What is a CV?
A CV does one thing, and one thing only. It gets you an interview for a job. A CV is not a potted biography. It is not a record of every thing you have ever done. Think of it as a piece of highly-targeted direct mail. Direct to the one person who is going to put you on a short list.
What should a CV contain?
You should produce a unique CV for every job for which you apply. A single general, one-size-fits-all CV will not do. That may sound like a lot of work, but an hours work to get a £50k+ return is not bad work.
How long will a recruitment consultant look at my CV?
Probably between 30 seconds and a minute. Really. What that means is you must have maximum impact and present information – not opinions, not puff – in the most succinct, direct and easily digestible manner.
The Golden rule of CVs
If you pay no attention to anything else in this article then remember this. Your CV should be no longer than 2-3 pages. Less is more. Two is much better than three unless you are a very senior director/CEO when it is just about acceptable to go to a third page. There are almost NO circumstances under which a CV should be longer than three pages.
Most CV’s contain information that is unnecessary, clutters up your CV and, for those who have paid attention to the two-page rule, has meant they have not included other, more important information.
Candidates with overly long CVs will remain candidates for a long time.
What is a recruitment consultant looking for?
He or she will have a clear idea in their own head of the background and skills they are looking for. The first thing they will look at is the last employer you worked for and what job you were doing. If that experience is relevant, they will look deeper at your CV at what other experience you have. If the information is presented in a clear, immediately accessible way, you stand a much better chance of being selected for interview. If the information is buried deep in several pages of closely typed, poorly laid-out, badly spelt text, then no one is going to bother.
How do I organise my CV?
There are two main types of CV
The traditional, and for most people, preferred layout. Arrange your career history with your current/most recent job first and work back. Make the job title and your employer clear. If your job title does not really explain what you did, then expand on it to provide enough detail. Jobs held more than 15 years ago should be very briefly dealt with.
Organised around your skills. May be more appropriate for someone who has moved jobs a lot or has significant experience gleaned from other areas, such as voluntary work. Also useful for candidates contemplating a major career switch so that previous experience needs to be put in context to make it relevant. Members of the Armed Forces may find it relevant. Commanding an aircraft carrier or drawing up plans to invade Iraq may need some interpretation for the civilian world. Not a popular format with recruiters.
Tip #1: What to put in? Facts. And only facts.
Whatever format you adopt, stick to the facts. Tell the consultant what you did, what your achievements were and provide the evidence for it. Avoid flannel. Use bullet points. Don’t say you are a “world class leader” say “Head of 15-strong team in three locations worldwide.”
Tip #2: Do not be tempted to lie.
If you are found out, you can be dismissed, and it is unlikely that the recruitment consultant will deal with you again.
Tip #3: Things you can safely leave out
The following list is not definitive. And don’t forget, this kind of information can be presented later in the application process if you make it to the interview list.
- Marital status
- Number/ages/names/sex of children
- Details of your primary school
- Your O/GCSE level subjects and grades
- Almost certainly your A level grades unless you a very recent graduate
- Any exams/qualifications you failed
- Place of birth
- Hobbies and interests
Tip #4: Consistency
Devise a style sheet and stick to it. Think about the hierarchy of headings — section headings: Profile, if you have to have one, Career and achievements, education, other information; then how are you going to present your job titles (dates, Job title, company name). This is where the use of different fonts can help. Use differing weights and font sizes to help the reader pick out the key information. Perhaps 14 point Arial for the main sections headings, then 12 point Arial bold for the second level headings, with 10 point Times Roman for the main body text.
Tip #5: Language
- Use bullet points
- Keep sentences short
- Active not passive verbs
- Stick to facts, not opinions
- Use standard job titles, not company specific ones. This will increase your chances of your CV being found in a key word search
Tip #6: Opening statements
“I am a versatile, pro-active, board level manager with wide range of skills encompassing sales management, marketing, operation efficiency and corporate planning. Having worked in highly pressurised situations I have shown the necessary skill set to bring complex situations to a fruitful conclusion. I have been instrumental in orchestrating and managing teams during complex and innovative sales of technologically advanced …
There seems to be a view among candidates that these kinds of statements are needed. Most recruitment consultants and employers don’t believe that they are worthwhile and don’y actually read them.
Tip #7: Keep it factual
Although it may sound impressive to describe yourself as a “hands on proactive team player with business acumen and entrepreneurial flair who strives to exceed” it is, even if true, it sounds like just so much flannel.
Tip #8: Keep it short
The grim truth is that recruitment consultants are going to spend at most a minute reading your CV when compiling a long list. A huge slab of text at the top of the page is not going to be read. Keep it to around three, bullet-pointed, sentences and above all do not refer to yourself in the third person.