Your single most important marketing tool is your CV and its primary purpose is to secure you an interview. It is vital, therefore, that it should list your best selling points in as accessible and logical a manner as possible. It is highly likely that your CV will be one of many, possibly hundreds, that a recruiter or consultant has to read through in an extremely short space of time. It is not unlikely that, at the screening stage, its initial reading may amount to little more than a cursory glance, perhaps lasting a mere 30 seconds.It is vital, therefore, that your CV is well presented and clearly structured, with the most relevant information on the first page and readily identifiable.
Make the most of your gaps
In effect, the perfect CV should act as an aid to the reader, directing their focus to the qualification criteria they are looking for and the key points that differentiate you from any other applicants. As well as the obvious need to ensure that all spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct, the overall layout and format of each section should be such that it enables the information contained to be easily accessed and quickly interpreted.
One final point to remember is that your CV is likely to form the framework for any interview and you can expect to be asked to elaborate on, justify or defend any statements made in your application. Consequently, it is important that you feel comfortable with your CV and ensure that its contents are both honest and accurate. Whilst you should always aim to present any information in a positive way, be careful to avoid huge exaggeration or any fabrication whatsoever.
Structure and content
Since a recruiter will look at the beginning first, you should make sure the most relevant information is at the beginning of the first page. It is crucial that you think carefully about what the qualification criteria are for each employer and how closely you can match yourself to these.
As an (under) graduate your education is likely to be your strongest selling point and therefore it is this that should come first. If, for whatever reason, you feel your professional experience is more relevant and impressive, then you may wish to put this ahead of your academic details. All good CVs are simple, succinct and logically structured to enable any reader to find the information they require within seconds. Consequently, sentences need to be short, factual and to the point using 'power' words (see key words) and keeping others such as 'and', 'the', 'I' and 'we' to a minimum, as words that are redundant only dilute the point being made. One method is to do several drafts, each time going through to make sure every phrase earns its place and deleting as many words as possible without changing a sentence's overall meaning.
Identify main selling points and the key competencies/skills that the employer is looking for. Examples of selling points: working for a well-renowned employer, good experience in a particularly rare skill set, size of projects, particularly relevant qualifications, etc.
Be self-analytical and clear about yourself and what your main selling points are compared to other candidates. Problem solving is very important in all career areas. Define your problem solving skills, relating them, as far as possible, to your job target. With this in mind, prepare lists of your skills and achievements.The most common contents include:
Your name and contact details are all that are necessary here.
Education and Qualifications
(Degree back to GCSEs): The full title of your degree and university and any significant exam results should suffice, although any modules or projects of particular relevance to the application could be included.Secondary School and A/AS Level subjects and grades: GCSEs - subjects and grades, though if pushed for space, just mention Maths & English, plus any relevant subjectsFor people looking for careers in technology, it is usual to include a comprehensive and clear summary of the IT applications and systems you have worked with. Avoid long lists of technologies you may have come across, however, and only mention those you have significant experience in. If you know the employer is after a particular skill then mention it and how much experience, but be honest!
Identify the qualities being sought and think about the skills you needed for, and gained from, your previous experiences. These can be professional, technical and personal, but it is important that they are relevant and detailed in short, bullet-pointed statements. Make clear what your individual contribution was using positive language and include your responsibilities and achievements. Back everything up with quantifiable facts, such as size of budgets and teams managed and results achieved, to make your skills tangible.
AchievementsThink carefully about which examples you include in this section, as employers may deduce a lot from your choice about your motivations and what you regard as important. Employers are only interested in your most recent achievements, so don't mention that you were milk monitor at primary school! If an employer reads about something you did seven years ago, they might wonder why you haven't done anything more impressive since then.
This section on hobbies and interests not previously covered should be kept short (3-4 lines), such as membership of and positions of responsibility in sports teams, drama societies etc. Any information should have a purpose, ideally showing skills relevant to the role and saying something of interest about yourself.
Relevant Skills & Interests
Driving licence details, courses attended, foreign languages and IT (include level of proficiency).
ReferencesUnless requested, references need not be given at the initial application stage and a simple "references available on request" should suffice. Employers will ask for references if and when they need them.
Design & presentation
There is no one absolute CV structure, as CVs with certain biases will suit particular formats - the CVs of a recent graduate and a professional with several years experience will be necessarily different. There is also the simple matter of the personal tastes of both the applicant and the recruiter, where a degree of individuality can serve to make a CV uniquely interesting from other more mundane offerings, yet too much artistic licence is likely to be detrimental. The basic rule to always bear in mind is substance before style. However attractive or artistically inspired your CV may look, it will be your selling points that set you apart and get you an interview request, not the way in which they are presented.
CareerPlayer provide advice from experts about what to include on your CV: