The only strict rule when writing a CV, is that you must produce a factual record of your experience and talents.
That said, your CV is a marketing document selling your suitability as a candidate for a job.
Before you start
- Be ready for ’Social Media Footprint’ checks.
Whatever you have published on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Bebo, etc. may well be assessed by your future employers in addition to your CV.
Check all your Twitter posts. Check whether your Facebook account is viewable by the ‘Public’. If you have an old MySpace account, it may be wise to check what image it is portraying of you.
- Read the job specification thoroughly.
If you are aiming your CV at a specific job role, read and re-read the job specification to fully understand what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate.
- Use the right tools
Get access to word processing software that can save your CV in a simple modern, Microsoft Word compatible, format.
- Check it!
Have somebody, with impeccable spelling and grammar, on-hand to check your work.
My CV writing tips
- Be 100% honest.
Keep dates of employment accurate. Do not change your job title to appear more important. Do not change your GCSE ‘D’ to a ‘B’.
Most new employers will undertake background checks. Most former employers will supply references for dates worked and job title as a bare minimum. Most employers will ask to see your original examination certificates.
It also puts your application in a bad light if your CV states that you worked at ABC Inc for 9 months when ABC Inc’s HR department report that you only worked there for 6 months or if you lied about your examination grades.
- Be ready for a “digital search”.
Remember that most agencies and employers will use computer software to search CV databases for the best candidates.
Rather than say you work with “Windows Server”, specifically state which versions of Windows you are skilled with.
This example is better “Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016”.
This example is better still (as it includes standard abbreviations too) “Windows Server 2008 R2 (W2K8R2), Windows Server 2012 (W2K12), Windows Server 2012 R2( W2K12R2), Windows Server 2016 (W2K16)”.
Other CV writing guides will warn against acronyms, abbreviations – but if a recruiter is searching for a DBA (not a Database Administrator) you will miss out. My advice is to use the full term followed by the abbreviation in brackets, e.g. “Oracle Database Administrator (DBA)”.
- Tailor your CV to the role you are applying for.
If you are applying for your dream position, then make the effort. If the job specification requires candidates with “customer facing skills”, you must ensure that you highlight your customer facing experience in previous roles (without bending the truth).
Some roles will require your CV to include some narrative; maybe explaining how your career has been building up to this next perfect role.
- Keep your CV short and simple (2 sides of an A4 sheet of paper is current best practice).
Look online for CV templates, for example, this one from the National Careers Service: https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/getajob/cvs/Pages/cvperformance.aspx.
Use clear, concise, confident language. Make sure it is readable. Never use txt language.
- Use readable formatting.
Typically, it is advisable to avoid brightly coloured papers, patterns, graphics or unusual font styles.
Even if your job is design-oriented, remember that agencies and employers may need to re-format your CV.
Stick to a commonly used font like Calibri, Times New Roman or Helvetica. Use a font size of 10pt-12pt for standard text. Use 12pt-14pt for headings.
Avoid long paragraphs. Keep to short, bulleted paragraphs. It’s more effective and easier to read. Limit your use of bold and underlining.
Record your employment timeline backwards in time, starting with your current position (just like Twitter and Facebook updates).
- Email/upload an editable document.
When emailing your CV to an agency or uploading your CV to a job board always send an editable document (e.g. a .docx file not a .pdf file).
Remember that the recruitment agency may need to reformat your CV to meet the client’s standards. Typically, most agencies have the policy of removing your personal details until you have been selected for an interview.
If printing and posting a CV (a rare event now) always use heavy, bright, white paper and keep the pages immaculately clean!
- Provide job details in proportion with the amount of time spent in the role.
Your future employer is more interested in the details of your 5 years at Rolls-Royce, than your 6 weeks selling ice-creams in the school holidays.
- Include a cover letter.
Ensure that it is tailored to the person receiving the CV, referencing the role and your specific interest in it. This is an opportunity to make a good impression and entice the reader to read your CV.
- Do not feel obliged provide your age, race, marital status or number of children.
UK and European Union laws protect candidates from discrimination when applying for work.
- Do not just list what you have done.
Also show what you are good at, what you like doing and what you have achieved in your career.
- Do not include negative information.
For example, do not criticise your former employers or workmates.
- Tell your references about your application.
So they are not surprised if/when somebody calls them.
- Keep your CV updated.
Always make sure you add any newly gained skills or experience that you have obtained so you always have a completely up to date CV.
- Do your research.
Be prepared for the common interview questions like “so tell me what you know about ‘ABC International'”, “why do you want this job”, “where do you expect to be on 5 years?”.
Check the employer’s web site (the ‘About’ section is a good place to start).
Some larger employers may have commonly asked interview questions on glassdoor.com (e.g. https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Interview/Boots-Interview-Questions-E327390.htm).
If your application is unsuccessful
- If your CV is not selected this time, try to request feedback from the agency.
But please note that many recruitment consultants are often too busy to respond (and many employers do not provide feedback to the agencies). Do not let it get you down. Do not take it as a personal insult. Keep on trying!
- Build on any negative or constructive feedback that you have received.
Work to correct and strengthen them to make yourself the best candidate you can be.
- Stay focused and committed and keep working towards the role that you want.
Just because you were not successful this time does not mean you will be next time. You start each recruitment process with a clean sheet.
- Keep in contact with the agency.
If they had a position that you were interested in before it’s very likely they will have a similar one soon.
Zakk Rocket is a recruitment specialist with Extra Talent Recruitment, with wide experience in both the candidate and employer side of recruitment.
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