Preparing Your CV

Your CV is the first contact you will make with your prospective employer. It will give the employer their first impression of you and as the saying goes, “you don’t get a second chance at a first impression”. You must therefore ensure that your CV is a good representation of you, your skills, experience and relevance to the role you are looking to secure. You must also ensure that it is easy to read, interesting without being boring and lists only relevant information.

Some people believe that a CV must not exceed one page. This is not correct. However, a CV should not be written in so much detail that it requires endless reading. A client wants to see succinct and relevant information. Making it too short so that information has to be left out is not to your advantage. However, making it too long so that unnecessary information is included is also unwise. Two to three pages maximum should be enough to contain relevant work history, educational achievements and personal profile. Anything more than three pages should be carefully edited as it is possible that too much unnecessary detail is included.

Preparation

Before writing your CV you should make sure that you have all the information you need:

  • A full history of your work record. Make sure you get the dates right as the employer may take up references and any anomalies could show up.
  • Names of schools, colleges, universities with exams taken and grades. You don’t need to list all of your exams, just the number of (e.g.) GCSEs with  A , B and C grades is enough.
  • Certificates you have received, commendations from previous employers, awards.
  • Think about your aspirations, what you want to achieve.
  • Think about your strengths and why you feel that you could add value or be of benefit to a new employer.
  • Make notes on how you would sell yourself. What motivates you? Are you a team player? What attributes do you have in the workplace?

Personal Profile

Most CVs have a short paragraph written by the candidate outlining their personality and type of employee they are. This usually comes at the top of the CV after your name and serves as a brief introduction. Take time out to think about who you are and how you work.

Use words like self-motivated; a self-starter; ambitious; hardworking; enthusiastic; good communication skills; dedicated. Explain if you are a team player, have leadership skills, work well under pressure.

Here are examples of a personal profile:

I am a strong communicator with excellent organisational skills looking to become part of a successful team. I adapt well to new situations and relish a challenge, knowing how to prioritise tasks in order to complete all work to the highest competency.

An enthusiastic forward thinker and self-driven individual. Precision, goal orientation and working-under-pressure are my key features when undertaking a project or task. Having achieved analytical and project management skills from work experiences and university studies, accuracy, planning as well as commitment to milestones have always been my key initiatives in every assignment.

CV Layout

There is no exact way to lay out a CV. Some people put their education, IT and software skills and hobbies at the end of their career history and some people put them after the profile.

Education

State the name of the institution, dates attended and name of exam or diploma achieved with grades. Just state number of GCSEs with grades. However, list subjects at A levels with grades and names of diplomas or degrees with grades.

If you have had further training in software packages, courses of any kind which you feel are relevant to your skills and experience put them next.

Now list all the software and IT packages that you have had experience with and state whether advanced, or basic.

If you have received diplomas in sports or hobbies put them under the title Hobbies as these are not relevant in the work place but are still important for your personal profile and personality.

However you lay out your CV, hobbies should come last. They should not come before career history or education, even if you decide to put education first. Under this title put anything else that you feel is relevant i.e. voluntary work, community work, interests, pastimes, sports, music, travel cookery. Whatever you enjoy doing or are involved in.

When applying for work through an agency you do not have to put names of referees on your CV. These will be taken up separately.

Career History

When laying out your career history, put your current or last job first. This is the most relevant to the client and explains what your up to date status and work experience is.

Most employers want to see the dates worked followed by the name of the company, followed by the role, followed by responsibilities:

  • July 2012 – present
  • ABC Computing Ltd
  • Customer Service Supervisor
  • Responsibilities

Now list your responsibilities, tasks and duties in single sentences in bullet points:

e.g.

  • Supervised team of 16 customer service advisers
  • Responsible for ensuring KPIs and deadlines were met according to client best practice standards
  • Training of all new recruits
  • Prepared reports of individual’s performance for the department manager
  • Carried out appraisals for all team members

Make sure that you mention all relevant tasks.  Show leadership skills, team member skills and talk about achievements.

Examples of Achievements

  • Was awarded best performance in telesales for the third year running
  • Exceeded targets by 80% in 1st quarter
  • Was promoted to head of department after 6 months
  • Introduced and trained staff on new software 
  • Set up pre-payment records’ system in distribution
  • Responsible for reducing department expenditure by 8% in first year of implementation

Now list your previous jobs in the same format as above for the last 5 years or last 3 to 5 jobs, depending on the length of your career history and the relevance to your current position and status. It could be that you have been in your current company for 5 years, therefore go back another few years, depending on the relevance of the position. Remember don’t talk too much about roles that are not relevant to your career such as summer jobs in bars or non-commercial work if you are now an experienced company person.

For the rest of the jobs in your career history, merely state the dates, names of companies, and job titles. If you feel that one of your previous roles that go back longer than 6 years shows duties or experience that is relevant to the job in question, put very brief details of role or duty. e.g.

  • Management and training of team of 15
  • Participated in company transfer from analogue to digital involving all HR functions and accounting systems

Make sure your dates of work follow chronologically from the dates of your schooling. If there are gaps explain them e.g. took time off to bring up a family. Travelled to Australia. Looked after aging parent.

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