Working in recruitment I see, read and review dozens of CV’s on a daily basis, and the range of quality that I encounter is always a surprise to me.
I have reviewed a variety of CV types ranging from in excess of 10 pages to less than half a page with simply a list of previous employers. Many profiles differ with some lacking information on the previous roles, to profiles which contain paragraphs and paragraphs of irrelevant detail on every post held… it is not surprising to come across a profile with basic information such as a contact number or even their name missing.
Constructing a CV is something that everyone has to deal with at one point or another, so here are a few key points to ensure that your CV stands out from the crowd, and looks as appealing as possible.
The point of a CV is to get your details across to the reader, but the important thing to remember is to keep in mind what of that information they want. In terms of your personal information you really don’t have to put absolutely everything about you on there, Recruiters and HR Managers are interested in knowing who you are, where you live and how to get in touch with you, but aren’t quite so keen to know your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, or what your pets are called (and yes, I’ve really seen all of those on the top of a CV before).
The key bits of information to include are as follows;
Email address that you regularly check
A mobile number that you can either answer, or have a voicemail for
Anything that could affect your employability (any visa status, upcoming relocation, etc.)
This is the very first thing that most people will read on your CV, and is your opportunity to introduce yourself, sell them on your experience, and convince them to continue reading. Don’t go too personal here, you have the opportunity to do so later on under hobbies and interests, but rather try and keep this bit focused on your professional experience. The idea with a profile is very similar to an “elevator pitch”, this is your chance to get in early and convince the reader that your CV is not only worth reading, but that you could be the ideal candidate they have been looking for.
The most important thing to remember, and this will be a recurring theme in this article, is to not get carried away and write down your whole life story. One other thing to consider is that recruiters are reading through dozens of CV’s a day, so if only for the sake of their sanity please don’t describe yourself as a “punctual individual” or that you are “able to work both independently or “as part of a team”, things like this are wonderful traits to have, but they should be expected, no one hires someone expecting them to show up late, or to not be able to follow instructions, so you really don’t need to specify that you can do that on your CV. Try and stick to a paragraph or two, and stay focused on where you started, what you currently do, and what you want to do in your next role.
This section should make up the bulk of your CV, going back through your career history and giving us an overview of your experience and proficiencies. It’s fairly difficult to go wrong with this, but ideally these are the main things to keep in mind;
Go in reverse order. Start with your current role, and work your way backward towards the start of your career.
Don’t leave anything out. It might be tempting to leave the part time supermarket assistant role off of your CV, but it’s usually better to have everything on there than it is to leave gaps. Be sure that you explain any gaps on your CV here too, anything from a year out travelling, to spending a few years raising a family, always be sure to explain what you were doing during the times you weren’t working.
Be concise. Don’t skimp on your overview of your experience, make sure to cover everything important that you did in each role, but be careful not to get carried away with it, no one wants to read through a page and a half of duties for each role to find out if you have customer service experience or not. The best and easiest way to do this is to bullet point your key duties in each position, it is a clear and simple way to lay out your experience, and makes it very obvious to the reader what you have done in your roles.
Include dates of employment. Always make sure you display how long you were in each role, include both the month and the year of when you started and finished in each role. You might think it’s better to put 2014 – 2015, rather than be specific with December 2014 – January 2015, but every recruiter would rather you be honest with how long you were there, and why you left, than to be misled with vague dates.
Education should be laid out much like the career history section of your CV in a few ways, the key is to be both a precise and concise as possible, letting the reader know everything they need to without overwhelming them with the details. All that you want to include in the education section of your CV is; what you have studied, where and when you studied it, and how you did in the course. Make sure to include the details for every academic or professional qualification you have sat, from GCSE’s and A-Levels, to degrees and anything like an apprenticeship, and NVQ or any sort of professional qualification. What we look for with each level of education is something like the following;
Place of study (University, Secondary School, College, Online institutions, etc.)
Subjects/Course undertaken (GCSE’s, A-Levels, NVQ, Professional Qualifications, etc.)
Hobbies and Interests
This section is your opportunity to be a bit more expressive about yourself, it’s not necessarily about how much experience you have in something, or how successful you are at it, but rather a chance to let us know some of the interesting things about you that you can’t fit into the other bits of the CV. Any clubs or organisations you’re a part of, positions of responsibility outside of work, charity volunteering and fundraising, personal achievements and just anything a bit different about you that you want to put down, this is the place for it to go.
Try and be a bit creative with this section, whilst it may not have any actual impact on how qualified you are for a particular role, what it can do is grab the attention of the reader, and make your CV more memorable amongst the pile of similar candidates sat on their desk. Everyone enjoys “going to the cinema, reading books and socialising with friends”, so don’t go for the easy option and put the cliché interests at the bottom of your CV, put some thought into what you write here, and make it something that sticks in the memory. Talk about the book club you run, the charity you donate time to, or the sports club you participate in, and make sure that they remember you for something.
This is a section of the CV often overlooked and written off as unimportant, but really it is a great chance to make yourself stand out. Honestly with the hundreds of CV’s we deal with in any given week I would struggle to tell you which CV I saw weeks ago with a dozen A*’s, or which candidate it was from 2 months ago who got the 2:1 at University, but if you were to ask which of our candidates was a national badminton champion, or which one raised £5,000 for charity by climbing Kilimanjaro then they are the ones which stick in my memory and I remember 3 months on from their application.
In conclusion there are a lot of tips to keep in mind, I’m sure if you googled the question “How do I write a CV?” you would get hundreds of articles and thousands of pointers like this, but really there are only a few things to remember;
Keep it short and to the point. Don’t necessarily buy into this 1-page CV going around online, but try and keep yours to 3 pages or less.
Include everything. Every position, all the dates, anything that you think is worth putting on there and letting a recruiter know.
Be contactable. Use a current mobile number and email address, and be sure to check your voicemail and email regularly for any updates.
If you follow these key points, then it should help you to put together a CV that will read well and get across your experience and skills to the reader. It’s often stated that a hiring manager won’t give the average CV much more than a scan over, or that you will be lucky if they spend a minute reading it, so if that is to be believed then a clear and easy to understand CV could be the difference between being passed over into the junk folder, and making it onto the shortlist for your dream job.