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Writing a CV (Curriculum Vitae) is an incredibly important task – this could be your one and only opportunity to sell yourself to a prospective employer. Whilst most people have probably drafted a CV for themselves at one point or another, few of the CVs that have arrived on my desk are of a standard that particularly impresses me – or of a standard that probably does the writer justice. There are a number of professional bodies who will compile a CV for you, but nobody really understands you like you do yourself – you are far and away the most qualified person to write a CV for yourself.
Please don’t think that I think I have this sussed – I still get terribly tied up when trying to revise my own CV. Nonetheless, consultation with peers and professionals has given me a few ideas that I hope you may find useful.
1. Preparation is the key to writing a good CV.
Your CV will contain a considerable amount of information about you - some of it factual, some of it quite objective. Clarify what sort of person you are – what are your strengths, your personal qualities and your personal achievements? Write down bullet points of information before you start -–these will help clarify your mind on what it is you want to achieve. Have copies of relevant certificates and awards to hand so that you have all the relevant detail to hand.
2. Structure your CV
There are a number of different interpretations of how a CV should look, but here is my view of what constitutes a professional CV:
Most CVs will be accompanied by a covering letter – it is therefore not necessary to have a heading.
=====Full Name, Address, Date of Birth, Telephone Number(s), email address (email addresses have become vital in this day and age, and will often speed up an application process if used)
Personal Summary ==============
A short, but well written paragraph that summarises your personal skills, career achievements and outlines your career aspirations. Personal summaries can sometimes extend to a page – this may be necessary for executive or professional jobs, but otherwise I would recommend keeping it short.
Career Progress ===========
Summarised information of current, and previous employers. This section should contain the full name and address of the employer, your salary and your main responsibilities. Focus on your personal achievements during employment. Always avoid the use of jargon and abbreviations – explain things in clear, simple terms. It is always useful to quantify achievements :
e.g. Instead of saying “I managed a team of people”.
Say “ I was accountable for the performance and development of nineteen staff”.
Education and Qualifications ====================
Bullet point information of your examination results and the names and addresses of any institutes of higher learning that you may have attended.
Further Training ============
A summary of any further training that you may have undertaken (after education).
Personal Interests =============
A summary of hobbies and interests is NOT required. This seldom bears any relevance on a potential vacancy – 99% of this sort of information on a CV is ignored.
3. Business-Like Presentation
Your CV is a reflection of your professionalism – grammar, spelling and presentation are all vital in supporting this. Use a clear, simple font rather than anything elaborate or “arty”, and avoid the temptation to try and use coloured ink to enhance the document. This can detract from the content – you should bear in mind that a popular vacancy will attract many applicants and your CV may not get more than 2 or 3 minutes initial attention. If the reader has difficulty reading the font, or finds spelling mistakes your CV will probably end up on the reject pile.
4. Size Matters
Most professionals agree that an ideal CV should not extend further than three pages. Personally, I prefer a CV that is even shorter and would suggest a length of no more than two sides of A4 (don’t try and be clever and reduce the font to cram it in by the way).Remember that your CV is a snapshot sales tool not a life history – read through the finished product and for each point listed ask yourself “Does that sell me?”. If the answer is no – delete it.
5. You can’t be all things to all people
Your CV should change every time you apply for a change. Whilst that may sound like a daunting prospect, you should tailor your CV to the vacancy you are applying for. Look for key skill requirements in the job vacancy and make sure your current or most recent position provide evidence of the same.
e.g. If the advert is looking for someone with commercial awareness, you could provide an example in your career history section that details your ability to successfully manage a budget.
This can be quite a time-consuming task, but chances are that you would normally be applying for the same type of job, so it shouldn’t require a major overhaul every time. It is also worth bearing in mind that most jobs require some or all of the following skills, so it is worth focusing on them:
Customer Focus; Communication Skills; Creativity; Integrity
6. Honesty is (normally) the best policy
There is sometimes a temptation to exaggerate the truth about your job or even tell little white lies. I would suggest that this is not advisable – sooner or later things like this have a habit of catching up on you. If there are holes in your career history, be prepared to get asked about these in an interview, and have evidence provided of other skills and experience that make up for them.
7. Seek Feedback
Show your CV to lots of people – ask them what they think. Professional people all have varying degrees of experience and their input could be invaluable. Developing a good CV does take time, it is unlikely that you will be able to do it all on your own.
I’ve had quite a lot of experience reviewing applicants’ CVs and I can assure that all these things really count – invest some time in yourself and sell your best qualities – the end goal is to persuade that employer that they want you!
I must admit when I am sometimes reading CV's I have received, I often wonder if they are truly believable, and then have a temporary panic that prospective employers are look at mine in the same way - very informative op for someone starting out.
gazajam 12.10.2001 23:02
I'm assuming from your CV layout that you're quite young. This format is not necessarily the best for a more experienced person. Maybe you should have mentioned this. Gaz
offy 30.09.2001 21:04
I know what you mean about reviewing loads of CVs but having trouble writing your own. I disliked sending a CV to the recruitment agencies as it was not tailored at all. Some great advice here.