Writing an effective CV is the vital first step towards your dream job. Here we walk you through creating the perfect CV.
There is no such thing as a standard CV example. A CV is only “good” if it works…if it fulfils its purpose of marketing your skills and expertise. If you are receiving calls and emails because recruiters or employers have seen your CV, then you have a good CV that works for you.How to write a professional CVA good CV should provide a summary of your expertise and evidence of your achievements. Always keep in mind what the employer wants to get out of it: an understanding what you have to offer a company. This should leap off the page. Too often, recruiters are presented with exhaustive bullet-pointed lists of everything a candidate has ever done in their career. Or a list of responsibilities cut and pasted from a job description. In order to be filtered through to interview stage, applicants are expected to focus their CV on relevant achievements and expertise. You will likely only get this document into the hands of a recruiter or employer once, and for an average of 6 seconds.Here is how to make it count:1. Before you start typingYou’re reading this on a job board so understand that this is a digital medium with high volumes of applications you are competing against. Good CVs must be optimised with key words relevant to the jobs you are applying for. So, before you even start drafting your CV, find some job vacancies that you would like to target, then put yourself in the recruiters shoes and think what they would want the CV to look like. Highlight the key words and phrases that the recruiter is asking for, and only then should you begin with your CV.2. What should a CV look like?Keep it simple. A common mistake is for people to overly design their CV formats, meaning information about their actual experience gets lots in a wave of colour and font. Unless you’re applying to be a designer, where you can show off, use a standard word CV template, with lots of white space.Think about font too. Pick a standard font, type size no smaller than 11 and remember we’re not in the noughties – Comic Sans is a definite no-no. Length is generally still debated, but it should be two and a half sides max, as any more and the recruiter will assume that you can’t summarise information.Top Tip: Recruiters are most interested in what you have done recently – they will scan the second page and don’t want to see lots of detail. If they want to know more about your previous jobs they can ask you at the interview.Save it as your name and as a standard attachment so it can easily be emailed to recruiters.3. What personal details do I include?Key details to include into your CV:+ Name and address: While your name is fairly obvious, you might be surprised to hear that you should ensure your address includes the first four digits of your post-code. Otherwise, your CV will be invisible if it is posted on job boards like this one and recruiters are searching its database. They start with a geographical restriction (e.g 25 miles of IG10) to filter relevant CVs.+ Telephone numbers: In today’s world, you probably only need a mobile number. Review your voicemail and make sure it’s a personal and professional one. Recruiters like to hear your professional telephone manner and know they are leaving messages for the right person. If you are including a home number then ensure that other family members answer appropriately and pass on messages!+ Email address: Use a sensible one; keep a jokey account name for personal use. You can’t present an air of being an uber professional with the email address loudlinzi at hotmail dot com.Details not to include:– Date of birth: Don’t include this, it shouldn’t be relevant to the huge majority of job roles.– Marital status: Why is this relevant? No need to include.– Photo: Again, looks shouldn’t enter a recruiter’s equation anymore– Nationality: Not necessary to put anything unless it is obvious that you are applying from outside the UK/Europe in which case you might want to include information about your eligibility to work here – e.g Nationality: Indian, Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) Migrant, eligible to work in the UK for 2 years4. Should I add a personal statement?Think of a statement or profile section at the beginning of your CV as your shop front to tempt a recruiter in further. A good personal statement, is just a few sentences, that state what you’ve done in the past, what you want to do next and the skills that bridge the two. Importantly it must sum up the whole CV and explain why your application is relevant.Remember that you are competing against many other candidates so this section should explain what makes you stand out. The rest of your CV will provide evidence of this. When you have drafted it ask yourself if this has addressed the needs of the recruiter.Top Tip: Avoid unsubstantiated opinions of yourself and statements like “dynamic self-starter looking to contribute in a challenging environment”. Use specific statements like“HR Manager with seven year’s public sector experience specialising in employee negotiations, now re-locating to Edinburgh.”5. How much career history to add?Compiling your career history is an opportunity to share your experience and achievements as well as your suitability for the role in question. For each of the jobs on your CV, the basics should include:– Job title– Dates of employment (including the months as well as the year). Start with the most recent job first– Company details. If you were employed by “XZA Industries” a recruiter may not know who they are. So, you could say “UK and Asia Pacific based toy manufacturing business, employing 350 staff across 11 offices”– Broad remit and who you reported to, to explain the context of the role. For example,“Reported to the Chief Operating Officer and held P & L responsibility for driving sales of £7 million across the organisation”For each job on your professional CV, and particularly for the most recent roles, include three or four bullet point achievements. This is what you can use to showcase how better suited to the role you are than the other candidates. You’ve not just done the jobs, you’ve excelled at them, so show them this in your CV. Remember to use the same or similar key words and phrases from the advertisement. Here are some prompts to help you remember your previous achievements:
- What have you done over and above your job description?
- Where have you gone the extra mile?
- Where have you demonstrated flexibility, creative thinking or innovation?
- What projects have you been involved in and what was your contribution to the outcome?
- What legacy have you left behind?
- What problems did you solve?
- What did the team/business look like when you left compared to when you started and what part did you play in that?
Data and detail is also your friend here. The more specific detail you can include in your professional CV (and the less waffle) the better. Costs, commercials, percentage improvements, key performance indicators met, targets met, costs saved, etc. “Increased sales turnover by 42% against a target of 35%, which made us the highest performer out of seven teams” is much more effective than“excellent sales management skills” Be mindful of not revealing confidential company information.6. Does anyone care about my education?The “why am I telling them this” rule applies here as well. Do you really need to put your GCSE results on your CV if you have a degree? If you’re a Finance Director who needs your Maths A level results? Most people put their education after their career history, but if your education or professional qualifications are crucial to the jobs you are applying for you may choose to put education and training before your career history. Remember, there is no right or wrong way – it’s what works best for you. Wherever you put your education, most recent qualification should come first.Top Tip: A good example of a CV always studies the job specification closely, if educational attainment is featured prominently reflect this in your CV.7. What if my hobbies aren’t of interest?Do they need to know that you like reading science fiction? Or cycling at the weekend? Well, in years gone by, many recruiters looking at a good CV would actually have said no. In businesses today though, cultural fit is really important and recruiters are looking for candidates who will gel with organisations they are recruiting for. So, be honest and use the skills to your CV’s advantage. For example, fundraising for a local charity may reflect the skills you need in your new role, so include it. Similarly, impressive results on the sports field may impress some employers. Also don’t be afraid of saying ‘beers with mates’, in years gone by this may have been frowned upon, but it can actually show in your CV, that you are sociable and likely to get on with new colleagues.8. What about references?It’s fairly obvious that they are available upon request, so this CV section is now mostly redundant and can be missed out.9. Eek, I’m running out of space?!Print of your CV, sit down and have a good read through. Think “why I am telling them this?” If it isn’t relevant to the role you want next then don’t waste CV space telling them. “Works well in a team” is implicit if you have had a successful career working as a team member. You don’t need to spell it out. Lots of other online CV also direct you to fill in superfluous detail – ask is it really necessary? For an office job in central London, does the recruiter need to know that you have a clean driving licence?10. I’m about to click ‘send’Spell check the document. Then read it from left to right and right to left. Get your mum to read it or your roommate. A second set of eyes is so important if you’ve had your head down looking at your CV for days. Make sure it is the best example of a CV possible. You would be flabbergasted how many “mangers” send in their CVs!Top Tip: Don’t solely rely on your computer’s spell checker, and if you do check it’s set to UK English!.