Part Seven: CV

This is the seventh part of a series of mini guides which aims to help you find a career you love. They include tips from me but also practical advice from some of the hundreds of individuals who I have coached over the last 10 years, the sort of things they may have shared with friends or family going through a career move.

I often am asked ‘what does the perfect CV look like?’ and the answer is, it doesn’t exist. If you gave your CV to 100 recruiters, you would have 100 different sets of suggested improvements. There are two things to consider when someone read your CV: firstly, when someone glances at it, and I mean glance recruiters don’t look at CVs for very long (8 seconds on average), does the right information jump out; secondly, do you like it? There is no point in copying a CV layout if it isn’t really your style. Your CV needs to clearly reflect your skills, expertise and experience but also you should allow some of your personality to come through. That’s why I personally would never write someone’ CV for them. I can critique what they have written and make suggestions, but I think it’s very important that an individual uses their own words and fins the layout that suits them.

I am also often asked how long a CV should be. Personally, I like to a 3-page CV as I find two pages is not quite enough to find all the information I am interested in. However, you need to decide what’s best for you. The important thing though is the first page, if you don’t get my interest in the first page it doesn’t matter whether there is one or two pages behind, as I won’t get that far.

I would start at the top with your name in slightly bigger font size than the rest of the CV, so it stands out. Underneath I would put your mobile, email and LinkedIn URL to make it easy for someone to contact you. You don’t need to put Curriculum Vitae at the top, every word on the first page counts and I can see it’s your CV, so it’s a waste of words.

I would then have an opening paragraph which starts with an adjective or two that describes you best (e.g. customer focused, creative, determined) followed by your job title. Then add information that demonstrates where you can add value (e.g. delivering and supporting business change, adept at developing strategies that support business growth). Finally, add a sentence that includes some of your attributes (e.g. collaborative, problem solving, articulate, managing projects, interpreting data) This should be a slightly longer version of your elevator pitch, so you are creating a consistent message.

I then like to see a section with 5 or 6 key areas of expertise or skills. Choose the things that sum you up, with a heading in bold and then a sentence or two explaining what you mean by the heading, for example:

  • Stakeholder Management: effective communication skills with proven ability to work persuasively and collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders. Also skilled in dealing with difficult project stakeholders at all levels including senior management.

Then I would have a career history section with your roles in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent job. Start with a sentence to explain what the company does. For example:

2016 to date
UK based conglomerate including insurance, food, funerals and legal services: £9.5 billion turnover, 70,000 employees, 5 million members

I would then add a paragraph about your key responsibilities:

  • Reporting to the Group CEO, accountable for the commercial and operational running of the private UK and European business responsible for 700 staff and budgets of £5 million.

Then bullet point your achievements, rather than just a list of job responsibilities:

  • Led a critical work stream in the delivery of the closure of x with cost saving over £1.1million whilst ensuring both customer engagement and staff engagement remained high.

You should have more information in your last role, funnelling down the further back you go. Anything over 10 years just needs company name and job title.

I would put your education and qualifications at the end with any interests you have a real passion for. I would also avoid putting referee’s contact details and reason for leaving previous jobs.

I think it’s important to tailor your CV for each job application even if it’s just a matter of listing achievements in a slightly different order to be more relevant to the job taking out any information is not relevant to that particular job.

“Tailor your CV for different roles, obvious but lots of people miss this.”

“Get help to improve your CV and include 'key' words that will get you on the radar of prospective employers.”

“It’s really worth spending time on your CV and 1-page profile- even if you don’t end up using it in earnest – just to be clear in your own mind about your own experiences, expertise and what you can bring to the marketplace” 

“Make sure your CV is as good as it can be. Get it checked over by someone who has expertise in CV writing, this is essential for getting past the first hurdle. Tracy helped me perfect my CV and gave me fantastic hints and tips to make sure my skills and experience stood out on the page. I worked through several iterations and then spent extra time tweaking certain sections for each job application.”

“Get your CV sorted out and take advice as to what the best format is. Get others to look over and critique (ideally people that have experience looking at CV's). Also, although a generic CV will work for some roles, it will definitely need tailoring for others so don't just fire out the same CV to everyone.”

There is a lot of work in putting together a great CV, but it is well worth it as it will help you understand your skills and achievement and help you stand out above other candidates.

This series of mini guides will give you some practical tips and hints from people that have been through it and found what they are looking for. The next one is about creating a powerful LinkedIn profile.

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