Writing A Curriculum Vitae

You may have come to this page looking for the perfect answer to the question we are asked almost every day, which is:-  "How do I write a c.v. that will guarantee me an interview?"  The short answer to this is that we can't!  However, we can offer some practical assistance and advice in order to help you produce your own 'shop window' since after all, this is really what the c.v. will be for you.  It's essential that it should  be personal and relevant to you as an individual so there are no templates here.  Even if you don't take notice of all that we suggest, why not consider your current c.v. whilst reading this and be open minded about making changes that might, if nothing else, improve upon what you have already. 

Back to basics!

1. What is a CV?

Excerpt from the Oxford Dictionary:
CV or Curriculum Vitae:- A brief account of a person's qualifications and previous occupations.  Origin Latin, meaning  'course of life'.
Resume:- A summary.  Sometimes used as an alternative to CV.

Your CV is first and foremost used as an introduction to you, your background, education and employment history.  This document will usually be sent to a recruitment consultant or direct to an employer at the time of enquiring about employment opportunities.  It is therefore imperative that you take the time to produce an accurate, well presented and interesting CV which will get you noticed (for the right reasons), which will ultimately result in your securing the best job.

By way of an observation from a recruiters perspective, in that we see hundreds of CVs, from which experiences we can offer a few common sense tips to be considered before you start:-

  • List: Write a list of the key points you want to include
  • Presentation: Consider the format, font and layout; clarity & brevity are key
  • Clarity: Keep it clear, don't make assumptions i.e. if you don't include it; the recipient can't possibly know about it!
  • Order: Keep things in a logical/chronological order
  • Check: Spell check and proof read.  Don't forget about punctuation and consider bullet points to enhance clarity
  • Concise: If possible, keep to two pages
  • Ethics: Be honest and remember, whatever you write must be backed up at the interview.
  • Personal: Keep it personal. You are unique
  • Two heads: Get someone you trust to review the CV and give you constructivefeedback

2. What sort of information should I put in my CV?

*School & college leavers, graduates and individuals returning to work following a career break should see  "Starting From Scratch"
Once again, there is no hard and fast rule about what to include within a CV.  However, I have made a list below of key things to consider.

  • Name, address and contact information
  • Brief introduction and/or personal profile
  • Dates you were at school, college and/or University
  • Qualifications
  • Skills
  • If this is the first job after the completion of your studies, approach teachers/ tutors/lecturers to find out if they will provide a reference, a copy of which could be attached to the CV
  • Periods of work (including dates), the names of businesses by which you were employed, your job title, a brief summary of the duties assigned and key achievements. 
  • Interests i.e. been a volunteer? Have you competed in a sport for a number of years; have you completed a Duke of Edinburgh award etc
  • Consider the CV and its relevance to the job for which you are applying i.e. can you edit the document to ensure the most appropriate information is instantly recognisable?
  • References. Find out whether your most recent or previous employer will give you a reference now and/or when you are offered a new job

You can always expand on what you have written at an interview.  Conversely, if you haven't included a vital piece of information which is key to the application, the CV may be dismissed as irrelevant.

3. *Starting from scratch

Writing a CV for the very first time, or after an extended break from employment can be a pretty daunting prospect.  Some school and college leavers have come in to see me with the mind set that they've 'done nothing' or 'have little to write about'.  It's quite pleasantly surprising for them to find out just how much of interest we can find to put down on paper that will make their application stand out and interest a prospective employer.

Making a start may be a little overwhelming, but it needn't be that difficult.  Sometimes a discussion with a third party, perhaps a parent, close friend or a recruitment consultant will spark off ideas and remind you of your achievements and individuality too.  We've often spent a worthwhile half hour with people to help generate their enthusiasm and ensure they are able to confidently put forward an interesting and accurate representation of their background, interests, achievements, qualifications and work history (if applicable) too.

4. Covering letters and emails

If you can, and the application process permits, write a brief covering letter and send this with your CV by way of introduction.  Never use slang or 'text speak' even in an email and do not address anyone you don't know very well with anything other than Dear (name) or Dear Sir/Madam.  It is better to be formal at the start since all too often, even the smartest or most seasoned professionals can make the mistake of appearing over familiar in an email.  There's no going back, and the first impression is the lasting one.

Explain the reason for your application and how you can best be contacted.  Try to ensure this goes to the right person of course!  Make it clear that you are willing to expand on the CV if given the opportunity to do so at an interview and that you look forward to receiving their response in due course.

5. Selling Yourself

The principle is the same, no matter what you are selling.  Whether it's a specific product or a person i.e. you need to get the point across quickly and concisely and with sufficient interest that you can catch and maintain the interest of a potential buyer, or in this case, recruiter or employer.  To this end, your CV must indicate that you are professional, honest, a good communicator and obviously employable.  Make sure you keep in mind that inaccuracy in terms of presentation or data usually means automatic rejection.  Ensuring your details go to the correct addressee in the first instance will also avoid delay and/or confusion and/or automatic rejection.  

6. The Law

There is a significant amount of employment law which directly relates to the elimination of discrimination at the pre-employment stages of an application.  These, amongst other things, relate to age, gender and ethnic origin and can have implications on the interviewing and selection processes.  As an applicant, one has a choice about whether to divulge certain information, which includes for example, a date of birth, age, declaration of dependents, disabilities, nationality or marital status.  It is a choice that you must make as to whether you would wish to withhold such personal data or indeed, you may feel this is something you would prefer to openly display, since this is purely a matter of personal choice with positive and negative arguments to be found either way.

Summary

There is no right or wrong way to put together a CV.  There are dozens of web based examples and experts offering their advice but the reality remains that this is YOUR CV and you must keep it personal.

If you find you are still struggling and would like further assistance, sometimes we can offer some 1:1 help.  Call the Dane Partnership Ltd and find out if we can get you started.

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