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How to write your CV

HOW TO WRITE A CV

Your CV has just one real purpose – to help an employer decide if you will benefit their organization. Viewing your resume in this way will greatly help you to decide what you should include, and just as importantly, what you should leave out. Be prepared to spend time working and then reworking your CV. Your future employer’s first impression of you will be formed by this document and it is important to get it right.

Recent research published by Business Insider magazine suggests that recruiters will take just six seconds to make an initial decision about a CV. By scanning recruiters’ eye movements, researchers found that they read CVs in an approximate ‘F’ shape – vertically down the page interspersed with horizontal glances. Additionally, recruiters spent more time on CVs that were uncluttered and avoided long paragraphs. It is sensible to structure your CV with this in mind.

Section 1: Name and contact details

Firstly, your full address together with a mobile telephone number and a business-appropriate email address. If you use a work email address bear in mind that communication about vacancies will come to this address, so if colleagues check your emails when you are out of the office, you may wish to use an alternative email account.

Personal email addresses must be business appropriate. Using ‘Bear1@hotmail.com’ will ring alarm bells in an employer’s minds and raise doubts about whether they can take the person seriously. Therefore ensure you do not start off at a disadvantage by using an email address that is a variation of your name e.g. ‘Smith@’.

Section 2: Overview

Here you can include a brief description of your key selling points and the type of role or environment you are now seeking. This should be a few lines at most and factually-based. For example:

“Award-winning sales professional with a track record of six figure billings; I am recognized as an innovative thinker who has designed and implemented industry best practices. I am now seeking a challenging opportunity with a dynamic organization where performance is rewarded.”

Section 3: Key Achievements

On overview of your key achievements in bullet point format will draw attention to your successes. For example:

Project lead on the successful integration of two SQL database systems during the merger between Alpha Partners and Parity Limited;

Ran a successful 6-week recruitment campaign to hire 25 customer service advisers for Happy Snack Ltd. – 90% staff retention rate.

Section 4: Education, Qualifications, Training, IT and Languages

Key facts are king – year of completion, qualification title and the organization concerned. If you achieved a merit/honour you should also include the qualification grade.

Section 5: Career History

Start with your current or most recent employer and work in reverse chronological order. Certain key information must be included which should be easy for the reader to scan. Title information:

Name of company

You can now move on to your responsibilities and achievements. Your job description can be helpful as a starting point to provide ideas but avoid copying and pasting the information. Role profiles are generic and replicating them will make your CV read as a ‘by the numbers’ document. Instead, think about what your main responsibilities and activities have entailed, always bearing in mind the type of role you are targeting. What did you spend your time on? Then focus on these areas, up to a maximum of around four.

Next describe your principle achievements. Were you recognized by your company or your industry? Did you lead any projects, win any awards or receive positive customer feedback? Were you responsible for great sales figures or did you help to improve any processes that made the company run more smoothly? These are the parts of your job that highlight your positive contribution and will provide evidence to other employers of how you can help their organization. Keep it factual and use action words, such as ‘Implemented, ‘Achieved’ and ‘Managed’.

Now continue with your other roles. The most relevant positions will be those from the last 5 – 10 years – for older jobs you can often just list the dates, job title and name of the organization.

Section 6: Personal Interests

When considering personal interests try to concentrate on active rather than passive pastimes e.g. blogging or designing websites, rather than surfing the Internet. Also include any voluntary activities or awards and recognition you have received, as this will reflect well on you as a person.

Finally…

After you have written your CV, read it again to check for grammatical errors and spelling mistake and to see how it flows. When you have done this, read it again! Then give it to someone whose English skills you trust and ask them to search for mistakes. A fresh pair of eyes is very important at this stage as the words will probably be dancing in front of your eyes by now. Once they have done this you are ready to go!

 

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR CV

When we come to create our CV we are faced with two realities. Firstly, there is a blank page in front of us that we must transform into a business document that will secure us an interview. And secondly, we have a head full of knowledge about a subject that we know better than anyone else – ourselves!

The objective at this point is to take the best parts from that mass of information and distil it down to the key parts; including all relevant information while at the same time engaging the hiring managers of the companies we are targeting – and ideally to do this within two pages. So where do we start? To do this, we need to understand what a CV is:

What a CV is:

  • A succinct overview of your strengths as they apply to your targeted job or sector;
  • An accurate and up-to-date business document;
  • A promotional tool that shows employers how your experience matches their requirements.
  • A blow by blow, epic account of your life ranging from your first day in primary school to last week’s team meeting;
  • A copy and pasting of the HR job descriptions from your past and present roles;
  • A paper version of your Facebook profile.

What a CV is not:

Keeping these points at the forefront of your mind will help you to separate the filler material from the key content.

 

What to Include

Contact details:      

Name, address, mobile number, business appropriate email address, URL to LinkedIn profile

Overview:        

Brief paragraph describing your current situation and what you are hoping to achieve next. N.B. Use facts as your structure –

“Award winning architect with a track record of incorporating environmental innovations in commercial design. My strengths lie in designing and presenting winning client bids. Having achieved success at a medium-sized firm, I am keen to take on the challenge of a developing the business of a national organization.”

Achievements:        

Three to five bullet points listing your key successes – including the numbers e.g. “Prince2 Project Manager with a track record of implementing SQL Database integration.”

Education/Training:

Year of leaving, qualification title and institution. If you achieved good grades it is worth including these. However, if these were poor it is best to omit them. If you completed a thesis it may also be worth mentioning the title.

Career Experience: 

Years of joining and leaving the company, Job title and company name. Following this with a brief description of what the company does can be useful, particularly if it strengthens your own experience by association. For example, describing a company as an innovative designer of market-leading websites will give you some kudos if your role is a web designer. Also consider inserting a link to the organization’s website.

List your most recent role first and work backwards.

Concentrate on those responsibilities and achievements that will be of interest to employers in the type of role you are targeting. There is no obligation to include all of your duties – focus on the principal ones.

Your most recent positions are of the most interest, so these will usually have the most detail.

Personal Interests: 

You can include a few words about your pastimes in this section. Concentrate on active hobbies that you participate in and if you do any voluntary work this is a great place to include it.

Final Point:             

Section order has some flexibility. The key consideration is always to lead with the information that is most relevant to your job or industry. So if specific qualifications or IT knowledge is important for a role then you should feature these prominently.