CV stands for Curriculum Vitae – meaning ‘course of life – and it provides a concise history of your education and employment history for prospective employers.
It will take a concerted effort to produce a well-presented and accurate CV, but it is time well spent.
Not only is your CV a shop window to employers – you can send your CV out with a speculative letter to companies you would like to work for – it will also act as a useful source of information or aide memoir when you are filling in application forms for jobs.
It’s vital to present your CV in a clear, uncluttered fashion and to make sure that anyone reading it can assimilate the information with ease.
Once you have compiled your CV, make sure that you get someone else to read it through for sense, content and spelling mistakes.
One spelling mistake is sufficient to prompt a prospective employer to file your CV in the bin – it’s another way of whittling down a huge pile to a shortlist of a few.
There are consultants who offer a CV service at a price but you may want to visit your local careers service for free advice and fact sheets.
The key to a good CV is a simple and effective presentation, correct spelling, factual accuracy and honesty.
That said, the emphasis within your CV can be altered to suit the specific requirements of the particular employer you are sending it to. You may want to keep a few versions, each one with a different emphasis and appropriate for different roles.
Highlight the positive by all means – call it spin if you like – but beware of telling lies as you will very easily be caught out.
Beware of obvious gaps in your employment history – you must explain a gap year or a few years spent bringing up children in your covering letter.
Be positive and highlight specific skills such as computer software programs you are conversant with, management experience, budgeting and supervision of others.
Action verbs work well. Words like ‘organised’, ‘created’, ‘initiated’, ‘supervised’ and ‘directed’ establish that you are intelligent and motivated.
Numbers are also a powerful tool. Instead of saying “Responsible for increasing sales in my territory,” use a phrase like “Increased sales in my territory 150 per cent in six months.”
Speak to any employer who recruits staff and they will have very distinct ideas on the CV that works best.
One piece of advice that always floats to the top is ‘keep it simple’.
Resist the temptation to use the packages on your PC to full capacity, employing different typefaces and fancy effects.
Avoid the desire to print your CV on pink paper so yours will stand out in the pile.
‘Less is more
Less is more is another key to a CV with impact.
Put yourself in the position of the employer who has countless CVs to wade through.
Would you want glossy folders to unravel, colours to distract you from the information at hand or clashing fonts which only serve to give you a headache?
A clean non-serif font like Helvetica or Arial will work well.
Make sure the line spacing allows for plenty of white space and avoid the temptation to use a small type size so that you can cram more information onto the pages.
How many pages should your CV run to? No more than two pages of A4 is the straight answer. This may prove difficult if you are older and have a sufficient employment history under your belt.
In this case, using bullet points will help you to refine the information and, generally, there is no need to go back more than 10-15 years when outlining your employment history.
Use headings as follows:
Personal details (Your name, address and date of birth)
Objective (A 60 word optional statement about your current post and the job you are looking for.)
Education and training (In reverse chronological order. Include a technical summary of the hardware and software that you have experience with.)
Employment History (Or work experience.)
Positions of responsibility
References (Details of two referees, typically your last two employers.)
Personal statements tend to come over as a rather ingenious hard sell.
Yes, you can say anything you like to try to convince an employer that you are the most hardworking individual in the world, but at this stage, your statement is merely words.
Don’t make reference to salary in your CV.