CV writing

 

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a written record of your education, qualifications and employment. Many job adverts will ask you to send a CV and covering letter. Your CV is a chance to sell yourself and spending time getting it right is well worth the effort.

Your CV should be a one to two page document, which represents the very best version of you to an employer. It outlines your key achievements and employment information.

It is not the complete story. A CV should be clear and give enough information to get you an interview, where you can discuss your individual roles or achievements in more depth if asked.

Ten top tips

  1. Don’t leave any gaps in dates, gaps make recruiters suspicious. Remember you can use your life experience to show employers you have the experience and skills they require.
  2. Be positive in your words, it should emphasise your achievements, strengths and successes.
  3. Make sure you include all your up to date contact details.
  4. Ensure the presentation makes your CV easy to read. Keep it between one to two pages.
  5. One CV does not fit all! Tailor your CV to suit the role that you’re applying for.
  6. Would you want to hire you? Make it an interesting read.
  7. Tell the truth.
  8. Always keep your CV up to date with your gained experience and skills.
  9. Double-check it. It needs to be mistake free!
  10. Make sure you have one, everyone needs a CV!

Click here for a handy CV template to get you started.

Some employers now use social networks to check out prospective employees. Sites like LinkedIn can be a great way to promote yourself, but it may also be worth checking your security settings on Facebook for example. What impression do you want to give a prospective employer?

LinkedIn – this is a place where you can upload your CV and network with people online. It’s also a good way to build your professional network of contacts.

Do’s and don’ts for your CV

Do use it as a basis for interviews.

Your CV can help you to prepare for interviews – provided you tell the truth! Most employers will want to talk about your work history and some may ask you about the dates you were employed. The more honest your CV is, the more useful it is as a revision document.

Do explain any employment gaps.

If you have large gaps in your employment dates on your CV, use a sentence to explain them. Don’t let an employer’s imagination fill in the blanks.

Don’t confuse your potential employers.

Overly ‘flowery’ language or dressing-up your achievements is obvious to a hiring manager and since reading extra words or trying to decipher what you actually mean takes more effort and time, your CV is likely to drop off the top of the pile if you take this approach.

For example:

An example of overly flowery language and dressing up your achievements might be:

“I am qualified to the highest industry standards in the dispensation of multiple complex and delectable libations, on which I am frequently complimented”

Translation: “I have my BIIAB Level 2 Bar License and I am experienced in making cocktails”.

Having a CV professionally written / getting someone else to write your CV

It is important that your CV represents you. This includes your style of writing and words you might typically say. It’s all very well having an eloquent and articulate CV but if you attend the interview and can’t explain what part of your CV means, the employer will realise it’s not your own work and you will seem less genuine.

Obviously there are exceptions to this. If you are unable to write your own CV, a friend might sit with you and type the information while you tell them what to write. Don’t be tempted to adopt their words or let them write it for you. It’s your CV.

Submitting a CV online

When you submit a CV online there is a strong possibility that the recruiter / employer is using specialised scanning software, rather than reading each CV. It is therefore very important that you use the words that an employer might use (see overly flowery language).

For example, one type of recruiter software scans online CVs and ranks candidates on how many words in each CV matches the words in the employer’s job description. The recruiter will then only see the top 20 closest matches.

Even if a person is reading prospective CVs, you can be sure they have received many and don’t have a lot of time to read yours. They will typically make a decision in under a minute as to whether your CV makes it to round two of the selection process.

Having a unique CV that stands out can help you to get noticed but ‘smoke and mirrors’ tactics such as adding borders, colour, pictures or whimsical fonts can actually confuse CV scanning software or seem like too much effort to read by someone sifting through CVs.

How can I make my CV stand out?

Make no mistake – if you are handing out your CV to employers then some artistic finesse or advanced formatting may impress someone. It’s all about who you are giving your CV to. You wouldn’t hand a brightly coloured CV in at an accountant’s office, but you might if you wanted a job in Hospitality.

If in doubt – keep it simple and professional and try some of the techniques below:

  • Tailor your CV to the job role: change your key skills to match those asked for in the job description (unless you really do not have those skills, in which case use similar ones), adapt your personal statement and the rest of the content to make your CV look like it belongs in the sector you are applying to.
  • Use your personal statement to make a statement: steer clear of passive hobbies like ‘reading or ‘gaming’ and instead use this space to talk about why you want to work for this company or in this job and what unique ‘soft skills’ or talents you can offer.
  • Hobbies and interests: There is no need to have a separate ‘hobbies and interests’ section in your CV.
  • Quantify your achievements: this is a huge help to recruiters and employers and says a lot more than words such as, ‘strong’, ‘good’ or ‘capable’. Quantifying your achievements means being specific about what you have achieved. For example:

“I have 3 years’ experience as a pizza chef and I can make a pizza from scratch in just over a minute”

“I have six months’ experience in sales. My greatest achievement was selling 14 new front doors to customers during one morning shift using cold-calling techniques”

“I am an experienced typist and I can accurately type an average of 80wpm” (words per minute) Test yourself! Find out how fast you can type

EXTRA

  • Use bullet points: they draw the eye’s attention and seem like less ‘effort’ to read.
  • Use smart, professional fonts like Ariel and Times New Roman. Never Comic Sans. Your font should be size 10 or 12 and your paragraph spacing shouldn’t be too crowded.

Think very carefully before you add the following information on your CV – is it necessary?

  • Age / date of birth
  • Gender
  • National Insurance Number
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Sexuality
  • Marital status
  • A photograph
  • Health problems (existing or historical)

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