Creating the perfect Curriculum Vitae can be daunting for many people – especially if you are at the start of your career and sitting looking at a blank sheet. Why? It’s because a good CV can be the golden ticket to getting you an interview for your dream job. So it feels like there’s a lot hanging on it.
Keep that in mind – it’s purpose is not to get you the job – it’s to get you an interview. Then it’s up to YOU to get you the job. So a CV is a marketing document, a piece of paper that shows how your skills can solve your potential employers’ problems, how your qualities match their needs, the ticket that opens the door for you.
And if you view it like that, you’ll get a better feel for the sort of information you should include.
The first important bit of the CV is a personal statement.
This paragraph should show why you would be great for the particular job you are applying for. Study the job specification and talk to your recruitment consultant to get a real feel for the company’s challenges. Then focus on the qualities and skills you possess that make you the perfect fit.
Show that you are interesting and personable and include relevant personal information. If you are applying for a customer services role, then that year you spent waitressing could be invaluable – you’ll have learned to handle customer complaints on the hop. But don’t say “I worked as a waitress” – market yourself – “whilst waitressing I dealt face to face with customers and got huge satisfaction from resolving any issues they had. That’s what made me realise I had a flair for customer service.”
Your personal statement should always be tailored to the job you are applying for. Sounds like a lot of work? Well yes, it takes some effort – but how much do you want an interview? Isn’t it worth spending 15 mins to personalise the CV and maximise your chances?
Next, you need to include employment history. This should focus not on what you did, but on what you achieved. Employers are looking for commercial success, problem-solving and management skills. So instead of saying “I was responsible for four staff” try “I managed a team of four to increase customer satisfaction levels by more than 20% in 12 months”. Focus on the skills you honed and the objectives you met. As you progress in your career, you may have gaps in your employment history. Maybe you took time off to study or retrain, or to care for a family member. Or perhaps you had a go at volunteering. There are many legitimate reasons for career gaps. It’s best to briefly explain them on your CV and be prepared for questions about them during an interview.
If you are young, then, by all means, include your education details. As you progress, this gets less important, and professional training and qualifications are what you should focus on. Don’t just state them though – explain how they developed your skills. Do think about qualifications that are outside of the job specification and whether they display talents that are relevant. For example, if you are a qualified pilot, that might be worth including under the context of showing how you can focus on multiple complex things simultaneously. Or to demonstrate your sense of adventure. Think about how to position the qualities you had to employ as relevant to the job you are applying for.
Keep it concise
Keep your CV concise with a clear font and layout. Sans serif fonts (no curly bits) are easier to read than, for example, Times Roman. Remember you have possibly 15 seconds to impress, no-one will read five pages of A4. It’s a marketing document, a teaser. Once you have an interview, then that’s your chance to fill in all the detail. And whilst it may be trendy to add graphics and interesting layouts, unless you are applying for a graphic design job it’s best to keep it simple and easy to read.
Once your CV is written, check, check and check again. Check spelling – don’t rely on a spell checker. Check grammar. Check your contact details – you don’t want to send out a CV with an old mobile number on it. Get someone else to check it too. When you’ve pored over a document for hours, your eyes see what your brain expects them to. A fresh pair of eyes is more likely to spot errors.
Finally, be honest. If you lie, you’ll get found out. And if that happens as you are about to be offered the job, all your effort will be for nothing.
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