Your CV is a powerful marketing tool. It's something that represents you, and will often be your first contact with potential employers. So it's worth spending as long as is necessary to make sure that it's as effective as possible.
First impressions really are everything. And although every employer’s idea of the “perfect CV” will differ, there are some key factors to consider if you want your CV to stand out from the crowd.
Structure & Content
- Always start your CV with your "Personal Details" – name, address, email address and telephone number. Date of birth and gender are entirely optional. Religion, marital status and favourite colour are entirely too much information.
- It’s good practice to follow your personal details with a “Profile” section – a short, snappy paragraph about yourself, your employment history and your career aspirations. It’s a nice way to introduce your application, and can even replace the need for a covering letter.
- Unless you’re a fresh graduate, you should put your “Employment History” before your Education. The first thing that a potential employer sees should be your most recent and most relevant commercial experience, not your GCSE grade in Home Economics. Your “Employment History” is the most important section of your CV so you should give it the attention it deserves. Always start with your most recent role and continue in reverse chronological order. Don’t forget to include dates for each role, and try to cover off any gaps and provide reasons for moving around a lot (e.g. contract role, redundancy etc.). Employers like to see evidence of longevity and commitment to a company, yet they won’t be impressed by someone who has stood still for a number of years in the same role.
- Bullet point your “Key Responsibilities” for each role, but don’t make it too long-winded. Say enough to get an employer interested, but not so much that you’ve nothing left for the interview. Use plain English and try to avoid technical terms and jargon associated with your sector or current business that your audience might not understand.
- Each role in your employment history should be accompanied by some “Key Achievements”. This is your opportunity to demonstrate where you add value, so quantify and qualify your achievements wherever you can. If you’ve generated additional revenue for the business, or saved them money, say so. And if you’ve improved the customer experience or won an award, now’s your chance to speak up. There’s no better way to show that you’re proactive, commercially savvy and possess a keen sense of ROI.
- The “Education” section should be short and snappy. Qualifications become less relevant the more experienced you become. State the grades you received in your degree(s). For A Levels list the courses, and for GCSEs, a simple “9 GCSEs Grades A – C”, will suffice. Feel free to include specific grades for subjects that are particularly relevant to the role, e.g. Maths (A) and English (B). Make sure that all Education detailed is chronologically and factually correct, with latest courses appearing first on the CV.
- Be sure to mention any courses or extra qualifications you have achieved whilst in employment or since leaving education in an “Other Skills” section. Highlight any language, technical (SAS, SQL, CSS, PPC) or computer skills you have, but be prepared to back them up. If you claim to be fluent in Japanese be prepared to conduct an interview in that language!
- The “Personal Interests” section should be unique, light-hearted and ideally include some interesting details about your hobbies. Keep it to two or three sentences or bullet points, and make sure it reflects you as a person. This is an opportunity for you to highlight elements of your personality that an employer can warm to. Nobody wants to work with a robot, so don’t be afraid to show some personality in this section!
- Don’t forget to mention your “References” at the end of your CV. The best option is to simply put “Available on Request” – alternatively, two referees on a CV are plenty.
- Keep the font type and size plain and consistent. You shouldn’t need to highlight pertinent information in bold. Everything on your CV should be relevant to the role you’re applying for. If it’s not, delete it!
- Make sure you proof read your CV until there are absolutely no faults. The presence of a single spelling, grammar or punctuation mistake will severely reduce your chances of getting an interview. Harsh, but true.
- Keep your CV as short as possible. Two pages are ideal for those early in their career, three or four pages maximum for more experienced candidates. If you're a Marketing Manager with five years’ experience it might be time to take that part time role at your local supermarket when you were 18 off your CV.
- It is not necessary to include a picture of yourself on your CV – unless you are a model. Then it is fine!
Please feel free to contact us to ask specific advice on any element of your CV.