The ultimate aim of your CV is to get noticed and obtain an interview. Therefore you need to truly value your CV as it is your sales tool and potentially your only opportunity to sell yourself to an employer. Be positive, do not include any weaknesses and most of importantly, do not include anything that you cannot substantiate at an interview.
The content of your CV should contain
• Your name
• Contact details
• Education / Vocational qualifications
• Hobbies & Interests (optional)
Do not include a title or cover page to your CV, it is unnecessary and takes up valuable space. Instead, start simply with your name in a bold typeface at the top and in the centre of your first page. Only your first name and surname are necessary. If you have qualifications that enable you to use letters after your name then make sure that you do use them! This will automatically let the employer know that you are qualified by just glancing at your name.
It is important that you include all of your contact details so that an employer can contact you, in particular your address, landline telephone number, mobile telephone number and email address. Ensure that your email address is professional and does not leave a poor impression of you. For CV and employment application purposes your email address should only include your actual name or initials, for example john.smith@ or jsmith@.
There are some professional CV writers that will always include a profile on a clients CV and there are others that strongly disagree that this is appropriate. You have less than 15 seconds to impress your audience and the sole aim of a profile is to get across the information that will make an employer want to read the rest of your CV.
Your profile needs to be punchy and without waffle. When writing your profile, think carefully about your key skills. Are you a good negotiator? Do you have a natural sales ability? Are you a motivational leader? Your profile needs to depict your individual strengths therefore it is important to steer clear of generic sentences such as ‘works well as an individual or as part of a team’, ‘self motivated and able to work to tight deadlines’. These statements are seen all too often and will not make any impression with your audience.
A highly experienced Sales Executive with an outstanding ability to manage an extensive client portfolio within extremely demanding and pressurised environments. A strong communicator with firm negotiating skills and the ability to close new business to increase bottom line profitability. A confident man-manager currently seeking a challenging opportunity within an organisation that offers the chance for career progression.
Career or Education?
In which order these two sections should appear on your CV has often been the subject of debate. Generally the rule of thumb is if you are a recent graduate, have limited career history (less than 3 years) or you have recently completed industry training that will allow you to contemplate a career change, then your education should be placed before your career. If not, then your career should be placed before your education.
Your career history should always be listed in chronological order with your most recent position first, working backwards. Think carefully about your key achievements in each position and do not be tempted to just list your responsibilities. Think about the following situation;
There are two CV’s on the desk of a recruiter making the decision to call a candidate in for an interview, one of which is yours. The other CV belongs to another candidate with exactly the same skill and experience as you. The recruiter is only allowed one choice. Which one should they choose?
The recruiter will choose yours every time if your CV can demonstrate your true potential. Think about each aspect of your role and what you truly contributed to the company. For instance, a sentence such as;
‘Responsible for credit control and bad debtors list’, with some careful thought about your achievements, may easily become;
‘Reduced debtor list by £5000 in two months through the implementation of effective credit control methods’
Each position you have held for the last 10 years should have at least 3 key bullet points stating your achievements to go with it.
If you are a recent graduate or you have had less than 3 years employment history, your education should be stated on your CV as your primary achievement, again in chronological order starting with your most recent education and working backwards. If you have a degree then always make sure you state your grade and where you studied. Include your dissertation title and any other academic achievement that you feel may be relevant to the position you applied for.
If you are experienced but are considering a career change and have recently completed further education or a vocational qualification that will allow you to change industry sectors then this should also be at the forefront of your CV. This will enable the recruiter to see why you applying for the vacancy and will aid your application.
Hobbies & Interests
Many people do not see the value of adding this section to a CV. However, it does show that you have a life outside of work and it has been known for some recruiters to pick up on your extra curricular activities, especially if you play a sport that they may be interested in or have an unusual hobby that warrants further discussion. Think carefully about what you include here, you do not want to give an unprofessional impression of yourself. Steer clear of generic interests such as ‘socialising’ or ‘playing computer games’, even if they are true, they do not add value.
Most importantly, apply the ‘no waffle’ rule and make it interesting! Apply your achievements here too, for instance, if you have recently raised a significant amount of money for charity, then say so.
It is unwise to include any other information about yourself such as the name of your spouse or children, your religion, your home owner status etc as it bears no relevance to your application. However, if you are applying to a company that has a strict non smoking policy then a brief statement, such as ‘excellent health, non smoker’ is acceptable.
Do not include the names and contact details of references at the end of your CV. This will only provide the recruiter with a potentially unwelcome temptation to ‘check you out’ before inviting you for interview. A simply line to state ‘references available upon request’ is all that is needed. If a recruiter would like to see references then you can provide details of these at a later date.
Font & Style
The look and feel of your CV can be equally as important as your content. If a CV looks clumsy, unformatted, too long and very wordy then it is highly unlikely to even get read, especially if you are competing against 100′s of other applicants for only one position.
Choose a modern font that is easy to read and atheistically pleasing. Steer clear of unfashionable or difficult to read condensed, script or courier fonts.
Your font size should also not be too large or too small; size 11 or 12 is usually a manageable size for most readers.
Always type your CV using a PC and in Microsoft Word as this is the office software used by the majority of recruiters. If you send your CV electronically in another format and the recruiter cannot open your attachment, it is unlikely that your application will be read.
Your CV should be well formatted with a clear layout and free from bold colours, pictures and flashing lights. Try to refrain from using a standard MS Word template. If you cannot format your CV with your own style then there are plenty of templates available on the internet that are likely to be of help.
Many professional CV writers have different opinions on the length of a CV but again, the general rule of thumb is not more than 2 or 3 full pages (at a maximum) of standard A4 paper. If you can, do try to format your CV so that it is covers a full page. This makes the CV look complete and well laid out.