Your CV is a vital selling point and can be the difference between landing an interview – or not.
People often ask me what makes for a good CV, and unfortunately, the answer is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model. But there are some basic rules to follow to ensure you grab the attention of a potential employer and make the best impression possible.
School leaver tip!
If you are applying for your first job, you can use an academic or ‘character reference’ who can talk about your most attractive attributes: i.e. that you’re hard-working, positive, enthusiastic or eager to learn.
1. Treat your CV like a sales document.
The purpose of a CV is to promote you and no one can do this better than a previous boss or colleague.
Use a quote from a third party reference at the beginning of your CV which sums up you as a positive, loyal and productive worker.
2. Structure your CV.
The layout of your CV will speak volumes about you. Again there is no ‘one rule’ that applies but I’d recommend having your personal details at the top of your CV and then your education and qualifications followed by any prior jobs, work experience and volunteering opportunities.
While people like to stand out from the crowd and get more creative with their CVs – I think it’s important to use a nice simple font so all the information you place on your CV is clear to read. I’d recommend using a size 10 or 12 font.
School leaver tip!
If you haven’t got any work experience, you can use other experiences to demonstrate your potential. Any responsibilities you have at school or any voluntary work you have done (such as fundraising) will have given you skills that can be applied in professional environment. Examples could include: handling cash, working with children, or speaking on behalf of classroom peers.
3. List job history with most recent first.
By stating your most recent position first, you’re making it easier for a potential employer (who may be short on time) to go through your CV in detail.
4. Use bullet points.
Most employers will spend around five seconds glancing over a CV before deciding if it is relevant or not. By including long paragraphs, you are making them work harder to find out about you which will ultimately have a negative impact on their impression of you.
5. Include your social media information.
Don’t be afraid to include details of your social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs) but only do this if you think it is a positive reflection of you. It’s becoming more common for employers to search for potential employees online, so by including this information you are making it easier for them to find you.
If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, now is as good a time as any to set up an account. You can start by ‘connecting’ with recruitment agents which is also great way of hearing about current vacancies.
6. Keep it short.
The ideal length of a CV is no more than two pages. Writing a good CV isn’t hard and by following these simple rules, you’re on your way to making a great impression. However, it’s important to note that what you don’t put on your CV is as important as what you do.
1. Include photographs.
Let’s be honest, people frequently make assumptions about others based on image alone. You need to bear this in mind when putting your CV together. It’s best not to include a photo of yourself because you don’t want to give the employer anything to judge you on besides your skills and experience.
2. Include your date of birth.
For the reasons mentioned above, you don’t need to declare your age at this stage. If they want to, an employer can usually work out how old you are by your education/employment dates – but quite frankly, if you are good enough for the job then it is irrelevant.
3. Write your life story.
I know this sounds strange, but your CV isn’t about you. It’s about how appropriate you are for the job you’re applying for, and how you can benefit the employer reading it. Keep it short, concise and relevant even if it means changing your CV every time you apply for a new job.
4. List hobbies.
Listing hobbies such as ‘golf, socialising with friends and going to the gym’ was acceptable ten years ago but it’s not anymore. Leave this out unless absolutely necessary. And if you do want to include hobbies, make it clear how you’re going to benefit the company.
For example, I run marathons. This shows I push my boundaries to be the best I can be and strive to achieve everything I set my mind to.
5. Write ‘References available on request’.
Every inch of this document needs to be selling you. It may be CV tradition to use this well-worn sentence but it does not sell you in any way. List the details of your referees and state their names and current positions. Remember, you will need to get their permission before using their details so they can expect a call if your potential employer decides to contact them.
Social media is making the world a small place and you never know who knows whom. By including these details, you increase the chance of your potential employer seeking out a great reference from your past.