Tips for Writing an Effective CV
by James Kapadia
One of the most satisfying elements of working in recruitment is advising and developing a candidate within a relatively short space of time, to enable them to achieve success when applying for their next career move. I recently worked with a candidate who graduated from Exeter University (and for the sake of this article, I’ll call him Tom) who called me and sent in his CV in the hope I could support him with his job hunt. While Tom had gained some good early experience alongside his studies and he had the right attitude over the phone, his CV was far from exciting, as he’d rushed to put this together in order to apply for a job quickly.
Using the journey Tom and I shared, I’ve put together the following pointers which we focused on, which not only increased Tom’s chances of securing interviews but this process also helped him to realise his strengths, which in turn helped him gain further confidence for the interview. After Tom came in to meet me, we spent the time to work on his CV, after which he quickly secured an interview and was offered that first opportunity he went for. He has now started with this company and is enjoying working with his new employers. Below is a list of the main points we focused on that may help you write your CV:
Show your personality
When applying for commercial office based roles, one of the biggest criteria for an employer is finding someone with personality and the right attitude to add to their company’s office culture. Using a personal profile at the very top of the CV is a great way of doing this, but it’s important to really think about what your strengths are and use words that are as unique as possible to describe yourself, rather than the overused “bubbly” or “hard-working”. Maybe try thinking about how your colleagues or even friends and family describe you, then trying to make these a positive within this personal profile. Eg. “My colleagues always describe me as someone who listens carefully and completes tasks well within their deadlines” or “I strive to impress my customers by calling them back to answer their queries at the agreed time I said I will call, to ensure they get the best service” – Simple, but different!
Spelling, grammar and formatting consistency
This one’s simple, but you’d be surprised how many job applicants fall short in this area. Employers are looking at grammar, spelling and formatting with a fine comb and what with spell checks and grammar checks on computers, there’s no excuse for getting this wrong. Make no mistake, simple errors in spelling and grammar will prevent you from getting to interview stage. With regards to formatting; again, it’s so important to ensure that paragraphs are lined up correctly throughout the CV, while fonts and font size are consistent. There’s no harm in having larger fonts for section headers, as long as all the headers are the same size and font. For each previous job, it is good to show dates including the month as well as the year, while also a short 1-2 line overview of the job followed by 3-6 bullet points is a solid way to outline the main tasks within each of your roles while preventing making the CV to wordy.
Don’t talk about yourself in the third person
Something Donald Trump does on a regular basis!! Okay, so on a CV it doesn’t look THAT arrogant, but this tactic still has a feel of self-indulgence and by talking in the third person you lose the opportunity to get across your personality. This is your first opportunity to “talk” to the potential employer directly and engage with them. Saying “Tom is a dynamic communicator” is all very well, but employers know that it’s you who’s written the CV, so if nothing else, it can just look a bit odd. By writing “I like to see myself as a dynamic communicator” this not only tells the employer one of your strengths, but it’s also removed any self-indulgence or arrogance. I fear Donald Trump may never master this!!
Get the right length and structure
There’s nothing wrong with a three page CV. Four pages start to become a bit much, but two to three pages is “spot on” and definitely gives you enough room to say all you need to without rambling. If you’ve had a long career with lots of jobs, you can limit the amount you say about each of them the further back you get. However, you may actually want to say more about an earlier career you’ve enjoyed that you’d like to return to, which is also fine.
I’ve talked about the “Personal Profile” or “Summary” at the top of your CV (which should be placed straight under your name and contact details). This should summarise who you are and what you’re looking to achieve moving forward. If you are looking to start a career within a field you’ve not previously worked within, explain that clearly with your reasons for wanting to move in that direction. After that, I’d follow with your “Career History”, “Education”, “Skills” (including software knowledge), “Interests” and “References”.
For any guidance, advice or support with putting together your CV, or any other recruitment based questions please don’t hesitate to contact James at Aspiria Recruit in Exeter on 01392 346222