Your CV is a “sales” document which has the sole purpose of securing you an interview. An employer is likely to receive several hundred responses to an advertisement. During the initial sift, they will spend about 30 seconds looking at each CV, and will only read those that they shortlist more closely, so you have to ensure that your CV is informative but concise and captures the interest of the reader quickly and easily.
Whilst there is no definitively right or wrong way to write a CV, there are a number of golden rules which, if broken will reduce your chances of securing an interview significantly:
- Keep it simple, short, relevant and to the point – maximum 2-3 pages;
- Use clear bold headings;
- Be consistent in terms of layout;
- Include lots of white space;
- Check that spelling and grammar are correct (and don’t just rely on computer spell checkers!);
- Use bullet points;
- Ensure that all the dates link up and make sense;
- Include your name in the filename of your CV when e-mailing it (e.g. Jim Smith – CV);
- Write the CV in the 3rd person (e.g. “consistently achieved set targets”, rather than “I always achieved the targets I was set”);
- Get an independent person to read through your CV and check that it makes sense (it may appear clear to you but not to someone else).
- Use multiple fonts or decorative borders;
- Use large blocks of text;
- Include excessive detail;
- Include photographs;
- Include anything too personal (e.g. religion, marital status, details of children etc);
- Include details of salaries – this is a point for discussion during interview / offer stage and should not be written into a CV.
The following headings provide a guide on what to include:
Telephone Number (landline and mobile)
Date of birth and nationality are not necessary, however if you are not a UK citizen it may be useful to specify that you are eligible to take up employment in the UK and demonstrate that you have the appropriate visa or work permit.
This section should be a maximum of 6-8 short descriptive high impact statements that highlight your key skills, relevant qualifications, experience and personal traits. It is an overview not the whole story and may be best displayed in bullet point format.
Work Experience / Career History
Always start with the most recent employer and work backwards in reverse chronological order. Use bullet points for clarity and avoid large blocks of text. Include the following for each employer:
- Name of Employer
- Dates of Employment (month and year)
- Job Title
- Outline of role, responsibilities and achievements
Try to relate your skills and experience to the job for which you are applying. Emphasise your most recent or relevant jobs, and specify what you did and the outcomes you achieved. Back everything up with quantifiable facts wherever possible. Explain gaps in employment or overlaps.
Excessive detail is not necessary as an employer will investigate the areas in which they are interested at the interview stage. Employment that is longer than 10 years ago or less relevant to the role should be kept extremely concise.
Education & Qualifications
Again, start with the most recent establishment and work backwards in time. Include:
- Name of Educational Establishment;
- Dates (month & year);
- Name of course / subjects and grades;
- Include relevant training courses or certificates in this section.
Include relevant work related skills here such as:
- IT skills / software packages;
- Driving licence.
This is not an essential section and can be reduced dramatically and even cut out completely if you have extensive work experience. Include hobbies that demonstrate skills (e.g. teamwork and leadership) and avoid too much detail about solitary hobbies (e.g. watching TV). Always avoid putting socialising down – this can be misinterpreted as “spending every spare moment in the pub”!