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Preparing your CV
Until your interview, you are only as good as your paperwork and perhaps your telephone manner. This makes your CV and covering letter crucial. They are essential tools in most job searches. Like any marketing document, a CV should help you to sell yourself.
This guide has been compiled in conjunction with the REC (Recruitment and Employment Confederation) official guide to CV compilation.
- Think about your skills, competencies, qualifications and experience. What are your unique selling points and strengths?
- If you are replying to a specific job advertisement, consider the key words and tasks that are used in the advertisement – establish which of these words applies to you and use them in your CV.
- Remember that you want your CV to be read and responded to, so tempt the recipient. Include just enough information to stimulate interest, but not so much that you bore the reader. Three pages maximum are preferred. Every word must contribute to the overall message – so keep it brief and make sure that the contents are relevant to the job you are looking for now – not your last one.
- Ensure your CV is well structured. This gives the impression that you think logically and makes it easier to review. A CV that is hard to read is often put aside and forgotten.
- When writing the CV, remember that self-opinion is best avoided. Aim to include facts or even evidence.
- Pay close attention to reply instructions in advertisements (e.g. spelling of the contact’s name). Have someone check your spelling and grammar. Use white paper and black type – colours do not photocopy well.
- Keep photographs and Clipart to a minimum as they detract from the written content and, again, they do not photocopy well.
- Keep your CV up to date. Using an out of date CV is lazy and may exclude you from consideration for interviews.
- Ensure your employment dates are continuous. If there are any gaps, explain why.
- If you have held several positions within one company, ensure the date at the beginning covers the entire period you have worked there. Detail each individual job title, dates and duties as usual.
- If you have genuine reasons for leaving a company (e.g. redundancy, company relocation etc.), state these at the bottom of your job description, especially if you have had several positions within a short space of time.
- Your personal details - name, address, contact details (telephone and email)
- A brief general overview of your skills and experience. If appropriate you can also include details of the nature of work sought. Remember – if you are seeking temporary or contract work, be clear about your availability and preferred working locations.
- Details of your education and qualifications. This should be on the first page if you are a recent school or college-leaver – with little or no work experience, this is where you need to sell yourself. In all other cases, this information can be positioned after your career history.
- Your employment history in the past 10 years, presented in reverse chronological order (i.e. last/present job first). If you have worked for only one company, break it down with an entry for each position or projects dealt with. For each position held, describe the work undertaken, duties and responsibilities.
- Remember to include achievements, not just tasks.
- Hobbies and interests if they are relevant (in any event, keep this to a maximum of three lines). Any voluntary, charity or external posts you have are worth including. Avoid listing anything, which might be considered too controversial.
- Referees – two or three is usual. Remember to include the referees’ official titles, addresses and telephone numbers.
The ‘covering’ letter
- CVs are seldom used alone
- They should always be introduced by a letter or a telephone call
- The letter should earn readership for the CV
- A good letter should be used to pick up points which modesty or space prevented you putting in the CV (i.e. to highlight your key strengths relevant to that job)
- An introduction letter can save you from having to rewrite the CV each time you want to target your application to a specific advertisement or sector.