Your CV is a very important document; with it rest your hopes and dreams for the future - that next step up the career ladder, a better position, more money, new challenges, etc. Your CV therefore has to represent the best you have to offer if you do not want to miss out on that job you saw which was 'perfect' for you.
These days employers often receive a lot of CVs for each advertised position - jobs advertised in national papers can often attract hundreds of applicants. So your CV has to be just that little bit special to stand out if you want to obtain interviews. The good news (for you) is that most people do not know how to write a CV and only spend a short time preparing a CV. Writing professional CVs is a skill, which these people have not learnt.
Of course your CV can continue to work in your favour even after it has obtained an interview for you. It can help you at an interview by carefully focusing the interviewer's mind on your good points and on your achievements. Once you have left the interview it will continue to work in your favour as the interviewer will probably reread it before making a decision, either on who should be invited to the second interview stage or who the job should be offered to.
When it comes to salary negotiations a well written CV can help. If your CV conveys your full worth you are likely to get a higher salary offer than you might have done with a poorer CV. So do not skimp on the time you spend on writing a CV as it will probably be a false economy.
What information will you need?
You should gather together all of the information required below. You will probably not use all of this information in your CV but it will provide you with useful reference material when it comes to preparing for interviews.
Your full name, address, home telephone number and mobile phone number. You don't need to include date of birth or marital status. You may want to include nationality if you are applying for jobs abroad or if you are a British/EU national and your name does not sound like other names in the country you are applying to work in. Do you have a full driving licence? Is it clean?
Education / Qualifications
List your qualifications and education history, for example:
- BSc (Hons) 2.2 in Biochemistry at the University of Warwick, 1980 - 1983.
- GCE A Levels: Maths [C], Biology [B], Chemistry [C] at Farnham School, 1978 - 1980.
- GCE O Levels (or GCSEs if you did them): Maths [B], English Language [C], History [C], Geography [C], French [C], Chemistry [C], Biology [C] at Farnham School, 1973 - 1978.
If you have a degree you probably will not need to list all your O Levels/GCSEs; just listing the number is probably sufficient.
List your professional qualifications, membership of professional associations and professional ID numbers.
If you recently completed a college or university degree or HND or Diploma, etc, then you may want to list the courses you studied if the subject you studied was relevant to your target job.
List any work related training courses which you attended, including company courses and any you attended on your own initiative. If you obtained a qualification on any course please list it. You only need to list the important courses you attended; no one really cares if you went on a time management course as everyone gets sent on these courses!
If you have been working for a number of years you probably do not need to include any part-time jobs, vacation jobs, voluntary work or unpaid work experience. Charity work could be included in your interests. However you might want to include these jobs if they covered a period of unemployment, or a time when you were not working for any other reason, or you feel that some of the experience you gained will be useful in your next job. You should normally concentrate on your two most recent jobs (unless you were only there for a short time), because employers are usually most interested in these.
Start with your most recent or last job and work backwards. For each position (treat internal promotion as a new job and record the dates separately) list your job title (e.g. Manager, Supervisor, etc), the job title of the person you reported to (e.g. Director, Manager, etc) and when you started and finished in each job. Give the name of the company and include a brief description of the service they provide (using the terms they would use to describe themselves). Set out your main responsibilities, achievements, duties, and skills that could be transferred to another employer. Be specific and positive about your skills, e.g. 'good written skills' may be a better description of your abilities rather than 'good communication skills'.
Include your level of responsibility if any, e.g. 'responsibility for departmental budget of Â£100K and managed 10 staff'. In particular list any achievements you had in each position, including increases in sales/productivity and cost savings made. Quantify your achievements if possible. 'Increased sales by Â£100K' is more interesting and positive than just saying 'Increased sales'. You should try to include some achievements such as meeting deadlines, budgets, etc, and any information that may be relevant to your next job.
When you are listing your achievements in this section, only list 3 to 6 of your most important work achievements; your other achievements can be described under the work experience section. You should only list achievements which are relevant to your next job and indicate how you achieved them.
This section is very important as an employer will only invite you for an interview if they can see a benefit in doing so. Your achievements may sell you to an employer and make them choose you for an interview rather than someone else. For this reason it is vital that you think carefully about your achievements.
List any computer skills you have, including the make and type of equipment you are familiar with, the software and operating system used, e.g. IBM compatible PC, Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Office 97.
