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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prepare a perfect CV

Prepare a Perfect CV

Nicola Dunn, Professional Development Manager, CIOB

Source :

Your CV is the first piece of information your potential employer will receive about you. It's therefore vital that you maximise the opportunity of standing out from the crowd and ensuring you secure your invitation to be interviewed.

Before starting to prepare your CV there are some pitfalls you need to be aware of.

· Creating a bad first impression. If your CV hasn't stood out from the crowd and attracted the reader's attention in the first 20 to 30 seconds your chances of being called for interview are slim. You have to convince your potential employer why you – above all the other applicants – should be invited to attend an interview.

· Poor CV design. In the case of your CV looks count. The layout and style of your CV is important. The reader wants to find key bits of information about you quickly without having to search through lots of clutter. Using plenty of white space, appropriate headings and section breaks will assist reading and navigation around your CV.

· A lengthy CV. Though it's tempting to throw everything about you into your CV, overloading the reader with too much information can be a turn off. Keep it short and sweet and include information that is relevant to the job you're applying for. Remember the interviewer is using your CV to decide if they should interview you or not.

· Badly organised information. A CV that is hard to follow won't allow the reader to build an accurate and favourable picture of you in the short space of time you have to impress them. Make sure the information you present is well ordered and logical to follow.

· Overwritten. Using long paragraphs and sentences makes it hard work to read quickly. Don't make the reader decipher what you mean to say. Be clear and concise in your message to your potential employer

· Not enough information. Though you shouldn't overload the reader with information, you also have to make sure that you provide enough to allow them to decide to interview you. Too little information could also be grounds for rejecting your application.

· No focus on results. Your CV is your sales pitch to your future employers. It's absolutely vital to make sure that whatever you write in your CV shows you in your best light and tells the employer why you should be chosen for interview.

· Use of poor English. Failure to check and re-check your CV for spelling mistakes, typographical errors and poor grammar has the potential to portray the wrong image to an employer. Getting someone else to check these for you will help you see errors you may have become blind to in preparing your CV. Don't always trust the spell checker function in word processing packages to do this for you!

Now you are aware of what can go wrong you can take the next step of collecting together the information you will need to prepare your CV. This will include:

· Personal details; such as your full name, address, contact telephone numbers (home and mobile), date of birth, marital status, nationality and driving licence

· Education and qualifications, which should be listed with the most recent first and will include Degrees, A levels, HNC's/HND's, ONC/D's, NVQ's, GCSE's etc. For each qualification make sure you know the grade awarded, the name of the school, college or university where it was gained and the correct title of the award. You should also have details of when you started and completed the qualification.

· Professional qualifications or membership of professional associations or institutions you hold. Make sure that your membership is current and that you know your correct class of membership.

· Training courses you have attended. Include courses that you have gone on through work, and by your own initiative, that are relevant to the job you are applying for.

· Work experience starting with your most recent job and working backwards. The two most recent jobs should be the ones you cover in most detail.

For each position you should give your job title, the job title of the person you reported to and start and finish dates. Give the name of the company and include a brief description of who they are and what they do.

You should then describe your main responsibilities, achievements, duties, and skills for each role that could be transferred to another employer. Be specific and positive about your skills, e.g. 'good written skills' may be a better description of your abilities rather than 'good communication skills'.

When talking about your achievements try and give figures to back these up. For example, instead of stating that you achieved substantial cost savings state 'I was responsible for reducing costs by £10k'. Some other achievements could include meeting deadlines, budgets, etc, which have the potential to be relevant to your next job.

· Major Achievements that differ from those you've already listed in your work experience. This is an opportunity to really sell yourself to your potential employer and stand out from the other applicants.

· Other skills and experience that are relevant to the role you are applying for. This might be computer skills, specialist skills or fluency in a foreign language. You could also mention charity or volunteer work you've been involved with.

· Interests and hobbies, clubs and organisations that you belong to. Again, this is somewhere to highlight non-work related responsibilities and achievements you have.

· References. You should have at least 2 contacts that can provide a reference for you. Try and pick referees who will be able to give the best picture of who you are and your abilities. They could be someone you worked with in a past position, or a college or university lecturer.
Once you have all this information you can then write your CV. A basic CV can be structured in the following way:

· Personal details, giving information on who you are and how you can be contacted. E.g. Name, address, telephone numbers, nationality etc.

· A profile or summary of the content of your CV focusing on your experience, skills and abilities. Make the most of your positive attributes that are relevant to job and will be of interest to the employer. This summary can be tailored according to the job you are applying for.

· Achievements. Bullet point a selection of your strongest achievements that reflect what you can bring to the job.

· Education/Qualifications. Only list the most important qualifications. If you hold a degree then you don't need to list all GCSE grades, but instead indicate the number you hold.

· Experience. Start with your most recent job and work back. Give dates for when you started each role and the responsibilities and achievements for each. Make sure that you don't repeat information in your CV as this can bore the reader and make them miss vital pieces of information.

· Interests. This section should be kept short but you need to make sure you include any responsibilities and achievements.

· Referees. You should include two referees. Preferably one should be from an academic and the other from an employer you have worked for.

Tips to remember when writing your CV are:

1. Make sure your CV portrays you in a positive way, but don't go overboard in selling yourself to the employer.

2. Don't be negative about yourself or point out your failures – this is a sure fire way of ensuring you don't get invited to interview.

3. Ensure your CV paints the right image of you to your employer. The employer needs to be able to see you as someone that fits the role.

4. Be careful of using abbreviations or words that may not be understood by the reader.

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