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CV building tips

Curriculum Vitae (A.K.A résumé.)

An outline of a person’s educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications. 

A CV conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light to your recruiter. A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to “sell” your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. It can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area. 

be mindful of
  • Selecting an appropriate font, size, colour and alignment. 
  • Using a spell checker. 
  • Reading through your CV carefully prior to submission.
  • Mentioning volunteer/charity work.
  • Saving different file types of your CV EG Word, PDF, etc. 
  • Beginning with a well designed CV template.
what makes a good cv?
There is no single “correct” way to write and present a CV but the following general rules may apply:

  • It is targeted on the specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer.
  • It is carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped.
  • It is informative but concise.
  • It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar. If you mention attention to detail as a skill, make sure your spelling and grammar is perfect!
most important aspects
  • Previous related work experience
  • Qualifications & skills
  • Easy to read
  • Interests and accomplishments
  • Spelling & grammar
  • Education 
  • Clear objective
  • Contact information
  • Personal experiences
  • Computer skills
when a cv should be used
  • When an employer asks for applications to be received in this format.
  • When an employer simply states “apply to …” without specifying the format.
  • When making speculative applications (when writing to an employer who has not advertised a vacancy but who you hope may have one).
tips on presentation
  • Your CV should be carefully and clearly laid out – not too cramped but not with large empty spaces either. Use bold and italic typefaces for headings and important information.
  • Never back a CV – each page should be on a separate sheet of paper. It’s a good idea to put your name in the footer area so that it appears on each sheet.
  • Be concise: a CV is an appetiser and should not give the reader indigestion. Don’t feel that you have to list every exam you have ever taken, or every activity you have ever been involved in – consider which are the most relevant and/or impressive. The best CVs tend to be fairly economical with words, selecting the most important information and leaving a little something for the interview: they are an appetiser rather than the main course. Good business communications tend to be short and to the point, focusing on key facts and your CV should to some extent emulate this. The longer and more dense your CV is, the harder it is for an employer to comprehend your achievements. 
  • Be positive and highlight your strong points. For example, when listing your A-levels, put your highest grade first.
  • Be honest: although a CV does allow you to omit details (such as exam resits) which you would prefer the employer not to know about, you should never give inaccurate or misleading information. CVs are not legal documents and you can’t be held liable for anything within, but if a recruiter picks up a suggestion of falsehoods you will be rapidly rejected. An application form which you have signed to confirm that the contents are true is however a legal document and forms part of your contract of employment if you are recruited.
  • The sweet spot of a CV is the area selectors tend to pay most attention to: this is typically around the upper middle of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information.
  • If you are posting your CV, don’t fold it – put it in a full-size A4 envelope so that it doesn’t arrive creased.
interests and achievements
  • Keep this section short and to the point. 
  • Bullets can be used to separate interests into different types: sporting, creative etc.
  • Don’t put many passive, solitary hobbies (reading, watching TV, stamp collecting) or you may be perceived as lacking people skills. If you do put these, then say what you read or watch: “I particularly enjoy Dickens, for the vivid insights you get into life in Victorian times”.
  • Show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow : EG if everything centres around sport they may wonder if you could hold a conversation with a client who wasn’t interested in sport.
  • Hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary can help you to stand out from the crowd: skydiving or mountaineering can show a sense of wanting to stretch yourself and an ability to rely on yourself in demanding situations.
  • Any interests relevant to the job are worth mentioning: current affairs if you wish to be a journalist, etc.
  • Any evidence of leadership is important to mention: captain or coach of a sports team, course representative, chair of a student society, scout leader: “As captain of the school cricket team, I had to set a positive example, motivate and coach players and think on my feet when making bowling and field position changes, often in tense situations”
  • Anything showing evidence of employability skills such as team working, organising, planning, persuading, negotiating etc.
personl details

Normally these would be your name, address, date of birth (although with age discrimination laws now in force this isn’t essential), telephone number and email.

British CVs don’t usually include a photograph unless you are an actor. In European countries such as France, Belgium and Germany it’s common for CVs to include a passport-sized photograph in the top right-hand corner whereas in the UK and the USA photographs are frowned upon as this may contravene equal opportunity legislation – a photograph makes it easier to reject a candidate on grounds of ethnicity, sex or age. If you do include a photograph it should be a head and shoulders shot, you should be dressed suitably and smiling: it’s not for a passport!