Writing a CV or resume can seem a somewhat daunting task especially if you have just come out of education or you have been in a role for more than five years. Formatting a CV to show yourself in the best possible light for a particular job role can be a challenge and it’s easy to get it wrong if you do not take any advice on board.
The golden rule of writing a CV is keeping it succinct. It’s so tempting to delve into the particulars of your current role or the coursework you’ve just completed but a potential employer is only interested in a candidate’s abilities and whether they can carry out the job role at hand. Equally if you lack experience in a key area don’t be tempted to pad your CV with skills that you don’t actually have as this will become apparent at interview stage. Should you need extra experience why not volunteer your time to businesses to help get your foot in the door? This tends to show ambition and willing even if it is for a short period of unpaid time.
No matter what role you’re applying for, in whatever industry there are key elements that every CV should include. Resist the urge to add design flourishes to your CV such as elaborate borders, hard to read fonts or lots of different colours. Whilst you want your CV to stand out above others it should only do so because it is simple to read and the pertinent information is neatly laid out.
The CV structure we have outlined below is based on what we have found to be most successful for our candidates. You can also download our template for a quick solution but we would always suggest you take time and effort preparing your CV as this is the first impression for any hiring client.
This should be a short summary of your skills, experience and general persona. This opening paragraph should be contained within four to six lines of text only. Include the top line attributes that will be of interest to your next employer, this should be adapted dependent on the specification of the job vacancy.
Bullet point approximately five key achievements which you feel really showcase your abilities and where your skill set was put to good use. Start with the most relevant points that match the job specification and include any others that might highlight your diversity or work ethic.
This should always be in reverse chronological order starting with your most recent job. No employer needs to know what Saturday job you did back when you were 16 years old! You only need to include the year you started and the year you finished each job role. You do not need to include the month or day, e.g. put '1998 - 2005' rather than '1.7.1998 - 1.1.2005'.
If you have had various jobs early on in your career you might want to think about grouping some of these together, e.g. '1970 - 1980' junior engineering positions. If your job title does not reflect what you actually did, or it sounds a bit obscure, consider changing it.
When you are describing your experience for each position you should start with the most relevant aspects to the job role you are applying for. If you have a lot of points to put under one specific job you may want to break this description into two or more sections. You could break up this section into responsibilities and achievements or you could break it up into specific functions, e.g. management, technical skills; the choice is yours.
If you have had a number of positions within one company you may not want to include the responsibilities for every individual job role. Simply include the start and year you finished for this employer along with a list of the roles you fulfilled.
If the job you are applying for is completely unrelated to your experience you may be better off using a Functional or Targeted CV format.
Only list the most important qualifications and the most relevant memberships you have acheived. If you are a post graduate you do not really need to list your A Levels/GCSEs, just indicate the number of grades you have achieved. In light of candidates who have recently completed a degree or training and as yet have minimal work experience, it might be with putting this section before work history. You could even mention your recent qualifications in your profile or cover letter so the hiring client is aware of your status.
The only personal details that should ever been included in a CV are your email address, contact telephone number and whether you hold a clean, valid driving licence. Omit your date of birth, address or marital status as these are unnecessary and should be irrelevant to any role you are applying for.
This section should be kept fairly short but it is important none the less. This is your opportunity to give your potential future employer an idea of what you like to do in your spare time and ultimately give them an overview of your personality. This will help to decide whether you will fit in with the company culture.