What is a CV? Curriculum Vitae: an outline of a person’s educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications (L, lit.: the course of one’s life).
A perfect CV is a CV that achieves the interview, no more, no less. When the CV puts your name on the interview shortlist, it has done its job. Writing a CV is not difficult but it is onerous. If your CV is to be successful, it will take lots of time – a first draft generally takes about six hours of work. There are no short cuts; at this point, you don’t need luck just hard work!
A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications. It can convey your personal details in a way that presents you in the best possible light and can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area. For this reason, the trend in some companies is not to use CVs and instead use their own application form.
The CV serves three basic requirements;
1. To highlight your value to a potential employer
2. To provide a structure and a curriculum for the interview
3. To act as a record of the substance of the interview
An application form is designed to bring out the essential information and the personal qualities that the employer requires and does not allow you to gloss over your weaker points as a CV does. In addition, the time needed to fill out these forms is seen as a reflection of your commitment to the career and the company.
There is no “one best way” to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured and presented as you wish within the basic framework set out below. It is important to remember that it is your CV; you need to feel comfortable with it and sell it! If there is something suggested you do not agree with – you do not need to use it!
The CV writer’s creed
I promise I will;
- Be totally honest with myself and everything on my CV will be true. I will present myself in the best way I can but I will not suggest that I am better than I am. False modesty will not get me a job!
- Be true to my values and not pursue positions that are in conflict with my beliefs
- Accept advice, reflect on it and incorporate it into my job search if I think it is appropriate
- Be creative so that my CV is unique and represents not only my skills and experience but also me as an individual
- Be humble enough to change aspects of my CV that are not working for me
- Be thorough, recognising that there are no short cuts
- Be patient and not expect quick fixes, recognising that the better employer often takes time and consideration when selecting the right candidate
- Take responsibility for my own job search and career because no one else can do it for me!
- Always be the best I can
In the first instance you need to make sure that your CV does NOT have any of the following;
- CVs on brightly coloured paper and not A4 size
- CVs displaying strange fonts – gothic or Lucinda are common examples
- CVs with huge helpings of ego, verbiage and puff
- CVs with all that exciting additional IRRELEVANT information such as children’s ages, tax and passport numbers, spouse’s occupation, irrelevant hobbies, grade school achievements…
- CVs with a sprinkling of spelling, syntax and grammatical errors
- CVs longer than 3 pages
- CVs giving salary details
- CVs with gaps in employment
- CVs with your photograph
- CVs attaching copies of your job description references dating back to the 1900s and certificates for life-saving!
- CVs which are expensively bound
What makes a great CV?
- There is no single “correct” way to write and present a CV but the following general rules apply:
- It is targeted to the specific job or career area for which you are applying and brings out the relevant skills you have to offer
- It is carefully and clearly laid out: logically ordered, easy to read and not cramped
- It is informative but concise
- It is accurate in content, spelling and grammar
How long should a CV be?
- There are no absolute rules but, in general, a CV should be about two – three A4 pages
- A general rule is that the more experienced you are, and the higher positions you have held the shorter your CV should be.
- For example, someone who was Vice – President of Marketing, will have a job title that speaks volumes on their experience. If you can summarise your career history comfortably on a single side, this is fine and has advantages when you are making speculative applications and need to put yourself across concisely. However, you should not leave out important items or crowd your text too closely together in order to fit it onto that single side.
- Academic and technical CVs may be much longer: up to 4 or 5 sides.