We know the market is tough pretty much wherever you go, but you can sell your skills to future employers effectively if you think hard about writing a concise, targeted CV. Don’t be shy though – it is all part of your own personal marketing plan, so you need to describe your strengths and achievements and not hold back! Don’t forget, the same applies when applying for jobs within your own organisation.
Making an impression
On average, employers and recruitment companies spend just 10-20 seconds skim reading your CV initially, so first impressions count. You need to keep it succinct and professional, and easy to glean information before they read into the detail. Obviously your name and contact details need to appear at the top of your CV, but keep it snappy. Use of space is key, as you need to keep the whole CV to 2-3 pages maximum.
Profile and key skills
In the top half of the first page you should also write a short paragraph to provide a succinct overview of your background and your key skills (the ones you think your potential employers are seeking). Like the back cover of a book, it should encourage them to read more into the detail of your CV. Think about communications skills, leadership, team working, computing or whatever skills you have that are transferable to jobs in the line of work you are looking for.
Education and qualifications
In general, the more experience you have, the less relevant your education becomes to employers, so you will probably want to put this section on the second page towards the end of your CV. However, if you have recently qualified in something relevant to the work you are seeking, this should also be mentioned in your profile or key skills section to bring attention to it immediately.
Elements of a skills-based CV are often a good idea as it offers the greatest chance of being considered for a variety of opportunities with your skills. It should highlight the four or five main skills that you feel are most important to the type of employers you are aiming to impress, and then show how and where you have gained those skills.
Quantifiable achievements and responsibilities are particularly important and are usually written in bullet point format in a Career History section, and should appear under the job role and dates of the positions you have held, showing career progression. This should be in reverse chronological order, with the greatest detail given to your most recent role, with less and less detail the further back in your career you are writing about.
What else to include (or exclude?)
You don’t need to include your age or marital status on CVs now. For most CVs, details of references are not needed either; a simple statement such as “references available on request” will suffice as potential employers will ask you for these when they need them. Regarding hobbies and other interests, unless they support your application, it might be best not to include them. Sometimes they can help to start up a conversation with someone like-minded in an interview, but if in doubt, leave them out. Save the space on your CV to show them what you’ve achieved professionally.
If you have good IT skills it might be worth including a separate section on this to highlight them. If the systems you have used are not well-known ones, make sure that you use the generic terms for them, ie “database” rather than the name of the specific database or bespoke programme.
Include your name, contact email address or number and page number at the bottom of each page, so that if they get separated when your CV is reviewed they will find their way back together again!
Be careful to exclude or explain acronyms and to “translate” any terminology you wouldn’t normally hear outside your sector or line of work. It would be worth showing your CV to someone else to see if there is anything they are unsure about so you can amend it.
Professional CV/cover letter writers
If you decide that you would prefer to have your CV or letters written for you, it might be worth approaching a professional CV writing company. Make sure your CV writer has a background in recruitment and not just writing or typing, and that they include a consultation before writing your documents, as it makes a big difference to their effectiveness. Good ones will have references on their website or LinkedIn profiles.
Don’t just send and hope for the best
Lastly, just a note on sending your CV. Always follow it up with a call to see if they’ve received it. If you can speak with the hiring manager or person short-listing CVs to interview that would be even better. By doing this you bring your CV to their attention (they might have overlooked it, however good it is), and it shows them how enthusiastic you are about the role/company… and enthusiasm and attitude take you a long way in the world of recruitment.