This section is intended to offer regular careers advice, interview tips and CV writing advice to help you get the job of your dreams.
01/02/10 - Writing a CV
Whether you are a school-leaver about to embark on your search for meaningful employment or an experienced professional facing a career crossroads, the whole recruitment process may well hinge on the quality and composition of your curriculum vitae (cv). As with so many of the variations regarding the recruitment process, the issue of what constitutes a good cv is yet another variable that you must overcome in your quest for the right job. With numerous books and research documents available on this subject, this section should give you an overview and provide you with a basic framework with which to work.
A good starting point with any business document is to consider who will it be targeted at, what message you want to convey and what response it is designed to solicit. This is certainly true of the humble cv, especially as you may be corresponding through a third party agency, via a recruitment website or directly with the target company. You may already have realised that you will probably need two or three variations of your cv depending on where it is to be sent. During this planning stage you should consider what type of role you are looking for, which industry sector you will work within and how best to present your skills and experience in order to be considered for such a role. If, for example, you are looking for a highly technical position within a specific field, your knowledge and experience should be prominently presented early in this document, while those seeking supervisory or managerial positions may choose to concentrate more on their "soft skills".
Firstly though, you need to decide what you want this vital document to do. In our experience, nobody has ever been hired purely on the strength of his or her cv! (the only exception may possibly be for recruiting a cv writer!) The recruitment process is like a courtship ritual and there are rules to be aware of and follow. Accompanied by a covering letter (which is dealt with in another section) the cv is the appetiser designed to get the recruiter to want to learn more. It is in the interest of the recruiter to get the very best candidate for the specific vacancy and it is their responsibility to decide what the successful candidate will have to look like. You cannot influence this although we would expect that your personal focus is to get the very best job for yourself that you can and this means presenting the recruiter with a picture or profile of you that both accurately portrays your skills, experience and personality and generates a desire in that person to want to find out more about you. Like the appetiser in a restaurant, the cv is just the starter, not the meal itself!
Where to start and what should the finished article look like? Well, we would suggest that your cv be a maximum of two pages long, be constructed in a simple format that is easy to read and follow and should utilise a conservative font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Tahoma. Creating your cv can be done by using a standard template for the initial brainstorming, subsequent editing and final copywriting but be sure to make it easy to read and follow. There are no perfect or approved formats for a successful cv but we have found the following to be a successful formula.
Contact Information: List your contact information at the top of your cv. Be sure to include your full name, postal address and contact telephone numbers, also remembering your e-mail address. If you also have a website which shows off your skills or supports / adds value to your application, feel free to include your URL also although do not do so if your website contains personal or non-business content. Profile / Objective: This will give recruiters an immediate impression of who you are and what you are looking for without having to trawl through many hundreds of words of text. As a candidate you should be aware that a great many recruiters will be receiving several hundred cv's per day so you only have a few seconds to reach out and grab their attention in order for them to look further into your profile. Similarly, a great many agencies, websites and employer's will utilise keyword search technology to screen and shortlist cv's for closer scrutiny.
This is especially relevant if your expertise is highly specialised or technical, as this information needs to be included in this early section.
Experience: We would recommend that you list your experience chronologically with your most recent position first. It is a matter of personal opinion as to whether you should include the actual start date, just month and year or year only as this may not be particularly flattering in the event of you having made a "mistake" or two earlier in your career! We would strongly suggest that you do not lie on your cv and there is further information in the Additional Tips section to guide you on this, although it is acceptable to be vague in this regard whilst remembering that at some stage there will be an application form where the specifics will definitely be required so if you lie now, all you have done is waste your time and the recruiter's! You should try to include specific skills and achievements within this section to demonstrate your proven ability in the role. Further information follows in the tips section.
Skills / Qualifications / Education / Training: This is a very subjective area and is dependent on your own personal circumstances. We discussed earlier how a highly qualified or skilled engineer may need to be specific with their skills and experiences, similarly, if you are a more mature candidate then the relevance of your schooling and education may not be as important as your subsequent personal development, training and experience. It is essential that you consider all of your expertise when completing this aspect of your cv, including such aspects as foreign languages, public speaking and computer literacy. Similarly, if you have developed business management skills and fully understand / utilise cash flow forecasting, balance sheets and management accounts, let the recruiter know about it! Remember, if you forget to mention that you are fully proficient in MS Office or e-mail, it will be assumed that you don't have any knowledge of this at all!
Personal Details: In some countries there is already legislation preventing prejudice on the basis of age and it is universally taboo for a recruiter to discriminate on the basis of sex, race religion or colour but the candidate must be aware that in today's selective employment market, the recruiter will have developed a profile and specification for the requirements of the job. It may well be that the "real you" is exactly the person that the employer is looking for so failure to provide full details regarding your personal details could be the difference between being taken forward with the recruitment process or being disregarded completely. Examples of the degree of detail for this section may include date of birth, marital status, nationality, dependant children, driver licence information but the choice is yours.
Interests: With very few exceptions, the recruiter is looking for a candidate who presents a balanced and considered image of themselves for consideration and it is here that the candidate can show the personal / private side of their personal package. It is essential that some thought be given to include a broad profile of personal interests so that you do not appear to be a two-dimensional business automaton that lives to work and has no outside interests or passions. In all probability you will be working with others and your ability to mix and gel within a team environment will be essential to your personal satisfaction and to the well-being of the company. It is therefore essential not to include hobbies which may appear controversial or confrontational so as inoffensive as being an animal rights activist may appear to be to you, or perhaps being an avid supporter of Arsenal Football club, please think about how warmly this information will be received by a recruiter who has a conflicting point of view! Perhaps it would be better for you to be "enthusiastic in your enjoyment of nature" or to "actively enjoy team sports on a local and national basis" in order not to prejudice your application before you begin?
This the first of many career advice articles from Jobs.co.uk - make sure you keep coming back.