and tired words.
Jolt them awake by using action verbs and more powerful words, like cultivated, mentored, and facilitated.
You may have some employment gaps on your CV, and that’s okay. Don’t lie or try to cover it up.
Instead, show the gap and explain it in a sentence or two. You can further explain on your cover letter, if you feel so inclined.
Worried that you’ve nothing (or at least nothing relevant) to add in your work experience section? Well—
While you’re waiting for your chance at employment, do some freelance gigs, volunteer at local organisations, or do an internship to earn some valuable skills to put on a CV.
If you’ve earned a promotion, show it off—they’ll be pleased to hear about it. But you’ve got to go about it the right way.
So, instead of adding two separate entries, each with the same business name, stack each position inside one entry, in reverse-chronological order, like this:
Astoria Bar & Grill
Astoria, New York
June 2018 - Present
January 2017 - June 2018
Like in your experience section, don’t just vomit out a list of skills to list on CVs. Tailor it for this one position by once again parsing the ad to see what they’re looking for.
Out of all CVs I’ve seen, the most common thing seems to be putting proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel as skills.
These are great skills, indeed, but not necessary if you’re applying to be a line cook. Likewise, Photoshop aptitude is useless as a personal banker.
If you’re moving from one industry to another, you may be hard pressed to add relevant skills.
But that’s where transferable skills help out. These are skills that you earned in Trade A but can also be relevant in Trade B. The key here is to write it out intuitively.
Worked in customer service and looking to become a hotel receptionist? Highlight how helpful and accommodating you were with clients you had.
Going from IT to graphic design? Your attention to detail carries over beautifully (along with your ability to stare at a screen for hours).
Don’t call yourself the best of this or master of that. That’s subjective, and you’ll look like an ass.
Rather, let your CV stand on its own merits, and allow those quantified numbers from earlier speak for themselves.
For most of you, you’ll have a heading, followed by your experience, and then your education.
However, if writing a student CV or you're an entry-level candidate with irrelevant past jobs, switch some sections around to give your education more weight.
When you’re doing your CV education section, don’t just add the name of the school, year you graduated, and your major.
If you have a university entry in your education area, add relevant coursework in bullet points to show them you’re perfect for the job.
BA in Project Management
City University of New York, New York, NY
Relevant Coursework: technology integration, risk management, procurement, and communications.
Adding a GPA could backfire if it’s too low, so skip it if it’s under 3.6, unless the employer asks for it. Also, adding dates to your education may hurt your case, especially if it’s been decades.
If you’ve completed a degree, no need to add your high school. Add it only if it’s the highest finished education, such as if you’re still in university.
Building a CV is about selling yourself, so don’t be shy. If you graduated with honours, add that under the appropriate listing!
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Certifications and awards prove your proficiency right out of the gate. On top of that, they help with CVs to put you ahead of your competitors.
Already have that food safety certification from your last gig? That’s definitely something to put on your current food service CV.
Volunteer work on a CV is experience, even when you don’t have other work history.
Remember to keep it relevant: volunteering rebuilding homes after that devastating storm is useful on a construction CV, but not so much on a graphic design CV.
One added benefit: you look like a hero!
Hobbies and interests on a CV may seem useless, but they have their place.
Besides adding a human touch to this document, many hobbies and interests show skills in a roundabout way.
For example, your decade-long coaching of the little league team? That implies loyalty, teamwork, and great management ability, all in one!
A second language is always impressive, and if it’s relevant, add it to your CV.
Latin American Spanish is a great choice in most of the US, but another language might be even more dominant in certain communities or industries.
Because they know your "references are available upon request."
It’s implied, and adding it here takes up some valuable real estate you could use more wisely on something else.
Seems like lesson 1 of CV 101, right? Yet, somehow, candidates continue to hand in CVs with typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes.
Use Grammarly to find spelling errors, and click on each URL you used to make sure they’re correct.
Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, gives this CV advice, “Read your CV from bottom to top: reversing the normal order helps you focus on each line in isolation.”
When you’re wrapping up, you’re going to have to save it and name it.
Save your CV as a PDF, which ensures that everything stays intact and renders nicely on any device.
Now, what about the naming convention? Instead of saving it as Resume_1.pdf, go for something like this:
Include your name, hyphens or underscores, position, and the word CV.
Even if they don’t ask, always include a cover letter with your CV.
An effective cover letter “demonstrates that the product suits the consumer's—your future employer's—specific needs, [and] it assures the customer that the quality of the product (you) is superb,” says John Borchardt for Science magazine.
You added social profiles to your contact section, but, before you send this CV off, make sure you’ve sanitised your presence online.
(Remove all those naked photos, drunk videos, and other non-professional items.)
Oh, and do this on all your social media accounts, not just the ones you gave, because they’ll likely look you up anyway.
You could just send your CV email to the catch-all address for the company. Or, you could deliver it straight to the HR manager.
Doing the latter feels more personalised, and it’ll go a long way towards getting you that interview.
However, don’t do this if the ad says to send it elsewhere—they also want candidates who can follow directions!
A generic email cover letter, like a generic CV, will see your CV immediately passed over. You’ve got to know how to send your CV in an email.
Check the job ad once more—it could say what to put in the subject line. If you skip these instructions, everything else you’ve done will’ve been in vain.
Finally, track your CV with a tool like Mixmax to see when your email was opened. This way, you can forego the anxiety that comes with not knowing if they got it.
Been a week after sending your CV and no response? Time to send a follow-up email. Too soon and you’ll appear desperate and annoy them, so always wait at least a few days.
Also, use this email wisely. Don’t just remind them that you are waiting; instead, reestablish why you are the perfect candidate for them and what makes you stand out.
Dimpler writing is simpler to process. When that HR manager has 250 CVs to sift through, you want that.
So try to get it down to a one-page CV, if possible, and two pages is fine, as long as it’s not crammed.
Just don’t. Even if it gets you to the interview now, the truth will come out eventually, and it’ll be all the more painful and embarrassing when it does.
Adding your date of birth in the contact info could lead to ageism. Forget including your marital status and citizenship info on your CV, too. Stick to the (relevant!) basics, and you’ll be fine.
Using the first-person (“I,” “me”), and pronouns in general, is a major CV no-no. Save these for the cover letter, email, and the interview.
Instead, use power verbs and action words, which we talked about earlier.
Bad CVs use passive voice, which makes sentences evasive and confusing:
Product launch was spearheaded by…
Chose active voice, always:
Spearheaded product launch.
Buzzwords and jargon are niche vocabulary, and you run the risk of the hiring manager not understanding what you’re talking about.
So stick to using standard language, unless the job ad calls for a particular word—then it makes a fine CV keyword.
Remember: when wording gets too complex, it does the opposite of making you look smarter or more qualified (probably what you were going for, right?).
Keep things simple and toned down. Adding every job title you’ve had may be too much.
Similarly, be selective in other CV areas. Bolding and italicising help to highlight particular passages, but don’t bold or italicise the entire document (oh, and skip underlining, as it just adds to the cluttered feel).
A quick example: If you use “Feb 7, 2018” as a date in the experience section, don’t let the next date on your CV use a format such as “11/11/2019.” Also, use the same verb tenses throughout, except when it’s a current job.
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Remember these tips for writing an effective CV:
Still have questions on how to do a CV? Were our CV tips, advice, and the dos and don’ts helpful? Got any job CV hacks or mistakes to add? Let’s chat below in the comments, and thanks for reading!
Everybody knows that putting computer skills on a CV is a must these days. But very few know how to put them to good use on their CVs. Do you?
We've selected over 50 best CV templates for Word you can download for free. Choose the best Word CV template for you and start working on your CV right away.
What to include in a CV? Which CV sections to keep off? This complete guide outlines exactly which things to put on your CV to make it shine.