Written by: Kim Jones
A perfect CV can give you that head start you deserve. If there’s one thing that really hurts when you’ve been eliminated from the recruitment process it’s knowing that deep down you’re right for the job, but that you’ve been out-presented by someone who’s all cover and no book. To give yourself a fair chance, particularly in the current economic climate, you’ll need a top-notch CV, but there are a number of ways to present your personal data and it’s not an exact science.
However, there are some universal requirements that never go out of fashion – ignore these at your peril:
Switch it up!
Firstly, don’t expect to use the same CV for every application. Whilst blatantly altering it to match the hobbies and interests you’ve found on your potential new boss’s Facebook page is not a good idea, reincarnating certain activities that you may have taken part in years ago is harmless enough: Who cares that you haven’t done karate for ten years? You went to the classes, invested time and effort into it and if you can talk about it with any degree of knowledge then there’s no harm in using it.
Make interests interesting
However, speaking of hobbies and interests, don’t list anything too generic. Obviously you’re savvy enough to know that armchair sports and shopping don’t count as interests (don’t laugh: people do try it…), but some surprisingly upmarket candidates are still listing things like travel and wine among their interests. These are no good, they simply tell potential employers that you like a glass of Sauvignon with the girls after work and spend your daily commute starting wistfully at your Thomson brochure. It’s hardly going to make you stand out from the crowd.
The trick with this section of your CV is to list achievements: If you’ve been on a committee for a club you belong to then you’ve something to shout about. If you’ve completed a sporting challenge like a half marathon then you’ll need the details, like how long it took you. If you’re into arts and crafts then great, but get yourself a WordPress blog and a URL you can give out to prove it.
Keep it professional
Some job seekers think that by tarting up their CV in bright colours and fancy fonts it’ll stand out and impress and employer. It might do if you’re applying to be a Redcoat, but generally speaking it’ll take you straight to the bottom of the pile no matter how creative the industry you’re applying to work in.
Moving on to the practical stuff, your work history should always go backwards, i.e., list your current or most recent position first. That’s what they’re most interested in, and you’ll need to explain what you’ve added to the business you worked for. Stating that you supervised a sales team of four is no good: You’ll need to explain what targets were met or exceeded and what additional responsibilities you were given as a result of your success. A list of half a dozen key achievements for any one position is about right: Any more and the reader will get bored.
You should always give dates for all positions you held, though if you’ve been temping around and have too many short assignments that aren’t worth listing, then just say so. This is where you need to tell them that you’ve been learning some new skills, so you may have been moving from one useless temp job to the next, but at least you spent your evenings learning a new software package. If you didn’t do that, learn something fast like MS Access or Photoshop: It’s amazing how quickly you can pick these things up if you need to, and very few people know more than the basics anyway.
These days a short sales pitch – known as a personal statement – after your name is expected at the beginning of a CV these days: This particular fashion seems to be with us for good, and it’ll typically read as something like “creative, motivated, team player with strong negotiation skills and empathetic leadership qualities”. Unfortunately the vast majority of these statements are totally generic, so stand out right from the beginning by avoid all the cliches:
- Do not describe yourself as a team player, results-orientated – and never EVER use the word “solution” in any capacity – it’s been done to death.
- More generally, never refer to yourself as “I”, keep sentences short and use bullet points. Adding referee details on your CV is now considered optional, although the old-fashioned “available upon request” line is just as good.
If you aren’t sure about your CV, take it to an employment agency, not your friends or family. You’ll get an honest opinion – and for something this important that’s just what you need.