Writing a CV
Selling the product…
Your CV is designed to do one thing: to sell you to a potential employer. It is essentially your own personal sales brochure and gives you the chance to highlight your strengths before you get into an interview. It is a marketing exercise, and as such style is as important as content, for two main reasons:
* Firstly, your best points may get lost with a poorly constructed CV, costing you the chance to interview.
* Secondly, by not producing a professional looking document you run the risk of a potential employer questioning your overall competence.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, it is generally better to keep your CV short as this will help you focus on the points that will sell you best and bring them to the fore. If you ramble on for 12 pages, you’ll inevitably bury the very information you’re looking to emphasise, so be succinct and remember your audience.
Consider who will receive the CV. If you are applying for a specific role then make sure you amend the information to emphasise the most relevant details. For example, if a role needs experience of using SAP, then make sure this is highlighted – it could be the difference between interview and rejection.
Make an impact – but get your message across in a concise, professional way. Flashy graphics and borders may look great but will only dilute your message by drawing attention away from it. Ensure the CV is well structured by setting it out logically, using separate sections / headings that will make it easier for a potential employer to access the information they need.
Be consistent in your use of headings, bold text, indents and so on: a lack of consistency implies a slapdash approach and creates the wrong impression.
The best way to highlight specific information is to use bullet points. They are useful for two reasons: firstly, they make it easier, when writing the CV to divide your skills / experience into distinct areas; secondly, by doing this you make your information more accessible to the reader.
Reserve the most detail for your most recent role. If you have held different posts at the same company, separate them out and put responsibilities for each, rather than just a list of job titles and dates.
Again, there are no hard and fast rules concerning which headings to use, although some are universal like Name, Address, Contact Details, Date of Birth, Education and Employment History. Others are mainly used to highlight particular areas, such as IT Skills, Personal Statement, Interests / Hobbies etc. These are more determined by your audience and can be added or removed as necessary.
Do not leave any gaps in your CV. A potential employer will always check, particularly if they are considering calling you for interview or making an offer. If there has been a gap in your employment, it is always best to account for it yourself.
With so many applications being sent by e-mail, covering letters are sometimes neglected, but they are an excellent opportunity to further emphasize your skills and abilities. Demonstrate that you have fully thought out your reasons for applying and highlight the skills you bring. A sloppy covering letter can undo all the good work on your CV, so work to the same standards – even if it is in the form of an e-mail, which is a traditionally informal medium.
CV Hall of Shame…
One of the worst things you can do is send out your CV without checking it thoroughly for grammar and spelling mistakes. It creates an awful impression and makes the reader question your approach to the application.
Check the names of the person you’re applying to, along with their job title and spellings. If you are unsure of the person’s gender, make sure you get it right! The best way to get the info you need is to call the company and check the details with the switchboard.
If you decide to use an Interests/Hobbies section, be aware of how these interests will sound to a potential employer. References to mud wrestling or the Dr. Who fan club may undermine your CV.
If you are unsure of anything on the CV ask someone else to read it through – often a second opinion will help get any queries straightened out.