Most people are a little bit apprehensive when it comes to writing their CV. It’s totally understandable, especially when you hear conflicting advice as to what to include.
The main purpose of a CV is to highlight your key skills and achievements and to show any prospective employers why you are the best fit for the job. Your CV won’t get you the job in itself; but it should help you make the shortlist.
What should your CV objectives be?
Before you start putting your CV together, think about the following areas:
- What makes YOU different? How can you add more value than your peers; What is your unique selling point?
- Your main skills and achievements
- Your experience evidencing these
Before you start writing, you also need to know exactly what the recruiter is looking for. Each job is unique, so you need to tweak your CV so it fits each job as best as it can. Read and re-read the job description and person specification. Highlight the key points, ie what are they looking for? How do you fit? What can you do for your employer? What will you bring to the team? Once you’ve done this you can start matching up how your skills and achievements fit, and determining what evidence you can use to prove why you are the best person for the job.
Once you have identified all of these points, you can set about creating a succinct document that addresses everything you have identified, is easy to read and has a logical flow.
Setting out your CV
On average a recruiter will only spend around 15 – 20 seconds looking at each CV. Therefore the clearer you can make your CV the better. You need the recruiter to take in as much useful information as possible in a really short amount of time. It is always useful to include a brief profile statement or summary upfront to get you noticed!
To make it easier to view, sub-divide your CV into sections:
- Personal details
- Brief Profile Statement/Summary
- Education and qualifications
- Work experience, gap years and previous employment
In terms of the layout:
- Use chronological order with the most recent first.
- Fill no more than two sides of A4 (print double-sided, so the sheets don’t become separated).
- Type your CV in a clear font, such as Arial. Try to keep the size between 10 – 12; no one wants to squint to read a CV!
- Never type in capital letters.
- You should avoid using bold, italics and underlining unless using for emphasis or navigation.
- Also avoid adding graphics or images.
- Use bullet points. Try not to use more than six in a row and two sentences max per bullet point.
- Keep sentences short and don’t let your CV become too cluttered.
When it comes to filling in the headings, there are a few things you should think about:
- tell the truth
- keep it simple
- be positive, use ‘action’ words such as achieving, delivering, influencing, inspiring and initiating
- demonstrate what you’ve achieved, not just what you did
- why are you different? Do you speak another language? Have you won an award? Have you written for websites, journals or publications? Are you a member of any relevant professional bodies/clubs/societies?
- still waiting on your results? Write ‘degree expected’ next to your current course
- if you graduated with Honours, then mention it
- provide course details and dates
What you don’t need to include
Some of these might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised what candidates will put on their CVs:
- date of birth
- weight or height
- marital status
- how many children you have
- your health or any disability status
- trade union or political affiliations
- existing salary/expected salary
- anything critical or negative, such as poor grades or work experiences
Check, check, check and check again!
A CV with mistakes doesn’t make a good first impression. If you’ve spent a lot of time looking at your CV, it can be difficult to spot any mistakes. Take a break for a couple of days and then come back and check it again - you could also ask family or friends to look at it if you need a fresh pair of eyes. Those who have been successful at securing a similar job can be particularly useful at identifying what the recruiter is looking for.
Taking the time to prepare your CV will really help in getting the job that is best for you.