Saturday, March 28, 2009

How to write perfect CV

Employers sift through dozens of job applications when looking for the right candidate and only the best CVs get to the interview stage. So how do you get it right?

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae (or 'resume' as its sometimes called) is a written record of your education, qualifications and employment. Many job adverts will ask you to send a CV and covering letter so the employer can quickly sort potential candidates from less-suited applicants. The CV is therefore not just a documentary record of your career-to-date but also a chance to sell yourself. Spending a little time getting your CV right is well worth the effort involved.

How do I create a CV?

First of all, have a think about what attributes you have which make you suitable for the role. Understand what skills you intend to 'sell' with the CV. Different jobs may require different skills to be highlighted, and there is no reason why you can't make a different version of your CV for each application.

What should I write?

Although most people write their CV in the first-person ("I achieved this"), recruiters often suggest you write in the third-person ("Sam achieved this").  This is because it sounds less like you are boasting (Think "Sam doubled his sales" vs "I doubled my sales"), and also makes you focus on what someone else would want to know about you.

Use simple and clear language, and stick to the point. An employer wants to identify your key skills and experiences by glancing at your CV. If it is hard work to get this information you may be overlooked. Use bullet points where appropriate, but don't just have bullet points.

How much should I write?

Keep it brief, but not too brief. Two sides of A4 are usually best.

Recruiters hate wading through pages of paper no matter how interesting and vital you think the information is. Equally, they don't want to have to second-guess what you have been up to for the past few years because you have not included any details. Include enough information to make them want to call you for interview, not so they can start writing your biography.

How should it look?

Computers mean you can make your CV very creative, but clean and simple will always win over complicated and fancy. Choose a simple font, use bold for section headings and ensure it is neatly laid out. Avoid having big blocks of text as this can look uninviting.

Make sure you put your name clearly at the top of the first page.

What should I include?

The CV should be divided into specific sections covering personal details, employment history, education background and interests and achievements. Increasingly people tend to put an opening statement.

If you are just graduating or have limited employment history, it's best to put your education before your employment. But if your employment history is more relevant to the job you are applying for, then make that come first.

Opening statement

An opening statement is a short paragraph (two or three sentences) that outlines who you are and what your skills are. It is a 'teaser' of what is to come in the rest of the CV.

Identify the things that make you different from other applicants. Avoid bland and generic statements like 'hard-working' or 'well-rounded': most people could say that about themselves.

Personal details

Always include:

  • Your name;
  • Address (where you can be easily contacted);
  • Mobile number.

You may also want to include:

  • Whether you have a driving licence and access to a car;
  • If you are not a British Citizen, whether there are any restrictions on your employment in the UK.

Employment History

Show your employment history in reverse chronological order. Your most recent position should be the one that is covered in most detail. List your job title, the employer, dates of your employment and outline your main responsibilities. You may also want to state how much you were paid and your reason for leaving.

For jobs that are less relevant to the role you are applying for, it may be worth simply listing the job title and employer.

Make sure that you include any relevant work experience (e.g. placements through college or summer internships), as these may be more interesting to the employer than your Saturday job.

Education background

You should list all schools, colleges and specialist courses attended, along with the relevant dates and grades. If you leave the grades off, the worst is usually assumed and potential employers will think that you are trying to hide something.

Interests and achievements

This is where you can list any non-employment interests, which is the bit that makes you sound more human. Provide details on any hobbies or volunteering work you've been involved in. If you've been abroad for more than a simple beach holiday, it's worth listing where you've been.

List any achievements, awards or recognition you've received. And any skills you've got, such as languages you can speak or musical instruments you can play.

Once you've finished

Ask a friend to check the grammar and spelling, and give you any constructive feedback.

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