Here we offer a starting point for planning and creating the perfect CV to win a job interview. Whether this is the first time you have written one or you’re looking for advice on improvements to give you a competitive edge when changing career, this CV advice should help.
Plan your CV before you start writing it.
Biggest CV mistake
Many people believe that CV writing is a straightforward concept – you write down dates and names of employers, with a list of responsibilities at each company. Apart from that, it’s the simple task of adding contact details, education history and minor details such as hobbies and date of birth. Anyone who bothers to read through the document will see that you have all the necessary skills and experience from your training and employment – right?
No! You must be careful about what to include in a CV, as it exists to interest the reader enough for them to want to meet you to learn more. That is where many people make their biggest mistake – they assume that the employer will read the whole CV and find their unique attributes.
Importance of the CV
The CV is often the first point of contact between you and the employer. Therefore, it is your first chance to shine as a candidate. Don’t make the employer work to find all your relevant experience and certainly don’t assume they will use their imagination to guess the transferable skills that you have developed. Phrases such as “employers only spend 30 seconds reading each CV” are used so commonly that this is fast becoming a cliché. Yet this idea, so common knowledge to today’s jobseekers, is still rarely acted on. People do not think about what it means for them.
Targeting the CV
Think about the job you are applying for. What type of employers will you be sending your CV to? What might be your day-to-day responsibilities? What skills and experience might the ideal candidate have? You may be able to find such information on a job description or person specification if you are responding to an advertisement. If you are making a speculative application, learn from the company website, speak to someone who works in the same field and use your imagination. Then look back through your employment and / or education history and think about all your relevant experiences.
CV Content – Strengths
Once you have made a list of your relevant experience, don’t let it be hidden in the depths of your text. Pick out the most impressive information and highlight it with bullet points before listing your general duties and responsibilities during each role. Pay particular attention to achievements – have you received awards, bonuses or promotions? Have you received official recognition or praise from senior staff for a good piece of work?
Was there an achievement that you were proud of, such as managing a crisis effectively or handling an awkward complaint? Think about work that you did well, which someone else may not have done so well. This kind of information shows that you are a motivated achiever, rather than someone who just turns up to work.
Your choice of CV layout offers a useful way of grabbing the readers attention and it’s particularly important to showcase key skills and
achievements or key attributes section near the start of the CV. Pick out around 5 – 8 bullet points of the most important, relevant information from the rest of the CV. The reader will then see what you have to offer straight away and will hopefully then be interested in reading the rest thoroughly, rather than giving your CV the customary ’30-second scan’. The reader will also thank you for making their job easier.
Many people put far to much importance on how the CV looks from a distance and believe a good CV is one that looks nice. Employers only care about one thing – the content. As long as the CV is typed smartly, in black is safe, with clear headings for each section, it will look fine. In fact, those who use elaborate wavy lines or various colours often shoot themselves
in the foot. The employer could find it off-putting or think “why have they gone to all this trouble? Is there nothing interesting to read?”
The only exception to this is principle is in some fields of design, when your CV presentation techniques are key to the role. However, in these cases, applications will often be made in the form of a design portfolio, rather than a CV. Be careful in your use of font sizes and bold or italic text. Although it is of use to highlight certain aspects, such as headings or job titles, don’t over do it. More than a couple of sizes in the document can make the text difficult to read.
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