To some, writing a CV is a simple task and they convey their skills and employment history easily and succinctly however for those who have not required a CV for several years, the task can be a daunting one and you often just don’t know where to start. As a Resourcer, I see countless CVs that are over complicated, unclear and they just do not work. The key to a successful CV in my opinion is just KEEP IT SIMPLE! Yes, I am probably stating the obvious, but it is so easy to overcomplicate something that needs to attract attention quickly and encourage a recruiter or employer to want to pick up the phone and speak to you about their opportunity.
Recruiters are not always very forthcoming about CV feedback and I think this is wrong. Do not mistake a recruiter for a CV writing service however you should always be able to ask for constructive criticism in order to improve your existing document. Hopefully this quick and simple guide will help you with the basics.
1. The two page myth
I want to address this immediately as I speak to so many candidates who have been told that a CV cannot exceed two pages long. Not only does this encourage a lack of important information, it can also result in awkward formats or extremely small font which is never appreciated and is completely unnecessary. There is no set limit for how long or short your CV should be – the only thing you need to make sure is that you include as much appropriate information as required as long as everything is RELEVANT! I am not encouraging a CV that goes on for reams and reams but don’t miss off something that could be relevant to the role you are applying for just because it will push onto another page.
Your CV does not have to look pretty! It is a well known fact that recruiters spend on average 6 seconds to look at a CV – you need to have a clear, precise layout that is easy to understand. Use a standard black font such as Calibri or Times New Roman at a readable size.
If you are in a creative profession, then you may like to use a more artistic layout however it must remain clear and simple to read. Pie charts or graphs attempting to outline your skills, fancy font or text colours are unnecessary and 90% of the time does not add anything beneficial. It may be more appropriate to submit an example of your creative work alongside your CV to demonstrate your abilities.
This is an opportunity to outline your key personality traits, summarise your skills, experience and what you are looking for moving forward. Unless you have a very specific idea of what type of role you would like, try not to be too precise in this as your CV may be discounted for an opportunity before you have been invited to have a conversation about the role. You may find it helpful to include details if you are looking for part time hours or exclusively permanent roles however you must ensure that this is keep up to date and edited as necessary.
This section of your CV shouldn’t be huge but it is vital. Use this space to explore what you feel are your key strengths and where you excel in your roles. These skills can be easier to form if you think of your main achievements and give specific examples of where you have been able to implement change, save costs or won a business award. Try to be as specific as possible, don’t be afraid to include stats and figures and this will ensure you are not too vague or generic (we can all be good communicators and work well in a team) and won’t be repeating what is to come in your employment history.
We are no longer in the days where it is advised to print off your CV and canvass around your local businesses, so we need to understand how online recruitment works and how to adapt your CV to ensure it works for you. All job boards now use SEO not only to match relevant jobs to you, but also match your CV to recruiters and employers searching for certain skills. To ensure your CV works harder, you need to ensure that you are including as many key words as possible and this will guarantee that your CV will appear higher in the search results. Include any software packages you have used along with any relevant industry terminology eg. ISO 9001, 5s etc.
It is important to include as much information about your education history as possible however it is again important to focus on the most relevant to your current career. If you work within an industry where you have completed a range of training courses keep this separate to your school/university education. As with your employment history, your education should be listed with the most recent first and if this section is looking long, don’t worry about including every single GCSE or O Level that you completed, a summary is just fine and an employer can ask you to expand if required.
6. Employment History
In terms of format it is vital that your employment history is clear and concise. For each role you have held you should include your dates of employment, employer name and job title followed by a brief list of your duties and responsibilities. If you have had several different roles in your employment history, spend more time explaining your most recent employment and do not concern yourself too much with what you did in your early career. If you held a customer service role whilst at University, be sure to include this on your CV but do not expand with any bullet points, chances are it won’t be relevant to what you are doing now and an employer can ask for you to expand at interview if required.
If you have held contract roles, stipulate this alongside your job title for that role, for example Management Accountant (Fixed Term Contract 6 months). Employers tend to presume that all roles are permanent unless stated otherwise so your CV can immediately look jumpy if you do not make it clear that it was a short term role.
7. Additional Information
This is an opportunity for you to include any additional information that employers may find interesting about you. Keep it brief but your personality is just as important as your employment history so try to give an insight into what you enjoy in your spare time. Any positions of responsibility outside of work such as being a treasurer for your local rugby club, committing to a sports team or volunteering to a local charity can be really insightful.
Remember to update your CV regularly, an out of date CV on job boards or used to make an application can very quickly see you miss out on the perfect opportunity.
Please find a basic CV template here which may help you begin your quest to find a new role…Good Luck!
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