How to write an effective CV…

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.

The following tips are here to help you produce a CV that helps you get through the first step, an interview.

  1. 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.
  2. Presentation – 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.
  3. Employment history – 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.
  4. Lists – 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.
  5. Factual information – 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Check – 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

These are just some basic tips, in the competitive job market of today the choicest jobs could have hundreds of applicants and your CV is your first contact so you have to make it count. CV’s which don’t make the initial grade are skimmed over and passed straight onto a pile of “no interview” so what do you do to stand out from the crowd?

The answer is not to cover your CV with intricate borders, or print it on red paper although the paper quality is an issue we will discuss later, but to write a profile that grabs the attention of the employer and makes them interested in reading the rest of your CV carefully. The profile must not be too long or the recruiter will be put off from reading it but must contain all the relevant information to capture the readers attention.Don’t panic about this, it’s not as hard as first believed, you do not need to write for a living to be able to do this, just read on and it will be explained.

Remember writing your first essay at school? It was bewildering at first but once you’d understood the initial concept, it was second nature, well the basic principles to profile writing are the same and need a structure based around 4 main areas. Once you have your profile, it can be tailored to any specific job you wish to apply for but as long as you have the structure, you can use it for anything.

The 4 areas of the structure are:

  1. Key skills and abilities
  2. Past experience
  3. Future goals
  4. The flesh

Past experience

Details are not of the essence in your profile, what you need is a short, sharp impact statement explaining your experience. For example, “7 years of accounts administration and customer contact…”. Now you have your opening statement.

Key skills and abilities

Conversant with all accounts packages and taxation procedures

Future goals

Wish to move into more managerial role

The flesh

This is the part which allows you to give more of your persona and encourages the employer to read on. “Having 7 years experience of accounts administration and customer contact, along with being fully conversant with all accounts packages and taxation procedures. Now wishing to move into a more managerial accounts position, accepting new challenges”.

Top ten things not to put into your CV

  1. Photos – Unless you’re a model or actor, it doesn’t matter what you look like.
  2. Design – You may be a graphic designer, but this is not how they want to see your work. It makes your CV look cluttered so leave it simple.
  3. “I” – No mention of “I”, “he” or “she”. Leave this out.
  4. References – Even the phrase “available on request”, not needed.
  5. Reasons for leaving – Could lead you to be misunderstood.
  6. All your jobs – Do not put in holiday jobs and Saturday positions whilst at school/ university. Only relevant positions.
  7. Failures of any kind – Be it exams, businesses set up.
  8. Entire education history – List highest qualifications O or A Level, ONC HNC or Degree, plus any relevant courses attended.
  9. Salary information, expectation – If asked, put it in your cover letter, not your CV.
  10. Binders / folders – It wastes your money, they are often discarded.

Presentation

How you present your CV can be a big factor.
Here’s a short list of Do’s and Don’ts to help you out.

DO’s

  • 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

DON’T’s

  • 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.

Personal Details

In recent times some of the personal details of a candidate are taking a back seat. Obviously there are those details which need to be at the forefront of your CV, an employer needs to know the name and how to contact a candidate, however, some details are becoming less important.

At the top of your first page, it is recommended to include:
Title
Name
Address
Phone numbers – home, mobile, work (times appropriate)
Email address

You do not necessarily need to include any other personal details if you do not wish to such as:
Date of birth
Marital status
Nationality
Although if it is a benefit it is advisable to add whether you have a driving license.

Hobbies and interests are entirely optional, this can give a more rounded version of the person you are. There are pitfalls however, you have to be aware how people will perceive your chosen activities, a list of solitary activities is inadvisable when going for a position that involves teamwork as it will appear that you prefer to do things alone. Try not to put in a huge list and stick to five or so of your favourites.

This should all help to gain you the much desired first interview, which can be a nerve wracking experience.

If you need any further information contact one of Tudor Employment Agency’s Experienced Recruitment Consultants here.