Your CV is the first thing an employer will see, so making a great first impression is vital. A top class professional CV is the key to gaining an interview, and typically your only way to get your foot in the door. Spending a considerable amount of time and effort on your CV is absolutely worthwhile, and not to be taken lightly.
To ensure you create a great CV, here’s our list of the most important aspects you need to be aware of:
Keep it concise and accurate
Your CV needs to be honest and to the point. A big mistake which is very common when creating a CV is to attempt to pad it out with unimportant buzzwords and clichés like – ‘I am a hard worker, who is a great team player’. Try to avoid too many of these buzzwords, and ensure that when you do use them you state the evidence to show that it’s true.
Keeping your CV accurate and concise will make it much easier for the employer to find what they are looking for, and it will also allow you to highlight all of your relevant skills, experience and qualifications.
A CV which is easy to read and avoids unnecessary waffle will not only make it much easier for the employer, but it will also refrain them from throwing it onto the ‘no’ pile with the rest of the badly written CV’s.
Although it may seem obvious that your personal details need to be stated at the top of the CV, you’d be surprised how many we’ve come across over the years that miss out important information.
Your name and address come first, followed by your contact telephone number. The telephone number you state must be one which you are either able to answer immediately, or can at least reply as quickly as possible (in case you are at work or college etc). Again, you’d be surprised at how many people don’t answer the phone and don’t even bother to take the time to reply back at all to answer messages or texts – so make sure that’s not you!
You can never make a second first impression, so in case the employer decides to call you for an interview or to gather more information, make sure you respond quickly.
Finally, include an e-mail address underneath these details. If you don’t have one, then create one. Why? The employer may prefer to contact you via e-mail for an interview. Or, if you aren’t able to answer the phone, you might find a message in your inbox that you can reply to instead.
Your gender, nationally and date of birth can also be stated – but this isn’t mandatory, so is completely up to you.
An objective statement is a concise paragraph presenting your future career goals. It must also explain to the employer how you will benefit the company if you were to be hired.
A good statement should also include the job title you are applying for. Here’s an example:
Objective: I am looking for a role as an Account Executive at Marie Wren’s clothing, where I can develop my managerial skills, quality control and design skills.
An efficient and professional objective statement will be straight to the point in only 1-3 lines, and will confirm exactly what you’re objectives are whilst highlighting the benefits to the company that you offer.
List all of your relevant skills. For example – IT, machine operation, communication, etc. This is your opportunity to highlight what you believe are your personal skills.
You should always start with your current or previous employer and work backwards. The list should include:
- Job title
- Name of employer
- Nature of business
- Responsibilities and tasks
- Achievements and results
- Dates of employment
Top tip: Most people don’t include actual achievements for their previous positions – so here’s your chance to get ahead of the competition. But be careful not to list too many which results in your CV expanding to 3 or 4 pages (typically you need around 2).
Try to be concise and to the point, and only state or highlight achievements which are relevant to the role you are applying for. Also include results, for example:
“Created a new process which saved the company around 10 man hours per week, and was shown to increase turnover by up to £1,000 a month.”
When you state actual results and achievements, you will instantly create a talking point for your potential interview. Employers love to ask questions like, ‘What was the new process you implemented?’
This gives you a great opportunity to explain what you did and how it benefited the company. Longer interviews typically result in a greater chance of getting the job. So make sure you give them plenty to ask you about!
Education and qualifications
Similar to your employment history, this is where you list your school, college and university timeline, along with results and qualifications gained.
Your GCSE and/or A-level subjects including grades should be listed. You then need to list any further qualifications obtained at college and/or University.
Top tip: You can also list any achievements and results other than the grades or degrees you obtained. For example, if you undertook a project relating to your degree, it may be relevant to the role you are applying for and could show off more of your skill and attributes which an employer will be looking for.
Hobbies and interests
Although this is optional, we would strongly advise against missing this section off from your CV.
This section provides an employer the opportunity to delve into your personality, and build up a picture of the kind of person you may be. However, be careful not to state clichés like – ‘Like to socialise on weekends’, or ‘enjoy reading a good book’.
These kinds of sentences will just frustrate the employer, and won’t allow them to paint a positive picture of your personality. You need to be honest and more creative.
A great example is:
My main passion is the guitar, which I’ve been playing for over 15 years. I currently play in a band called Fail Safe, which perform every weekend at popular venues around Nottingham. Our website is – www.failsaferocks.com
I love to go to rock festivals as often as I can, and recently saw Iron Trays at the O2 arena who are my favourite band.
My biggest achievement to date is playing in front of 5,000 people at the ‘We will rock you’ summer festival of ‘08’.
I also recently passed my grade 8 classical guitar exam, which included both practical performance and written exam.
An ‘interests’ section which oozes passion will never fail to impress an employer, and could literally be the tipping point they needed to contact you for an interview!
It is advisable not to include your most recent employer as a current reference, if you are still working for them and they are not aware you are looking for another position.
In those circumstances, a small note stating ‘References available on request’ will be sufficient. In other cases – for example, if you are not currently working – it is fine to include references on your CV, and sometimes having high quality references can help to impress an employer.
Presentation is everything!
The presentation of your CV is equally as important as the content. There are many different styles and methods of presenting your information on a CV, so which one you choose is up to you. However, here are some key points to consider:
- Be clear and concise
- Highlight headings and subheadings so they stand out
- Use bullet points for key sections, like responsibilities
- Always check spelling and grammar, and consider a third party proofread
- Use positive language and a confident tone
- Use excellent quality A4 paper
A well written and professionally presented CV will always give you the best possible chance of gaining an interview. Far too many people fail to realise how much potential there is in a CV, and are reluctant to spend the time and effort needed to stay ahead of the competition.
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