When creating your CV it is important to remember what you actually need it for. Whilst it won’t get you the job of your dreams, it will hopefully get you an interview with a company you want to work for. Research shows that the average recruiter only spends 20 to 30 seconds glancing at a CV so it is essential that yours has the capacity to grab the recruiter’s attention very quickly, making him or her really want to meet you. There is no one way of writing a CV, but below are some useful tips on what we believe should, and perhaps as importantly, should not be included:
The perfect CV in 10 steps:
- Keep it brief. Only in exceptional circumstances should a CV be more than two pages, and any shorter and you may keep the reader guessing. Only use white paper, and avoid fancy typefaces or any other colour than black. Your CV is a business document and should be presented as such. Whilst the font and size you use are personal preference, we would advise Arial 11.
- Start with your personal details. Keep this part short and include name, address, home telephone number, mobile number, e-mail address and work number if you can be contacted at work. The more contact details you give the easier people will find it to get in contact with you and this will inevitably speed up the recruitment process. Date of birth and nationality are optional. Whilst being married is usually viewed as a plus point as it shows stability and more life experience, we do not recommend including names and ages of children.
- Whilst included in many CVs, we do not recommend a personal summary. Experienced recruiters NEVER read them! It is invariably just a string of flattering adjectives that tell you nothing about the person’s achievements, and it doesn’t help an employer make a selection decision. At this point you may, however, want to briefly outline the type of challenge you are looking for, and explain why you want it.
- Below your personal details you should include details of your education. This section should outline both your professional and academic qualifications. You should start with your most recent first and always include dates, results and place of study. We would advise you, however, not to include details of every exam you have ever passed since infant school.
- Put your current job first, and use reverse chronology throughout. What you are doing now is what counts, not where you started.
- Put your current organisation and job together with the relevant dates. Use a bold heading, and always remember that upper and lower case headings are much easier to read than EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS.
- Make it easy for the reader to pick out your success in each job. So have a heading for ‘Major achievements’ followed by no fewer than three, and no more than six, bullet points succinctly outlining your achievements. A few sentences after the bullet points should explain in more detail the role and context. Repeat the same format for each of your previous jobs, but make each progressively shorter.
- Add a ‘Skills’ section. This point gives you the opportunity to list any skills that might be useful to a potential employer, such as language or computer skills. If listing your language skills, always give the level of ability: basic, fluent or mother tongue. With computer skills, list the software applications or programmes you can use and your level of proficiency: basic or advanced.
- By all means include extra-curricular or other interesting personal activities, but put them at the end of your CV. This section gives you the opportunity to outline any major achievements or positions of responsibility you may have outside of work. Potential employers are often interested in positions of leadership or responsibility, or where you have been interacting with others.
- Finally, give references. The norm is to provide two referees from previous places of employment, but if you have only had one previous employer you may want to give an academic reference or a family friend who is in a profession. If possible provide telephone numbers, as many employers prefer to take up verbal rather than written references and this again will speed up the process. Should you find that you are short of space on your CV, you can save room by writing ‘References available upon request’ at the bottom of your CV.
The body of a CV can normally be split into six areas:
- Personal details
- Work experience
N.B. Whilst your CV will normally include all of the above areas in that order, you may find that as your career progresses that you will want to put more emphasis on different areas, and may want to arrange the six areas in a different order. For example, work experience before education.
The Do’s and Don’ts:
- Keep your CV to two pages.
- Use white paper – never coloured, as it does not photocopy well.
- Pay attention to presentation. It must be a well produced, business-like document that is well structured. This gives the impression that you think logically and makes it easier to review.
- Make it clear and easy to read.
- Pay close attention to reply instructions in advertisements (eg. Spelling of the contact’s name).
- Get a third party to check your spelling and grammar. You will be amazed how often the title ‘Curriculum Vitae’ is spelt incorrectly; not a great start!
- Avoid self-opinion.
- Do not create a lengthy personal summary.
- Do not misrepresent yourself. Remain factual or you will get caught out on interview.
- Do not use the third party when describing yourself. Use ‘I’ and ‘me’ rather than your name.
- Do not use names of your children.
- Do not add ‘bought’ qualifications such as IOD and BIM.
- Do not include irrelevant information such as passport and driving licence numbers.
- Avoid front page indexes.
- Never block-write your job descriptions. Bullet points are much easier to read.
Once you have prepared your CV, why not use our job search page to find the perfect job.