You've probably written a fair few CVs in your life, and there's no time like the present to update or revamp your current one. Your CV, along with your cover letter, is the first chance you've got to impress potential employers so it's worth taking the time to make it perfect and show them the skills and experience you've got that they need.
What should your CV include?
The format and structure of a CV may change over time, as you gain more work experience, but its essential elements do not change.
Every CV should include:
Your personal details
This includes your name, address, telephone number and email address.
A personal profile
A personal profile is an optional paragraph summarising your career aims, work background and achievements, and your skills and qualities. It's a few lines telling employers what you can do for them and how your skills fit into their organisation, however try not to be vague or too generic as an employer won't be able to distinguish you from the rest of the pack.
Qualifications and training
This could be anything from GSCE results to professional diplomas and you should start with your most recent qualifications and work back to your school ones. If you end up with too much information, you can start to remove anything which you think is irrelevant to the position your applying for.
Employment history and work experience
What roles you've had, for how long and the responsibilities you've had within them. You can also put your work experience in here if you've not had that many jobs and you've got some career gaps.
You should start with your most recent job and work backwards, and if you've been working a while you might only put your last three positions in and/or those you think are most relevant to the job role.
Especially if your employment history has a few holes, explaining the skills you have to do the job can help employers understand what you can do. You can either write them in a list with examples of how you gained them, or within your employment history, as a summary of the skills you learnt from each job.
Interests and achievements
Your CV can also include hobbies, interests and achievements that are revelant to the job you are applying to. Make you hobbies specific and interesting, and avoid writing those that you would do alone, for example instead of saying that you play for your local five-a-side you can state that you organise match times and venues with other teams.
If you think there's any other information you CV needs you can put it in here. For example, being able to speak a second language might be a benefit for a role or holding a clean driving licence might be a must for your career path. You might also want to explain any gaps in employment history here.
You references are people that can vouch for your character and capabilities in the work place. They should preferably be work-related, however if you haven't worked for a while they can include a responsible person you've known for some time.
What if you've been out of work for a while?
Many people fall into the trap of thining that if they are not in work they have no skills or expertise. This is not the case. Everyone has some skills, even if they are not learnt in an office environment.
In your everyday life you communicate with others, manage your time, organise you and your family's life, and stick to your family budget without having any experience of an office. If you have children you will be good at communicating with people different to you, whether it's other kids or their parents. You might also be involved in their lives, organising things for them and their friends to do on the weekend.
If you are stuck for skills, think about how your friends describe you. They will have a better understanding of you, and can tell you what your skills are!
If you want to update your skills if you think that you aren't going to get a job straight away, you can look at doing some work experience.
How do you format your CV?
It might seem stupid but having a clearly, professionally laid out CV makes a huge difference to employers. If they can’t find all the amazing stuff you’ve done because your CV is too confusing they will not give you the job.
CVs should be formatted with normal page margins, in size 10 or 11 font. Any simple readable font will work, such as Arial, Gill Sans, or Helevetica.
A CV should be between 1 and 2 pages long depending on what stage of your career you are at and you can use template CVs in MSWord or GoogleDocs if you want a stylish look without too much effort.
If you are not using a template, make sure to split your information into clear sections with headings in bold or underlined. Always put your educational and employment histories in reverse chronological order. This means the most recent things should be at the top. This is because once to have taken your A Levels and obtain further qualifications, employers care much more about these than your GCSE results.
Getting these things right and reading through your CV before you send it will evidence your attention to detail and the care you take in your work before they even read the CV!
How do you tailor your CV?
Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. Specifically, this may mean looking at the skills the job description asks for and making sure to include examples of how you have picked up these skills. It also might mean separating general experience from experience relevant to the job for which you are applying.
More generally, it is important to understand the tone of the company and the type of employee they are looking for. If you are applying to a law firm for example, use a more serious font and a very traditional layout for your CV. A graphic design or advertising company, however, might be looking for someone more creative so you could use a younger, more edgy font and perhaps a more relaxed format.
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