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Guide to writing a CV, to get an interview that will get you the job!

Posted on | Posted in Candidate Resources

What is it used for?

A CV provides an overview of your working life so far. However, it doesn’t need to be restricted to just your working life. If you have achievements or interests outside of work that may have a bearing on your application – write about them. Now is not the time to hide your light under a bush!

It can replace an application form – HOWEVER do not fall into the trap of sending a CV if the advert states you need to fill in an application form. ALWAYS follow the employer’s recruitment process. Initiative can work sometimes, but more often than not, your application will get filed in the round filing cabinet under the desk.

CVs get you the interview. That’s when you can really sell yourself. This is your shop window, use it to attract people, not bore them to death.
Never think, “Oh I’ll dig out my old CV” ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS – re- read, re-write and review your CV for EVERY application.

Components

What do you need to include?

Believe me, we’re not being sarcastic when we say you MUST put your name on! Include contact details including email addresses. Ah! Email addresses – get a simple email address – not misshotpants1973@email.co.uk . You want to be remembered for the RIGHT reasons.

If you have Facebook or twitter links that may be of interest, why not include them. Employers will be checking up on you. Taking on new members of staff is a very risky business; they will do all they can to find out about you. If you have a family Facebook page and feel there may be stuff on there you don’t want work colleagues to see – set your privacy settings appropriately.

A linked in profile will add kudos to your application, potential employers will be able to see how you interact on a professional level with your peers. Always change the string to read as your name though. A list of number and characters can put people off clicking through.

As for other personal information, you don’t need to put your date of birth or NI number. These could lead to discrimination. We’re all human – even employers. Wow them, don’t allow them to judge you before hand.

Personal profile

Write three to four sentences about you, not your qualifications, not your experience – YOU. Ask friends and family how they see you; Use old reports or appraisals; talk about your strengths and characteristics. Use 3rd or 1st person but at all costs avoid I,I,I.

Education

You can put dates of attending school etc., but be aware that again, this could lead to discrimination. Only put your secondary education down if it’s relevant. Experience WILL count. Show any college, university, night school, in house training courses . If you’re someone that just loves learning, instead of three pages of courses, list the relevant ones.

Grades – now, although the education system says you cannot fail a GCSE, employers really aren’t interested ins Ds and below, I’m afraid. However, if you have completed a course and just flunked the exam, be honest – say you completed the course. In more cases than not, it’s the content of the course the employer is interested in.

Achievements

Sky diving for charity, Sunday league football captain, Scout leader, Country Craft best in show winner – they can all play their part in getting you that job! Obviously, work based achievements are excellent, especially where targets are concerned, but don’t neglect to show what you achieve outside of work too. It’s evidence to back up that you are a team player, great lone worker, leader etc.

Skills

It can often be beneficial to have this at the top of your CV, especially if you are looking for something different. Many skills can transfer into different jobs, but you will need to prove this to the employer. It may be worth highlighting this in a covering letter if the application allows you to attach one.

For instance, if they are asking for a high level of accuracy, explain how you have had to do this in a previous role. You may have worked on a production line and want to move into admin. Show how examining the product relates to checking documents and that you understand the impact of a mistake on a business. Make it relevant to them.

Work History

This is where you list your working life. The past 10 -15 years usually suffices, however if you are returning to a previous industry – make sure you show it.
Most importantly, the reader doesn’t know you. They cannot read between the lines. Explain things, don’t leave it to chance. Make sure they understand how your work background matches what they are looking for.

There are many ways you can lay this out. Find a style that is comfortable for you. Generally speaking, put your most recent role first and work backwards, explaining in a positive way any gaps. Don’t underestimate the power of voluntary work or family commitments. You can always list these as a job and show the skills you acquired whilst undertaking these tasks.

Do put dates against roles – month and year will suffice in most cases. Some employers use CV checking services where they will check every company you have worked for. Don’t lose out because you couldn’t be bothered to check your dates – REMEMBER, getting this job is important! It’s worth the effort.

However, if there is a particular role that is relevant to the one you are applying for – get it up at the top! Label it RELEVANT WORK HISTORY.
Try to avoid lengthy explanations of how you did a job. A mixture of bullet points and short, concise explanations is best. We cannot stress enough how important it is to match your past experience to the role you are applying for.

The reason computers use keyword searching is because our brains do the same thing. As an employer is reading a CV , they will be subconsciously looking for words and phrases they associate with this role. Make it easy for them and you’ll have an interview!

Interests/Hobbies

Why do they need to know what you do outside of work? Well, because you may show skills there they can use, it may back up that you really are a team player and more often than not, they are looking for someone they will like, who will fit their existing team. Many work practices can be taught, personality can’t.

This is an excellent area to re-iterate achievements. Often, something different here can make you stick in their memory. It can even strike a chord with the person who is interviewing you. If you have a Manchester United season ticket and the interviewer supports them – instant talking point. Or if you ran the London Marathon for a cancer charity and this has impacted on the interviewer’s life – again – talking point.

REMEMBER – you may end up spending more time with your new work colleagues than you do your family – make sure you can get along.

Pick ‘n’ Mix

There is no ultimate CV. You will never have a definitive CV. It’s like gardening, always a work in progress. However, you can build a “CV Wardrobe”. Save different versions of each component, re-build your CV for every application. Make sure it matches the role you are applying for. If you don’t mention that you have a particular skill or have done a particular job, they WILL NOT be able to guess it from the other information. Tell them – make it easy for them.

Presentation

It really depends on how you are sending your CV, so read the advert, how do they want to receive it. Initiative often works here, you can deliver by hand – but make sure it’s relevant to the industry again. Don’t hand deliver a beautifully crafted CV on Basildon bond paper to an IT company that prides itself on a paperless office!

If you are posting it, do think about the paper and make sure you get the postage right, they won’t thank you for having to pay to receive your application. In all cases think about the font; make it simple to read. Consider carefully the delivery method, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be remembered for the right reasons.

In a nutshell…
  • Work it! Use it!
  • Give ‘em the X factor
  • Adapt to different situations
  • Check and double check –don’t rely on spell check.
  • Understand it.
  • Make it personal, make it different.
  • Make it memorable!
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