Preparing for that Important Job – Writing a CV

On our previous topic, I offered some advice on how to make your job search easier.  I thought that this week I would try to give some guidance on the first stage of the process – Writing a CV.

A CV or Curriculum Vitae is a vital tool for job hunting. Essentially it is a document which describes your first impression to a potential employer, detailing a person’s life and qualifications and portraying your abilities, achievements and interests in an attractive but accurate manner.

When writing your CV, remember that you are marketing yourself to an employer and is therefore important to make the most of your experience.  This is not always easy and may often require getting advice from experts who will be more objective to make suggestions for creating or improving your copy.

You should always aim for a CV that is suitable for the job you are applying for and this may require modifying what you have to meet the requirements of the job.  Below are some action checklist to assist you.

  • Aim to produce a CV which has impact, is factual and brief: Your CV should be: positive; clear; neat; short (preferably two sides of A4). It should never exceed three pages.
  • Identifying detail: This important information forms the head of the document and consists of: full name; address; telephone numbers (home and others where you are contactable).
  • Decide on a suitable format for your CV: The two most used CV formats are chronological (this CV follows your career back in an historical manner and works well for those who have significant incremental moves); or functional (highlights the main skill areas such as management, people, operations, finance, budgets and IT) in style.
  • Carry out your preparation: Consider your career and starting with your last role work backwards in chronological order stating: job title, outline of responsibilities a – including the number of people managed and main achievements – the areas where you have made positive contributions.
  • Describe your achievements as your own: Use active words (i.e. analysed, achieved, created, developed, designed, implemented, specialised or led, a positive picture of your skills can be developed) and phrases (such as “The systems I designed are now contributing to the success of the organisation” or “I designed and successfully introduced new procedures”).
  • Note your educational experiences, including short courses
  • Decide on the further personal detail you wish to include: This information may include (date of birth, marital status and gender, driving licence, hobbies and career aspirations), but only include these if they “fit” with the job for which you are applying.
  • Consider who will see your CV: Check and double-check your spelling, get someone else to read your draft through and ensure the presentation is clear and easy to read.
  • Write a covering letter: Covering letters are also important. You should use them to tailor your experience to the opportunity or organisation and to summarise key elements of your CV.
  • CVs must ALWAYS be typed or word processed.

Dos and Don’ts for CV writing

Do’s Don’t
  • Be simple in your message.
  • Ensure that the layout is easy to follow.
  • Create plenty of white space.
  • Sell yourself and use your achievements.
  • Use current key or buzz words.
  • Choose a format which works best for you.
  • Pilot your CV with colleagues and friends.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the reader.
  • Lie.
  • Assume your name will get you noticed.
  • Be afraid to get advice.
  • Lose your individualism.

In Summary

  • A CV must be reader friendly, easily understood and pleasing to the eye.
  • The main guidelines for preparing your curriculum vitae are as follows: –
    • Reflect yourself positively throughout the CV.
    • Find a sharp and positive way to describe you and what you have to offer.
    • Focus on achievements and skills.
    • Quantify the benefits your achievements brought to the organisation. Use action words to describe positive achievements.
    • Never include statements that cannot be substantiated at interview.
    • Keep sentences short and to the point.
    • Provide a clear layout with attention to detail.
    • Avoid jargon and non-standard abbreviations.
    • Do not use clichés – recognise the over-used words found in so many CVs.
    • Make sure everything is relevant and avoid clutter.
    • Address what the prospective employer wants. Think of their needs not yours.
    • When replying to a specific job advertisement or to a particular company, ensure your CV reflects your knowledge and awareness of the needs of the post/company. Always make sure you send a covering letter with your CV.

Thought starters

  • You have 8 seconds to make an impression with your CV. What impression does yours create in 8 seconds?
  • CVs should be about the future. Is it clear what contribution you could make to an organisation and what your future career objective is?
  • CVs are also about the past: does yours summarise adequately your past to your satisfaction?
  • When was the last time you updated your CV?

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