Writing a CV? Here’s our guidance…
If you’re writing or updating your CV, then you are investing in the main currency of the Job market.
A Curriculum Vitae is defined as, “a short account of one’s career and qualifications prepared typically by an applicant for a position”. It’s a great starting point because if your CV is as bland as that definition then it’s not going to get you far.
Your CV is more than just a short account. CVs don’t need to be more than two pages but this document is a sales bid, tendered specifically to get you an interview. Your CV is likely to be the first impression an employer has to evaluate your worth to their organisation, and therefore, to evaluate your salary.
Our above definition also suggests a single target position. And that’s important because CVs should be tailored to specific roles. Even if that is expressed simply by adding the target Job Title underneath your name, or by adapting the headline Summary / Profile section to describe your motivation towards the role at hand.
The definition’s focus is also on, ‘career and qualifications’, which is of course right at the core of any recruitment screening process. But let’s assume you’re applying for a role, for which you have some established career background and the requisite qualifications. Now you get to include thethings that make you standa out – some personality, contributory life experience, and a glimpse of what type of character you will bring to the organisation. Myers-Briggs type inclusion optional, depending on your view on that subject.
And the final point I’ll pick from our definition is that your CV must be prepared by you. Not anyone else. You know you better than anyone. Get someone else to review it though, by all means. And if I am to review your CV, the following are some of the key points I’d be looking at:
- Do you have sections including (but not limited to): Profile; Key Experience / Skills; Qualifications (inc. Professional status); Career History; and Personal information?
- Is your headline Profile section longer than one paragraph of 4-5 lines? If so, shorten it. And remember to keep it specific to the role you’re applying for.
- When you read the bullet points in Key Experience / Skills, ask yourself, “Can I tell a meaningful story around that?” If not, delete it, amend it, or think harder, until you can. This could be said for any section in your CV where you’ve included an unexplained bullet-point. Unsupported generalisms that could be written by anyone are a big no-no for me.
- Have you included A-level and GCSE (O-level) results? Please don’t. Hiring Managers are interested in your University education (or equivalent) and above. Nor do you need to include every module on your degree course. A one-liner about your thesis/dissertation will be sufficient.
- Have you included every course you ever attended? Please don’t. Do include relevant Charterships, Memberships, and the relevant qualifications required by the Job Description you are responding to.
- Is your Career section in reverse chronological order. i.e. with most recent employment first? Yes – good.
- Have you listed the Responsibilities from each Job you’ve ever held? Please delete all of that and re-write focusing on what you actually achieved. Your Achievements will ideally include SMART facts and figures.
- Is your Career Section focused on Achievements, including facts and figures, that are relevant to the role you’re applying for? Yes – good. It is important enough to intentionally repeat this point. These will form part of the interview discussion, so be prepared to expand on these.
- Is the focus of the Career section on the relevant jobs you’ve held?
- Are there gaps in your Employment history? If so, explain those. Don’t leave it to the imagination.
- Does your Personal Section not only include both information that might be useful for an employer to know, egs Driving Licence, Nationality/VISA status, Adjustments required in the workplace, Language skills, and also information that gives your CV character and a more Human feel? This section is important. I’ve read and heard comment from people who suggest it’s a waste of space, but I disagree. Part of the hiring process is hiring personality – make sure you show some.
- Have you included References? Unless you wish those to be taken up, leave them out. If an employer wants a reference, they’ll ask, usually around the time you’d receive an Offer of Employment.
- Have you included a photo? Lose it.
Finally, some general points:
- Your CV may be first received and screened for suitability by a non-technical Recruiter, or even an automated process, which means you’ve got to ensure your CV includes certain keywords – think CV SEO – that will get it through to the next stage of sifting.
- When it’s being properly read, the content of the first page is vital. Hiring Managers want to be able to tick the boxes quickly – Qualifications, Skills, Relevant current Job – so make sure these are all on the first page.
- The format of your CV is important too – is it easy on the eye? If you’re going to use a template to make your CV stand out – and there are hundreds to choose from online – keep it simple. Keep white space and (black) type nicely balanced. Keep text size minimum 10pt, ideally 11pt. And please proof-read it – for spelling and grammar – Principal and Principle is my bugbear. Typos get CVs rejected.
- And one last point – be honest. There’s no point ‘gilding the lily’. You may well be the best candidate and anyway getting found out at Interview is messy.
Good luck! And please feel free to contact me if you’d like some support along these lines.