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The job search process begins with writing your Curriculum Vitae (CV). This is a crucially important part of your job search and time taken at this stage to get the document right will make your job search easier and more fruitful in the long term. When writing your CV you are effectively writing a marketing document on why an employer should employ you. A CV is more than just an overview of educational and employment history!

Marketing Document

Your CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. There is no “one best way” to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured as you like within a basic framework. It is a subjective science meaning there is no right or wrong answers but some rules and principles that are accepted as best practice, and will help you to stand out from the crowd.

Layout

Your CV should be carefully and clearly laid out - not too cramped but not with large empty spaces either. Use bold and italic typefaces for headings and important information this will help that important information stand out and draw the readers eye to it. Use a plain type face and avoid decorative fonts. You want to be noticed for what you say, not how you present it. It might look pretty to you but not to your potential employer. Keep it simple.

Never double side a CV - each page should be on a separate sheet of paper. If you put a name and contact number in the footer this will help any potential employer should they wish to contact you, or if a page becomes separated. You should also print your CV on good quality paper – remember it is a marketing tool. What does a low quality paper suggest?

Be concise

No one is interested in reading waffle. Less is sometimes more! Employers want to see what you did, how you did it and the results you achieved. If you are off point they have already lost interest and they are unlikely to take your application forward. Don’t feel that you have to list every exam you have ever taken, or every task you have ever undertaken – consider which are the most relevant and/or impressive. Remember that if you are tailoring your CV you will be choosing the most relevant information in any case. You are marketing yourself – business communications tend to be short and direct. If you focus on key information your CV will emulate this.

There are no absolute rules about how long a CV should be but, in general a graduate CV should cover no more than two sides of A4 paper. This rule does not hold for an Accountant with 15 years experience and 6 jobs. If it is relevant information then leave it in. As long as you are being concise and to the point 3/4/5/6 pages is fine. However if you have had one job and it covers six pages you are probably waffling and need to look at your content.

Be honest

Although a CV does allow you to omit details (such as exam results) which you would prefer the employer not to know about, you should never give inaccurate or misleading information. If a recruiter picks up a suggestion of lying on your CV you will likely be rejected. Remember that they will contact your referees and if your CV has no basis in fact you will have wasted your time and theirs. If you have left information off your CV like exam results when questioned be honest in your answer.

Information to include:

Personal details

Normally accepted as your name, address, date of birth (age discrimination laws mean this is not essential), telephone number and email. Double check this information – it is amazing how many people will get this wrong on their CV. It hardly makes the best first impression when you cannot spell your own name correctly on your own CV.

Personal profile

A personal profile at the start of a CV is a useful tool again to sell yourself. This should be the last part of the CV to be completed and should be used to sell yourself to your next employer. This is your chance to write an impact statement to give you the best chance of standing out from the crowd.

Education

In the education section you should include your degree subject and university, plus A levels and GCSEs or equivalents. Mention grades unless poor! If you leave the grades off this invites a question from a potential interviewer. Remember this is a sales document so if they are poor leave them off. However do not lie.

Experience

The next section is your work experience where you need to outline your work experience – you need to list your role chronologically in reverse, whilst tailoring the content to the job you are applying for. Rather than listing the duties of the department you were in you should use active words such as developed, managed or organised. Do not list the more menial tasks – you are selling yourself. Talk yourself up! If you can use the specification for the job you are putting on your CV so you can structure the duties well. Do not use terms like my team did, or we did this. It implies you were an observer of rather than a doer of. Remember that employers are interested in the outcome or impact of your actions, not just a list of the tasks themselves.

It is important that you never leave gaps. If you took a year out, or carried out interim assignments, say so – otherwise, employers can suspect the worst. If you undertook multiple interim assignments list that period of time as one. There is no need to list this information on your CV. It makes your CV and you look like you have moved around a lot.

Interests and achievements

For graduates this section will take on significance however as you progress you will have less and less here as your CV will be taken up by more experience related information. Typically you should list bullet point form. You do not need to give war and peace. This section will provide some talking points to show your ‘human’ side in an interview. For example if you are a champion show jumper then this would be a good interest/achievement to list as it is a good talking point. You may encounter an interviewer with an interest in all things equine which could help you build rapport going forward.

You should ensure that the interests and hobbies are interesting – remember you are selling yourself!

Skills

If you are listing any skills on your CV then ensure they are accurate. If you say you have conversational German or are fluent in Russian, you should expect that the interview may also be. Don’t lie, you will get caught out! This is a good section to list IT skills if you have anything out of the ordinary such as advanced Excel etc.

References

Typically people will list two referees on their CV so that any potential employer can contact them prior to getting any job offer formalised. Our advice would be to list ‘available upon request’. This ensures you have control over who contacts your referees and maintain control over your job search

If you are applying for more than one type of work, you should have a different CV tailored to each career area, highlighting different aspects of your skills and experience. Failure to tailor your CV effectively will lead to failure at this stage of the process.

Covering letter

You may also need a Covering letter to accompany your CV. Your covering letter should be tailored to the role you are applying for. Ideally you should use the job specification to the role you are applying for to help tailor your letter, thus enabling your application to stand out.

So that’s what you need to write a CV. Pretty straight forward. Follow these rules and you will find yourself with a great CV which should give you the best chance of getting interviews, which in turn means you can get the job you want, which is why you are doing this!!