Your CV is usually the first opportunity a prospective employer will have to form an impression of you, therefore it’s critical that it makes you stand out.
When preparing your CV, following these guidelines will undoubtedly ensure you get the most from your CV every time you submit it for consideration.
1. Tailor your CV to the position you are applying for Preparing a CV is not a one-off exercise. Remember your CV is a tool designed to help get you an interview when you apply for a particular position. Rarely are two positions exactly the same so it is necessary to tailor your CV each time ensuring that it reflects most positively the experience or skills you have that is relevant in that instance. To achieve this you will need to have a good understanding of what the employer is looking for of course!
2. Accuracy Always check your spelling and grammar. Regardless of the type of job you are applying for it will reflect badly on you if the employer finds errors that could otherwise be easily avoided. If grammar or spelling isn’t your strong point, get a friend or relative you trust to review your CV for you. Proof reading is a must!
3. Keep it short (and single-sided) No matter how experienced you are, your CV should be no more than 3 pages long. Don’t try to cheat by applying double-sided printing when sending by hard copy. It is the quality of the information you provide that counts, not the quantity!
4. Formatting is important Don’t over-format your CV and avoid excessive use of italics/highlighting etc. Some use of bold to highlight certain skills can be beneficial but not if your entire CV is filled with features. Use bullet points to avoid large chunks of text which can be difficult to read.
5. Word documents work best A MS Word document is the preferred CV choice of employers. Avoid using obscure programmes or specialist programmes that are not commonly used by administrators when preparing your CV as the employer may not even be able to open it. Also, many companies and recruiters store your data electronically and later search for specific skills using word recognition software which will always be compatible with a common programme like Word.
6. Contact & personal data Ensure all personal and contact information is kept up to date; it does not reflect well if you have to admit later in the process that you did not check (or could not be bothered) to update your details.
7. Include a leading paragraph/personal statement at the beginning A well worded summary creates an initial impact. Avoid flowery language which will put the reader off. Make it a positive but succinct paragraph focusing on your key skills and competencies only.
8. Put information in reverse chronological order Put information in reverse chronological order. Always start with your most recent role and work back. What you did 10 years ago is usually less relevant than what you are doing now.
9. Keep education details to the point Few employers are interested in the fine details underpinning your qualifications. Institutions, dates, qualifications achieved and grades are sufficient.
10. Be clear about experience and skills When describing current or previous roles, keep your description interesting and concise, relating systems and technologies you have used to the relevant role or project. Explain clearly your own roles and responsibilities and outline any achievements. Use ‘I’‚ and not ‘We.
11. Explain career gaps or breaks and check timelines Do not leave obvious gaps without explanation; unless it is relevant to the role there is no need to delve into great detail. Ensure the dates are accurate and make sense in the bigger picture of your CV.
12. Don’t lie Fudging dates or hiding jobs will make things worse as it will come to light. Doing so can turn something innocent into a question mark against your character. Unlike in ‘The Apprentice’ most employers do not hire proven liars.
13. Interests and other skills Do not use this section of your CV as a great opportunity to apply your personality. Stay to the point about your interests out of work and make sure they reflect the type of character a prospective employer may want to employ. Avoid trying to inject humour – it just doesn’t work!
14. References Either detail two prospective references with contact details or insert a statement that references are available on request. Make sure that references are work related and correlate with your career history i.e. going back four jobs for a referee and missing the three most recent employers raises a red flag to employers.