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In the words of James Caan,‘dragon’ and recruitment expert, “Your CV is your shop window. When you write your CV, it is just a document, but when you send it out it becomes your sales brochure.”
A great CV will not guarantee you a job, just as a great shop window will not guarantee a sale, but it will get you a further look; an interview. To do this effectively, adhere to the simple rules that sit under the three key CV principles: format and presentation, content and ordering.
Format & Presentation
Keep your formatting clear and simple by:
- Avoiding the use of boxes and tables;
- Using bullet points rather than block paragraphs;
- Keeping sentences concise;
- Sticking to a simple font, font size 12 and using ‘bold’ to highlight section titles, rather than enlarging or underlining text;
- Maintaining plenty of 'white space' around the borders and between each section;
- Keeping your CV to two pages maximum.
Present yourself professionally by:
- Finding the name of the recruiting manager online or by ringing the recruitment office and then addressing your application personally;
- Including a covering letter, unless the advert specifically tells you not to. Your covering letter should highlight the two or three areas of experience from your CV that are most relevant to the advertised job and should show your interest in, and knowledge of, the company;
- Avoiding the use of "I" in your CV and covering letter. For example, opt for "Managed the team" rather than "I managed the team" or “Having recently graduated from university” rather than “I have recently graduated from university”.
- Avoiding lengthy, ornate sentences that don’t actually say anything. A typical example is: “I believe I have all of the knowledge, skills and experience needed to contribute to your team at an accelerated rate.”
A great CV is built around quality, not quantity. With the right content, you should be able to adhere comfortably to the formatting and presentation principles above.
This is the most important principle to nail. You must tailor your CV to show each employer that you have exactly what they’re looking for. You can do this by:
- Thoroughly researching each role and demonstrating that you have the knowledge, skills and experience as outlined in the job description;
- Putting your employment history in date order, starting with the most recent. Be sure to avoid any gaps in your employment history. If you've had time out for some reason, explain why;
- Giving clear examples of your achievements alongside your responsibilities rather than just listing your responsibilities. For example, “Exceeded quotas by achieving sales of £4000 each quarter” instead of “Responsible for bringing in sales of £4000 each quarter”. On this note, be sure to highlight the difference you made to the company and back it up with figures. Words such as “boosted”, “improved” and “exceeded” will also help;
- Being ruthless and sticking to the winning content. For example, achievements at school, such as sports captaincies and weekend jobs, should now have been superseded by achievements at university and you can avoid wasting valuable space outlining them in detail;
- Using the company buzz words to show that you will fit into the culture (e.g. “entrepreneurialism”, “teamwork” and “drive”).
- Showing recruiters that you have a little something extra, preferably linked to the industry to which you’re applying. What is it that really makes you to stand out above the rest? How effectively do you convey that?
Typically, there are six sections to a CV and they appear in this order:
- Personal information: This should include your name and contact information. Make sure your email address is appropriate; set up a new one if it’s not. If you have a degree, you might also consider including your qualifications after your name, so it’s immediately clear that you are a graduate, e.g. Joe Bloggs, BA Hons (English Language).
- Personal statement:This should be three or four punchy sentences that sum you up and capture an essence of your personality or what makes you stand out. For example, one sentence might be “A driven, entrepreneurial and high-achieving professional with excellent interpersonal skills and experience in x, y and z.”
Experience:See the ‘Content’ section above for tips.
- Key skills/achievements:This might include languages, computers and any other training. Other achievements such as Duke of Edinburgh Awards should be included here.
- Education:Here, you might like to highlight notable results in your degree module that are relevant to the job application. Also, to save space, show your GCSEs and even your A-Levels in a line rather than a list, e.g. 4 A*s, 5As and 2 Bs.
- References:Employers will rarely contact referees without prior consent and not before the interview stage, so to save valuable space, simply state that “References are available on request.”
The exception to this ordering rule is when applying for academic positions or for a role that depends on your education. In these cases, you should outline your education ahead of your experience.
Remember, recruiters see hundreds of CVs a week. Keep yours clean, concise and to the point; ensuring you clearly demonstrate that you have exactly what they’re looking for. If you don’t, someone else will; so invest your time wisely!
Written by Lisa Bean
Director @ Gradvert