This is your opportunity to ‘sell yourself’ and make the employer see you as a well-qualified, professional, concise and thoughtful individual who is taking your career seriously.
After 20 years reading CV’s I still find it extraordinary how many professionals do not highlight achievements that will separate them from the crowd. Examples are things such as first time passes when studying professional qualifications, money savings or process improvements. All of these things are ‘selling points’ and should not be omitted for fear of showing off.
The structure of your CV and lay out is important, with employers deciding within seconds whether to read on. It is important to make your CV easy to read, with the most important skills and achievements highlighted. This short piece aims to give you simple insights and tips on the do’s and dont’s on CV’s, that will hopefully give you the best opportunity to secure an interview for the job that you really want.
The basics are pretty simple on a CV, keep the font to about a 10-12, try not to make it go much beyond 2 pages (but don’t worry if it is just over as long as it is concise), use bullet points that are easy to read and ensure you keep pointing out achievements.
I still see a huge number of CV’s where the personal information takes up to between a quarter and a third of the first page. When you are trying to keep your CV to around 2 pages, this is wasting space. Put your personal information as the header of your CV in the centre rather than separate subheadings, but ensure your name, address, email and phone number are in this heading.
Personal Statement/ Career Achievements:
A paragraph is a good length for this personal statement and then bullet point some career achievements. Use words that you think describe you, and tailor it to the specific job you are applying for. Unless you are sending it directly to recruitment agencies, you will probably change it every time you send your CV out. Add a line that says what you are looking for and avoid clichés such as ‘works well independently or as part of a team’ – far too many people still write vague statements that don’t add anything.
A good example of a personal statement could read:
A CIMA qualified Finance Manager with first time passes seeking a new and challenging leadership role. A practical, pragmatic, motivated and hard-working individual, with exceptional organisational skills, demonstrated by their previous role as Finance Manager of various countries across differing time zones. Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate and challenge effectively at all levels with both finance and non-finance personnel. A versatile individual who is quick to adapt to changing environments and has gained experience across multiple industries in commercial, operational and group finance roles.
- Reducing monthly reporting from 6 days to 4 days
- Finding cost savings which amounted to over £1m per annum
- Implementing a SAP
Education / Professional Qualifications:
Include your academic and professional qualifications and at which stage you are at – always state if you have first time passes, as it will help separate you from the competition. Include which University you went to and your result, but do not feel the need to list every exam result from GCSE onwards. Focus on the most recent and best results. Always remember it is a selling tool, so do not highlight failed exams.
Put your current role first, and bullet point your duties and achievements clearly, do not write lengthy paragraphs as they are difficult for the person reviewing the CV to read. I would write a brief synopsis of the business that you worked for to highlight what the business does and its’ size. Not everyone has heard of every company and so it gives more context.
Where you have an unusual job title, I would also choose a generic job title for your CV - you can add your real job title in brackets next to it, but it makes it easier for the CV reviewer to follow. Particularly as so many CV’s are now reviewed by personnel outside of the department you may be applying for, which means they may be looking for key words. So for example, I once knew a Potato Accountant – it made much more sense on their CV to write Management Accountant with Potato in brackets next to it!
After the bullet points of your duties, always add a few bullet pointed achievements. This can again separate you from the crowd.
Ensure that as you work through your CV you do not leave any gaps. If you travelled - add it, if you had temporary roles – include them. Employers often assume the worst when they see gaps. I was even asked by a client once how I knew the candidate wasn’t in prison when there was a gap in their CV! As you get further down your CV you may wish to just have one line for each job you had, but still keep them in.
Hobbies / Interests:
Most employers aren’t interested in hobbies and interests so I wouldn’t recommend their inclusion, but I appreciate many people still want to write some. Personally, I would steer away from writing things such as ‘reading and socialising with friends’ as everyone can claim this. I would however, write hobbies and interests if they are unusual or demonstrate achievements or strengths. For instance, charity challenges, sporting or educational achievements, playing the lead in amateur plays etc.
Available on request should suffice here
Often it is making sure that you avoid CV killers to ensure that you secure the Interview. Examples are:
• DON’T mention marital status or dependants, people can use this to discriminate
• DON’T write your date of birth on the CV, employers may work it out if they really want to, but don’t make it too easy!
• DON’T list hundreds of duties and responsibilities – use headlines and bullet points. Part of assessing a CV is how well you are communicating information about yourself, getting the message across, in a succinct and precise manner.
• DON’T include a picture, how you look should have no influence in you getting an interview.
• DON’T write in capitals – it makes the reader feel they are being shouted at!
• DON’T write in too large or too small a font 10-12 is perfect (I have seen ridiculously small fonts used to try and get the CV to 2 pages, but it just makes it impossible to read!)
• DON’T use different fonts, colours or clip art - it looks unprofessional
• Spellin an grammer mistukes will stop you getting interviews - You can’t claim attention to detail if there is even one mistake on your CV
• DON’T leave Gaps on a CV – Employers will consider the worst (e.g. Jail!!)
So hopefully by following the advice above you will increase your chances of securing an interview for the job you really want. If you are applying directly to organisations, then remember to highlight achievements that relate to the job you are applying to. If you are using a recruitment agency, then a good consultant should ask you questions which means they can add if for you and increase your chances.
If you have any questions relating to CV’s, interviews or indeed the general employment market please do not hesitate to contact me - 0118 9559511 or Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Chris Goulding, Managing Director at Wade Macdonald.