Top 5 Tips for an Ideal CV
Here are my top 5 tips to help you put together a great CV. I was a headhunter for 5 years and you wouldn’t believe the CVs that I had to read! Short ones, long ones, badly laid out ones, miss-spelt ones, you name it, I saw it! The problem was, a bad CV meant I couldn’t easily work out if the person would be any good at the job for which they were applying, so guess what, I didn’t waste my time and I just moved onto the next CV.
Put these top tips into practice in your CV and I guarantee that you will see an improvement in the number of interviews you get!
Top Tip 1: Layout
Simply put, a good CV crisply and concisely articulates your skills and experiences in a way that proves to a prospective employer that you could do the job they are looking to fill. However, doing this is not always an easy task, especially because your CV is a promotional document, not just an information sheet.
It must grasp the reader's eye within 30 seconds, as this is usually all the time people give to reading a CV. Your CV should be relevant to the position for which you are applying, which means that ideally you will produce a new version of your CV for each job that you apply for.
Keep the layout simple, uncluttered and in an easy-to-read font, present the CV on plain white A4 paper and keep it to a maximum of 2 pages in length.
Ask someone to proof read your CV - it's amazing how spell-checkers can miss things, and please make sure your personal details are correct - it sound obvious but people do get things like telephone numbers wrong.
Finally, always tell the truth in the CV and be prepared to back up any statement you make on your CV with evidence. Aside from lying being unethical and possibly illegal, what’s the point stretching the truth on your CV, getting the job and then getting fired for having lied on your CV?
Top Tip 2: Your Personal Information
People frequently give far too much personal information away in their CV. You only need to give enough information for your prospective employer to make contact with you and to be sure that you are legally entitle to work in the UK. So, just include:
· Your name
· Nationality (if outside the EU, indicate your status to work in the UK)
· Contact information including your address, telephone number and email address. Please make sure your email address is a simple, professional sounding one as firstname.lastname@example.org really doesn’t make you out to be all that professional, and consider getting a separate email address just for job hunting.
Examples of information you
do not need to include are salary details (these can be included in a
covering letter if appropriate), referees (these will be requested if you get
offered a job), dependent children, marriage status, religion, hobbies and
other interests - none of which are relevant to you being able to do the job
for which you are applying.
Top Tip 3: Your Personal Positioning Statement
I’d like to introduce you
to a concept I call a Personal Positioning Statement (PPS).
In marketing terms, a positioning statement for a product or a brand is a concise articulation of the essential qualities of the product/brand and the target market for which it is designed. A personal positioning statement is an extension of this concept but applied to you and your job search.
To be successful in
creating a great CV that will get you the interview and hopefully the job, you
need to have a clear understanding of the skills and experiences that make you
stand out from the crowd (your “qualities”), as well as an understanding of how
you could put those skills to best use in the job/organisation of your dreams
(the “target market”) and you include all this information in your PPS at the
top of your CV.
Please don't confuse a PPS with the usual paragraph of text at the top of a CV that lots of people include, which contains unsubstantiated claims that they are a great person, brilliant communicator etc.
Your PPS should be brief and should contain the following information, which will then be expanded on in the rest of your CV:
1. An overview of your skills & experiences and what you're looking for . For example "I am a qualified Chartered Accountant looking for a role as a Finance Director in a high growth SME."
2. A description of your specific skills & experiences. For example "my specific experience includes 8 years’ Financial & Management accounting, Company Secretarial duties, Treasury, IT Management & Implementation and Facilities Management."
3. Additional specific information. For example "I have spent the past three years in a variety of Financial and IT roles in a high growth business in which I have managed and motivated teams of up to sixteen people to a high level of achievement. I also have the ability and desire to contribute and influence at board level and the capacity to participate in the leadership and strategic development of an organisation."
By taking the time to create a PPS, you will have developed a good understanding of the skills you have to offer a new employer - which will make your interview go much more successfully because the interviewer won't have to try to guess if you can do the job! In addition, you won’t be able to create a PPS unless you know exactly what job you're looking for, which means you will only be going for jobs you can and want to do!
Top Tip 4: Career History
In this section of your CV you should list jobs that you have had, starting from the most recent first and go backwards. Be as specific and detailed as possible to avoid any ambiguity or confusion to your potential new employers. Give the dates that you started and finished the role, the job title, the company for which you worked and give a short one-line description of the company’s activities and it’s website. Then give a 2 or 3 line description of the role that you undertook, using active sounding words such as managed, sold, created etc.
You now need to list your key achievements in that role, giving 5 specific examples of you doing your job where you have been successful. Include as much specific information as you can, for example amount of business generated, number of people managed, size and scope of projects undertaken. The more specific you can be, the more credible you will come across to your future employers.
Repeat this process for each job you've had, but gradually give less information for older roles. The reason for doing this is so that potential employers can not only see what jobs you’ve done in the past, but that you’ve been successful in them, and that you have developed the right transferable skills to be successful doing a new job in their organisation.
Top Tip 5: Education, training & qualifications
In this final section of your CV, list your education, training & qualifications in the order of most recent first. But remember, these are only relevant if they will allow you to do your job better, or if they are requested by the employer as essential or desirable to have. You can also briefly cover older, less relevant ones if you like.