Regard your cv as the key to unlock the interview door. Once you have walked through the interviewer’s door, your personality takes over and your cv has done its job.
- A bad CV can prevent you getting an interview
- The difference between a bad CV and a good CV is a little extra time spent in preparation.
- A CV is not meant to be a work of art, nor is it the place for gimmicks.
The Right Way
There is no such thing as “one” right way to do a CV, but there are unfortunately plenty of wrong ways.
If in doubt just adhere to the following simple rules:
- The CV must be easy to read. Don’t forget that the potential employer may be reading up to 50 or even a 100 CV’s and will typically spend only a minute or two during the first sift – they will not have time to exercise complex cryptographical techniques used in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code!
- Use concise bullet points, avoiding lengthy sentences and paragraphs – the CV’s purpose is to arouse interest, the detail can be filled in at the interview stage.
- Despite plenty of opinion to the contrary, there is no prescribed length for a CV although most normal people get bored after 3 pages and become sleepy after 4 pages.
- Use good quality A4 size white paper
- Leave plenty of space between paragraphs
- Get someone with a good command of English to proof read the CV
- Take an objective look at your CV and put yourself in an employer’s shoes - would you give yourself an interview?
- Have a respected friend review your CV and invite constructive criticism.
- Never use the first draft of a CV, always review and revise it several times.
- Be prepared to tailor your CV to the needs of specific applications.
- Include a brief customised letter with every CV, which should highlight one or two key relevant attributes which should make the reader want to read your CV.
- Do not date the CV - it gives it a short shelf life.
- Use professional business language, avoiding conversational tones, slang or jargon
- Use the bold function to highlight your name, dates, name of employers and job titles.
- Ensure there are no unexplained gaps in the CV.
- Do not attach a photograph!
- Do not enclose your salary unless it has been specifically requested - allow the employer to decide whether to interview you based on your skills and experience rather than your salary.
- Name and contact details should always be at the top
- The Age Discrimination legislation prohibits discrimination based on age. However, beware that disclosing your date of birth may encourage subconscious age discrimination and remember that a person's rough age can always be approximated from other details on the cv.
- Other personal details (marital status, children, religion etc) are irrelevant and do not need to be mentioned.
- A summary of personal characteristics is not recommended as the reader is really at this stage only interested in experience, skills and qualifications, your opinions and personality will come into play at the interview stage.
Education & Qualifications
- Include a summary of all qualifications from GCSE’s onwards.
- Include all professional qualifications (including ones you are still studying)
- Include any relevant training received but do not list every training course you have ever been on unless it is pertinent to the application in hand.
- Highlight proficiency of foreign languages (only if fluent - GCSE level French does not impress!)
- List periods of employment in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first.
- Describe employers clearly
e.g. 1999 - Present ABC Ltd
Manufacturer of cement blocks
Turnover/No. of employees (if known)
- Give the most space to the current or most recent positions
- Use precise dates to the nearest month
- Describe the most important aspects of the job in bullet point format, leaving out any minor or irrelevant parts of the job.
- Include achievements – this is not the time to be bashful, this is your opportunity to sell yourself! The best way to do this is for each period of employment to have one section with bullet pointed duties, and another section for bullet pointed achievements.
- Include staff management responsibilities
- Don't state reasons for leaving an employment – the reader could easily attach negative connotations to such information. You are better explaining face to face at the interview.
For less experienced candidates with little or no work experience, include as much work experience, vocational training and extra curricula detail as possible.
There is no need to include details of references in the CV – they will be asked for after the interview stage and at least then you are in control of knowing who is asking who for a reference.
Keep this to a bare minimum, and certainly don’t claim to be a mountain climber if you’ve never been up anything higher than the office stairs – your interviewer may be an expert! However you are encouraged to include any interests or activities that are unusual, interesting or have a direct bearing on your suitability for a particular post.
“Reading & sewing” listed as outside interests won’t help you get an interview whereas “member of national rowing team” or “treasurer of local charity/sports team” or “head boy/girl” might.