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Writing a CV or Resume

 

A step-by-step guide

Your CV is an essential part of your toolkit when applying for jobs.  It provides potential employers with their first glimpse of you, and gives you the opportunity to grab their attention, and persuade them that you have the skills and experience they are looking for, and are worth interviewing.

It is worth bearing this purpose in mind when you are creating your CV, and also stopping to consider your CV from the employer’s perspective. 

They want to know if you satisfy the education, skills and experience that are needed for the post, and they are probably making this decision in the context of a large number of competing CVs, in a limited timeframe.

smiling people

A CV provides basic information about you - your personal details, work experience and qualifications, and possibly additional information such as your referees, interests and particular skills such as a second language.  This is the type of information a CV should cover.  How you present it is much more flexible - there is no Holy Grail of a perfect CV, and there are as many CVs as there are individuals.  However, there are a few useful tips which you can bear in mind when compiling your CV which could make it more effective.  In the following sections we cover CV content and presentation, plus a few other golden rules.

CV content

We mentioned above the different sections that your CV should contain, and we’ll look at them one by one here.

Personal details

Start off with your name and contact details, ie address, e-mail and phone numbers.  Obvious as it sounds, don’t put down an e-mail or number which you don’t check or can’t be reached at easily - frustrating for a recruiter if they want to contact you for an interview.  It is entirely up to you if you want to include additional information such as marital status, date of birth or nationality.  If you refer to yourself with initials, have an unusual or gender neutral name, you may want to include your gender, purely so that any recruiter wishing to correspond with you can address you correctly.  Similarly, if the job requires that you are able to drive, mention that you have a driving license.

Work experience

…or employment history, whatever you prefer to call it.  This section should usually come first - an exception would be for a recent graduate with less work experience, who might prefer to start off with qualifications.  List your most recent or current role first, and go back chronologically - potential employers are most interested in what you are doing at the moment, and less so in the Saturday job you had as a teenager.  Give the dates, name of the organisation and your job title.  Exact dates for periods of employment are not necessary, even if you can remember them, but you should give the month and year, and check these for accuracy.  If you have a long list of previous roles, save space by compressing the earlier roles into shorter descriptions, or just include the job titles; prioritise the more recent experience.

Using short sentences, describe the main responsibilities of your job, any special projects or achievements and salient facts and figures - bullet points can be a good idea here. Most jobs can be distilled to between two and six core areas.  Be as concrete as possible and avoid vagueness and clichés, for example, abusing the word "liaise", an overused staple of CVs.  Who did you liaise with, for what purpose, and what was the outcome?  Focus on outputs and end results, use positive language, and be concise.  There is no need to write reams about what your company does, or your reasons for leaving - these can be explored at interview.

Education

…or qualifications, you decide.  List these, again with the most recent first, along with grades and dates attained, and the institution where you studied if you like.  You may also wish to include here any skills based qualifications you have attained outside of your formal education, eg IT, language and secretarial skills.  Avoid listing all the in-house training course you have ever attended, unless you feel something is particularly relevant or important.

References

Ideally include the names and contact details of two referees, one of whom should be your current employer.  If you are a recent graduate, one referee should be academic.  Many CVs don’t include referees’ details, simply stating "references to follow".  This is OK, as most employers won’t take up references until a later stage in the recruitment process and will usually check with you first, however some employers like to see that you have included the details even if they don’t contact them.  It can also save the recruiter time later if the names are already supplied.

Hobbies and interests

Entirely optional.  Can be good as gives the employer an impression of you as a person, and useful for recent graduates as this can be an opportunity to demonstrate skills and aptitudes usually illustrated in the work experience section.  Beware of writing a long list of exotic hobbies which could make you sound like a sickening overachiever, and of using the hobbies section to pad out your CV.


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