Having a good CV is a vital part of applying for a job. A CV is a short written document that summarises your experience, skills and qualities that are relevant to the job you are applying for. They are used as the first stage of a job application, so it is important to promote yourself well. If your CV is good enough, then you may be offered an interview. This short guide will take you through some of the dos and don’ts of writing a CV.
In most cases, you are going to want to tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. You need to thoroughly read the job advert so you know exactly what the employer is looking for. If you understand what the employer is looking for, then you can think about how your experiences and skills would make you a more suitable candidate. Also, if you know what the employer is looking for, you can gather all of the relevant information. This can include your qualifications, your work history, reference details for past employers and skills that are relevant to the role.
There are a few different layouts for CVs, and the one you use is completely up to you. Ultimately though, it’s best to use a layout that suits the role you are applying for and where you are in your career.
A traditional CV is the most common type, and lists your education and previous work experience in chronological order.
A skills based focuses on skills related to the job you are applying for, as well as personal qualities that would be of use.
Technical CVs and generally used for specific industries such as IT and engineering. This type of CV focuses on the skills that are important for that specific industry.
Creative CVs are generally used for artistic industries, such as graphic design, architecture or other digital arts. Alongside a smaller written CV, they often link to a portfolio of previous work, videos or infographics to help you stand out.
An academic CV is normally longer than a traditional one, listing all of your academic achievements and qualifications. These are used for teaching or researching roles.
In most cases, your CV should not be longer than 2 sides of A4. The exception to this is with an academic CV, which can be as long as you need it to be.
What to include in your CV
The first thing you will need to include is your contact details. This will be your name, number, email address. You can also provide links to your professional accounts such as LinkedIn, or any websites you are the site manager of.
You do not need to include information such as your age and date of birth, marital status or your nationality unless you feel it will make you a more attractive choice for the role.
This is your moment to shine or sell yourself in just a few words – make it count and try to get inside the head of the potential employer to understand what they want.
Write a short paragraph describing you, and what you’re hoping to do in the future. It is also important to tailor this section for the job you are applying for. You have to make sure you sound like the right person for the job, as often employers won’t look past this section. This includes you skills but also mapping your personality to the job. If you claim to be a natural leader and organiser with lots of ambition, you may not be offered that administration job in a large company because the employer might suspect you wont stay for long. If the employer is a small growing business you might be just what they are looking for as long as you make it clear you are happy and effective doing administration too.
If you don’t have much work experience, or have just come out of college or university, you can add this section next. You should clearly state the names of your qualifications, the name of the institution you got the qualifications from, and the grade you received. You should also include the dates you attended the institution for.
In this section, you should include all work experience you have. This can include volunteering, internships and paid work. You should write out this section with the most recent job first, working your way back chronologically. When you are writing, make sure you include the employer’s name, your job title, how long you worked there, and what your duties actually were. Remember, you are also using this section to sell yourself as a worker. So, use active words such as “created”, “managed” and “organised”.
Use the STAR method to give positive examples of your experiences, and to paint yourself in a positive light.
STAR is a method of giving examples of previous experience you may have.
S – situation. This is the situation you had to deal with.
T – task. This is the task you were given, or the aim.
A – action. This is the action you took.
R – result. This is the outcome of the action you took. This will include what you learned from the experience as well as how it affected the business.
By using STAR you can plan ahead and have specific examples of how you affected a business.
Filling the gaps
If you have gaps in your CV, a skill based CV might be more useful for you. This would allow you to list the skills you developed in those periods you were out of work, and how you developed them.
If you are not sure about how to fill a gap in your CV, there are organisations that could help depending on your situation.
If you have been affected by mental illness – Rethink
For those who are going back to work after caring – CarersUK
After your work experience, you should have a section that briefly goes over relevant hobbies you may have. Ideally, it would be a hobby or interest that directly relates to the job. For example, if you’re applying for a video editor job, then an interest in editing videos for your own channel would work. If you don’t have any directly related interests, then interests that show transferable skills or desirable attributes would work too.
At this point, you don’t need to include references. Your CV doesn’t need to include them. But, if you are successful with the rest of your CV, then the employer will more than likely ask for the references.
Tips for your CV
First of all, you need to keep your CV concise. If you start waffling for pages, not only are you wasting space, but you will very quickly bore the employer. You also want to ideally keep the CV at 2 pages of A4 or under.
You also need to make sure you don’t overload the page with words. Use bullet points, headers and paragraphs to break up your CV. This will make it easier to read and understand. It also helps to use easy to read fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial, and keep font size at 11 or bigger.
Researching the company you are applying for will also help greatly. It will allow you to tailor the CV to whatever the company is looking for. Also make sure you know what skills and qualifications you would need for the job. If you don’t have the required qualifications, explain how your skills and experience will make up for it.
Finally ask people around you to check through the CV. They can make sure it reads well, has no spelling or grammatical errors, and give advice for changes. It can be very difficult to evaluate yourself, so this outside opinion can be invaluable.
Writing a perfect CV is never easy. More often than not you will go through multiple drafts to get the best CV. But, if you really want the job, this is work that has to be done. Taking shortcuts may seem easier, but is not the best way to find a job.
There are lots of services that offer the check CVs, and offer advice on how to write the best one. Have a look around, ask for help and check against templates of good examples online.
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