If you have foreign language skills which may be relevant for any jobs which you are applying for, please list them and indicate whether your skills are spoken, written, business or technical. Please also indicate your level of fluency: fluent, good working knowledge, etc. You should only list these skills if they are relevant to the jobs you are applying for as no one really wants to hear about a French language course you did at school a long time ago.
If relevant to your next job please include your typing or shorthand speeds.
Interests / Hobbies
List your interests, hobbies and any sports you play. List any positions of responsibility you hold or have held in any club or organisation, and say what your responsibilities and achievements were.
You do not normally need to list referees on a CV, but it is a good idea to think about whom you could ask now. For some professions however it is normal to list referees; these include the teaching and health service (NHS) professions - your referees in these professions are often asked to provide you with a reference before you are even asked to an interview.
List your major skills, strengths, personal qualities and achievements. Be specific, e.g. good team player, excellent written skills, versatile, able to motivate others, etc. Look at your staff appraisals or at your references.
Why are CV's rejected?
First impressions matter; if your CV does not attract the reader's attention in the first 20-30 seconds then your chances of obtaining an interview are greatly reduced. An employer may have a hundred or more CVs to look through and probably only a couple of hours in which to make their selection. So put your work experience at the start of your CV, not personal or educational details, unless you have only just left education.
What an employer really wants to know is why they should invite you for an interview. For this reason a short summary of your capabilities and/or a list of your major achievements can often be a good idea. This should make an employer want to invite you for an interview - but please be careful that you do not oversell yourself.
Poor Visual Layout
The visual layout of your CV is very important. Even though the wording you use may be correct, if people cannot find the information they want quickly they will move on to someone else's CV. You should use plenty of 'white' space in your CV and appropriate headings and section breaks.
Always use a word-processor/DTP package. Never use a typewriter as you will look old fashioned and out of date. Use good quality A4 paper, preferably 100gram for both your CV and cover letter.
Length of CV
It is usually best to try and keep your CV to two pages of A4, unless someone specifically asks you for a longer CV. If you cannot keep your CV to this length then you probably have not understood an employer's requirements. Employers do not want to know your whole life history - just enough to decide whether they should interview you or not.
Organising the information on your CV
If your CV is not well organised then the reader will find it hard to follow and will not be able to build up a picture of you quickly. Remember the reader will not spend very long looking at your CV - so if they cannot find what they want they will not bother to read any further.
Overwritten - long paragraphs and sentences
This makes it difficult to read quickly - try and keep your sentences short and punchy and use bullet points to break up the text under section headings.
Too little Information
A lot of people do not include enough details about their previous jobs and experience and an employer therefore does not have enough information - they will therefore have to reject your application.
Not results orientated
You need to shout about your achievements. Please remember that your CV is your sales document to an employer. If it does not tell an employer why they should employ you then it has failed. An employer will only want to employ you if they can see a benefit in it for themselves. So do tell them the benefits of employing you.
CV makes you look too young/old for the job
In general being too young/old can be a real problem and a barrier to future advancement, or even to getting a job in the first place. There are a number of ways round this problem - but this depends very much on your individual circumstances and the industry/job you are applying for. There are further hints and tips throughout this website to help you.
Mis-spellings, typographical errors, poor grammar
Your CV should be carefully checked for such errors before you send it out to employers. Tiny errors in your CV can detract from an otherwise good CV and make you look lazy or careless - not the sort of qualities you want to portray to an employer. As you will probably be 'blind' to these errors you should get someone else to check your CV for grammar and spelling errors.
General CV tips
- These days you can write your CV in the first person (i.e. I have) or the third person (i.e. he/she has). However, you do not need to use 'I', 'he' or 'she' in a CV because its use is implied.
- Do mention things you are good at, but do not go over the top. You can oversell yourself.
- Don't mention things that you are bad at or say negative things about yourself in your CV.
- Make sure that the CV you write conjures up the right image of you and your skills, capabilities and achievements. If you do not match the picture you have painted with your CV at the interview, then your application will not be taken further.
- Be careful when you use abbreviations - they can be misunderstood.
- If you are not happy with your CV or you only seem to get rejection letters then please get a professional CV writing service to write it for you. Yes, you will have to pay for it. But, it could save you a lot of time, lead to you getting less rejection letters and hopefully you should get an interview that much quicker.