Your CV is your first impression to a potential employer, it is the equivalent of a book cover and you have a very short period of time to get their attention only you are not selling a novel, you are selling yourself along with your qualities and experience.
Be clear and concise
Plan your structure before you start. Employers don’t want to read the CV equivalent of War and Peace, they want your primary details at a glance. Always put your most important information near the top such as, key skills and recent experience plus other sections which include Profile, Experience, Achievements, Education, Training and Special Skills. Generally a CV should not exceed two pages, a recruiter will more than likely not read any further than that so you will be wasting your time and possibly not getting important information across. However, it has been known when in negotiations with a contractor, that they will ask for your CV in full length, to gain as much information as possible.
For your CV to be the one that stands out (for the right reasons!) keep it simple. All key points that you are presenting must be easy to see and preferably in bullet point format. Space your CV out properly with plenty of white space in the surround and between each section allowing the reader to view the document without unnecessary text or clutter.
Your employment history must always be in date order with the most recent first. Only go into detail about any positions you’ve held in the past if they are relevant to the job you are going for. If there are any gaps, do mention what you were doing in this time and why. Only include temporary and holiday work if they are relevant as they will fill much needed space and are of no interest to the employer.
It is important that all of your skills are included but avoid listing things over and over again. The reader will become bored and your CV may end up on the list of “possible” as opposed to “interview”. List specific skills in a section to itself including any languages and computer skills.
Beneath each position, bullet point a list of the duties you carried out and after this discuss your achievements, responsibilities and more importantly, your results. These results are what could clinch you that all important interview so include the facts in a numerical manner for impact e.g “Sales increase of 5% in the first six months” that is directly attributable to yourself. Stick to the middle ground on formality and don’t write in the first person, avoid “I” at all costs. When describing your past positions, write in the past tense and the present tense for the position you currently hold.
I swear to tell the truth
It is all too easy to start “exaggerating” the truth on a CV, it is a temptation that not many of us can resist, everyone wants to show themselves off in their best light, but resist we must as there is nothing worse than having this backfire on you. Not only will you lose the chance of the job but it will make you look incompetent and damage future prospects with that company.
Who are you?
It is all very well and good to fill your CV with information about your career, but what your prospective employer will want to know is about you as a person. This does not mean they want an essay about you, your views on life and how you see yourself, but a brief inclusion of things such as whether you are a self starter, motivated, conscientious and when doing this think about what these statements say to an employer about you.
Spell check and check again! Never send an unchecked CV. This is the road to nowhere. You wouldn’t send unchecked documentation out from work and this is no time to lapse. Use your computer spell and grammar check and then ask someone to proof read your document. Read it all aloud to yourself or anyone who will listen until you are sure it is your finished product. If you can’t communicate on your CV, your prospective new boss will believe you cannot manage it in the job.
One for you…a different one for you
Each job is different and therefore so should be your approach. Your CV does not have to be set in stone, you can adapt it for different positions or tailor it to a specific job you are interested in. Just because your initial finished product is good, it doesn’t mean it is right for all things.
The extra edge
Always send a covering letter unless specifically instructed not to. As well as being a courteous introduction of yourself, it will give you a chance to highlight some of your choice experience to gain their interest before they get to your actual CV. Again, unless instructed never send a CV on its own.
- Use good quality paper – you don’t want to be perceived as cheap and not making an effort.
- Use a sensible, easy to read typeface – Ariel, Verdana etc
- Keep it well spaced out and clean – white space please
- Print a fresh copy for every employer
- Check spelling, grammar and wording – several times
- Type it – if you do not have your own computer, go to the local library
- Use a decent printer – if yours doesn’t print very well take your CV on disc to a library or a stationers that provide a printing service. It is worth obtaining a decent print job or your CV will not present itself properly
- Use coloured paper – it doesn’t make you stand out.
- Send photocopies (especially bad ones) – you look desperate
- Use silly typefaces – it doesn’t make you look good or sophisticated
- Panic and leave it in the lap of the gods – take your time and make sure it’s right before you send it
- Cram in as much information as you can on the first page – space it out properly and if you do it right they’ll take the time to read it.
- Cover your front sheet with pictures, borders, designs – it will look fussy and you can never guarantee they like the same art you do.
- Try and fit 3 pages worth onto 2 pages by making the type really small – (condense what you are saying instead) or else they won’t be bothered to try and read it.