A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications. It conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light. A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. It can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area. For this reason, many large graduate recruiters will not accept CVs and instead use their own application form.
Writing a good CV can be one of the toughest challenges of job hunting. Most employers spend just a few seconds scanning each CV before sticking it in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile. Writing a CV can be a stressful task, especially if you’re starting from scratch…And although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect CV, it should always be clearly formatted and short enough for a recruiter to scan quickly – and most importantly – tailored to the role you’re applying for.
What information should you include in your CV?
Most CVs include your personal information, your education and qualifications, your work experience, your interests and achievements, your skills, and references. Also experienced people tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. Use a modern but professional format. However, there is no set format for a CV, what you include is up to you.
CVs should never be completely formulaic, but there are a few things they should always contain:
Personal details: It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to include their name, email, contact phone number and address. To avoid any awkward moments, make sure these are clearly presented at the top of your CV. ‘Curriculum Vitae’ is an unnecessary title – your name is not.
Personal statement: As it’s the first thing that’s shown on your CV, a personal statement is an essential part of standing out from the crowd. It explains who you are, what you’re offering, and what you’re looking for. Aim to prove why you’re suitable in one short and succinct paragraph.
Work experience: Use action words such as developed, planned and organised.Even work in a shop, bar or restaurant will involve working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints. Don’t mention the routine, non-people tasks (cleaning the tables) unless you are applying for a casual summer job in a restaurant or similar.
Achievements: This is your chance to show how your previous experience has given you the skills needed to make you a suitable candidate. List all of your relevant skills and achievements (backing them up with examples), and make it clear how you would apply these to the new role.
Education: Your educational experience and achievements should be listed here, along with dates, the type of qualification and/or the grade you achieved – although the specific parts of education that you include in your CV will depend on your individual situation. For example, if you have more educational achievements than work experience, placing an emphasis on this section is a good idea.
Hobbies and interests: You don’t always need to include hobbies and interests in your CV, but mentioning relevant ones
Write your cover letter in the body of the email
The email is the first impression that you will give a recruiter. Therefore you are going to need to give some information about yourself and why you’re right for the role. Too many times I see the comment: “I am applying for X role and attach my covering letter and CV”. I’d like to see something about you in the email. I’d also like to see a cover letter as well. Emails have a tendency to be seen as having little value compared with a letter. So why not include a cover letter as well that goes into more detail than the email.
Keep it up to date.
How long should a CV be?
There are no absolute rules but, in general, a new graduate’s CV should cover no more than two sides of A4 paper. In a survey of American employers 35% preferred a one page CV and 19% a two page CV with the others saying it depends upon the position. CVs in the US tend to be shorter than in the UK, whereas the 2 page CV still dominates for graduates, but I do see a trend now towards one page CVs: as employers are getting more and more CVs, they tend not to have the time to read long documents!
Keep it real!
Usually a CV should be no more than two pages – and that’s two pages of A4 paper! Employers spend, on average, just 8 seconds looking at any one CV, and a surefire way of landing yourself on the no pile is to send them your entire life story. Keep it punchy, to the point, and save those niggly little details for the interview.
The error of your ways
Employers DO look for mistakes on CVs and if they find them, it makes you look really bad. David Hipkin, head of recruitment and resourcing at Reed Business Information, warns, ‘With most employers experiencing massive volumes of applicants right now, giving them the excuse to dismiss your application because of avoidable errors is not going to help you secure an interview.’ If you’re unsure then use a spellchecker and ask someone else to double-check what you’ve written. And don’t ignore the most common CV mistakes.
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