Your assets: Let’s talk about a knock ‘em dead CV
How to Make the Most of Your Assets: Let’s talk about a knock ‘em dead CV
New Year's day is now a distant memory. We’ve made, and likely broken most of our resolutions to improve our lives. But there are a few that remain realistic: change our jobs, and advance our careers. So are you CV-ready? We all know in our hearts that we should always have an up to the minute, attention-grabbing, go-getting CV, just waiting for a few little tweaks to land us the job of our dreams. Now is the ideal time of year to think about where you are heading and pull together a document that really sells your current skills so that you can improve your salary, job satisfaction and experience by taking the next step on the career ladder. With the long, dark nights, what else are you going to do?
A CV is a very personal thing. It’s your chance to show a prospective employer who you are, what you can do and why they absolutely have to meet and speak to you before making a decision about their vacancy. Having said all that, there are a few basic ground rules which will help you to make your CV punchy and readable, so that at least anyone reviewing it will read it to the end! Whether you’re building a new CV from scratch or updating your current one, it’s worth bearing the following points in mind:
Getting started can be the hardest part. Consider using a good template that you find inspiring. Don’t pay for it – there are plenty of excellent examples available free on the internet; here for example: HERE
Keep it short – remember that you are trying to interest someone who may have dozens of CVs to review, so make sure key information is readily available. Try to keep your document down to a couple of easily-navigable pages. If you really have so much relevant experience that this is impossible, summarise your skills on the front page and include the details later. That way, the recruiter has an opportunity to look for more information if they need to, without having to plough through loads of irrelevant stuff first.
Know your audience. Pumping out a generic, one-size-fits-all CV may be easy, but it’s not going to make you stand out from the crowd. Ideally, of course, every CV should be tailored to a particular vacancy, using the terms and language shown in the job advert and pointing out how brilliantly your skills match those being looked for. This isn’t always possible and you may miss your ideal opportunity because the agency advertising the job (Us!) doesn’t know anything about you. So, look at the industry you want to work in or the skills you want to showcase and use, where possible, terms and language particular to that sector.
Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is a temptation, of course there is, to exaggerate or even invent skills and experience. Don’t fall into this trap! If you are not found out at interview, chances are the truth will come to light when your references are checked. In any case, it’s illegal and do you really want a job you can’t do?
Mind the Gap. Most of us, at some time or other, have found ourselves ‘between jobs’, often for quite legitimate reasons. However, be warned, there is nothing a prospective employer hates more than unexplained gaps. Try to fill any of these with something positive that you did at the time, whether it’s travelling, volunteering or re-training (internet courses count too!).
Check, re-check and check again. Don’t give a reviewer the opportunity to throw your CV on the reject pile. Check the spelling and grammar carefully (a spell-checker is helpful, but won’t pick up every error and can’t identify correctly-spelled words that are incorrectly used. Then get someone else to check it for you.
Some headings to get you started:
Whilst you should include your name, address and contact details, it’s your call in terms of age, marital status or nationality.
If you have an advert in front of you, describe in a few sentences how your skills and experience make you the person they are looking for. If not, summarise your personal and business experience briefly to identify your strengths and illustrate how you could add value to their team. Beware flowery language and grandiose claims, however – stick to the facts.
Skills & Experience:
This is the summary mentioned earlier. Chances are the role you are applying/looking for utilises a similar skillset to your own. List these logically and in order of importance/expertise so that the prospective employer can find them easily.
Education & Training:
Include any on the job or less formal training, particularly if this is relevant to the job. In terms of education, start with your highest and most recent qualifications and work backwards.
If you are applying for a role for which you have no previous experience, highlight specific instances when you have shown the required skills in your previous positions. List all the jobs you’ve had starting with the most recent and working backwards.
Hobbies & Interests:
Less is more. Try to include only those pastimes that demonstrate the sort of person you are and how that matches the ideal candidate (some research might be in order here).
CV Pitfalls – avoid!
Spelling & Grammar Errors:
These have been mentioned before – because they’re so important to avoid. At the very least, you will appear to lack care if any remain. In particular, make sure your e-mail address and phone number are correct!
Use bullet points rather than flowery sentences where possible – help the reviewer – they want to know your suitability for their vacancy, not the story of your life.
instead of just reeling off a lengthy job description, show where you have personally made a difference, be it in completing a project, saving time or money, or increasing sales. Include actual numbers if possible.
Phrases like ‘good communicator’, ‘works well as part of a team’, ‘hard-working’ are meaningless unless they are evidenced. Instead, try something like, for example, ‘I used my communication skills to build and maintain an excellent rapport with the customer’.