Your single most important marketing tool is your CV and its primary purpose is to secure you an interview. It is vital, therefore, that it should list your best selling points in the most accessible and logical way as possible. It is highly likely that your CV will be one of many, possibly hundreds, that a recruiter or consultant has to read through in an extremely short space of time, perhaps for only a mere 30 seconds.
Your CV has to be well presented and clearly structured, with the most relevant information on the first page (if not a single paged CV) and very easy to read through.
Emphasize your skills
The perfect CV should direct the reader’s focus to the qualification criteria they are looking for and the key points that differentiate you from any other applicants. And that is way it may be ideal to write several different CVs in case you’re applying for several positions in several industries. As well as the obvious need to ensure that all spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct, the overall layout and format of each section should be such that it enables the information contained to be easily accessed and quickly interpreted.
One final point to remember is that your CV is likely to form the framework for any interview and you can expect to be asked to justify or defend any statements made in your application. For that reason, it is extremely important that you feel comfortable with your CV and ensure that its contents are both honest and accurate. You should always try to present any information in a positive way, but be careful to avoid exaggeration or any fabrication.
Structure and content
Since a recruiter will look at the beginning first, you should make sure the most relevant information is at the beginning of the first page. It is crucial that you think carefully about what the qualification criteria and how closely you can match yourself to these.
As an (under)graduate your education is likely to be your strongest selling point and therefore it is this that should come first. If, for whatever reason, you feel your professional experience is more relevant and impressive, then you may wish to put this ahead of your academic details.
All good CVs are simple, succinct and logically structured to enable any reader to find the information they require within seconds. Sentences need to be short, factual and to the point using ‘power’ words and keeping others such as ‘and’, ‘the’, ‘I’ and ‘we’ to a minimum. One method is to do several drafts, each time going through to make sure every phrase earns its place and deleting as many words as possible without changing a sentence’s overall meaning.
Identify key competencies/skills that the employer is looking for. Problem solving is very important in all career areas. Define your problem solving skills, relating them, as far as possible, to your job target. With this in mind, prepare lists of your skills and achievements.
The most common contents include:
• Personal Details: Name, Date of Birth, Contact Details, Nationality – Work Permit if relevant)
• Education and Qualifications: (Degree back to GCSEs): The full title of your degree and university and any significant exam results should suffice, although any modules or projects of particular relevance to the application could be included.
• Secondary School and A/AS Level subjects and grades. GCSEs – subjects and grades, though if pushed for space, just mention Maths & English, plus any relevant subjects
• For people looking for careers in technology, it is usual to include a comprehensive and clear summary of the IT applications and systems you have worked with. Avoid long lists of technologies you may have come across, however, and only mention those you have significant experience in. If you know the employer is after a particular skill then mention it and how much experience, but be honest!
• Work Experience/Responsibilities
Identify the qualities being sought and think about the skills you needed for, and gained from, your previous experiences. These can be professional, technical and personal, but it is important that they are relevant and detailed in short, bullet-pointed statements. Back everything up with quantifiable facts, such as size of budgets and teams managed and results achieved, to make your skills tangible.
Think carefully about which examples you include in this section, as employers may deduce a lot from your choice about your motivations and what you regard as important. Employers are only interested in your most recent achievements, so don’t mention something you did at primary school! If an employer reads about something you did seven years ago, they might wonder why you haven’t done anything more impressive since then.
• Extra-Curricular Activities
This section on hobbies and interests not previously covered should be kept short (3-4 lines), such as membership of and positions of responsibility in sports teams, drama societies, etc. Any information should have a purpose, ideally showing skills relevant to the role and saying something of interest about yourself.
• Relevant Skills & Interests
Driving licence details, courses attended, foreign languages and IT (include level of proficiency).
Unless requested, references shouldn’t be given at the initial application stage and a simple “references available on request” should make it.
• Design & presentation
There is no one absolute CV structure, as CVs with certain biases will suit particular formats – the CVs of a recent graduate and a professional with several years experience will be necessarily different. There is also the simple matter of the personal tastes of both the applicant and the recruiter. The basic rule to always bear in mind is substance before style. However attractive your CV may look, it will be your selling points that set you apart and get you an interview request, not the way in which they are presented. Also make your research, as some countries require specific CV templates (like the European Union template). In the UK, however, this template should not be used.