Writers’ notes: how to write a CV

We are taught – if we’re taught at all – that we write CVs in a certain way with chronology of work, every detail in sequence with gaps explained. References. Interests.


Do this instead:

1) No modesty. There’s a difference between boasting and going too far the other way. Of avoiding boasting by instead lying by omission. You got on the New York Times Bestseller List? Say so. It’s a fact. Don’t qualify it (all US book writers were on strike that week), just state it.

2) Nuts to academic good practice: you are not applying for a university post, everything they tell you to do on CVs is wrong. Nobody gives a damn about how you’re interested in ballroom fish photography, they want to know you can do the job. Tell them that by leading with your latest work and then follow with the next most relevant thing. Divide it up into sections if that means you can group two long-apart events without looking strange.

3) Remember that the job of the CV is to get you an interview. Don’t put so much in there that they can effectively interview you on the page. The CV gets you in the door, nothing more than that.

4) Be plain, be simple, don’t go over a page.

5) References. Let them ask for those. Have them ready if you can and if you must but nobody needs them to take a look at you.

And that’s all a CV is for. Now it’s up to you with your writing and your pitching in the interview.

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