Get That Job With the Right CV

  | James Innes
     

From Julie Gray, Get that Job with the Right CV will help to teach you how to write the best possible CV to land that perfect job. It covers everything from layout and format, through to perfecting a jargon-free writing style, avoiding common pitfalls and tailoring your CV to different jobs.  Julie’s in-depth professional advice and friendly style will guide you through every step of the CV writing process with humour and practicality and give you real confidence to effectively showcase your skills to employers. As a professional CV writer, Julie sees every single day which CVs really achieve results.  This puts her in an excellent position to help you to create a truly exceptional CV of your own.

We provide extracts from chapters in the book:

Ch. 1: How this book can help you

In this chapter you will:

• understand the benefits of writing your own CV

• get started straight away

• decide where in the book to begin

There are few guarantees in life, and employment is certainly not one of them. Despite hard work and careful choices, jobs can come and go quite unexpectedly. The perfect opportunity that slipped by because you weren’t quite ready for it; the too-good-to-be-true job offer that lived up to its name; that brilliant role ruined by a domineering manager with whom you simply couldn’t get along; the seemingly secure job for life that disappeared just when you needed it most; the small gap in your employment that quickly expanded into a chasm. Whether you welcome it or fear it, job searching is a part of almost everyone’s life – now more than ever.

Competition for jobs

There is one thing you can guarantee when it comes to a job search: competition.

Most of us have had to fight to get the jobs we need and want; this was happening even before the catastrophic impact of the 2008 events on the global economy. If the company you work for goes under, it’s not just you being left without a job. Tens or even hundreds of your co-workers will be in the same position. That raises the stakes: you’re all chasing the same job opportunities at the same time.

Once the economy has started to stabilize, competition for jobs will probably keep rising because companies will remain very cautious about whom they take on. Before the crash it wasn’t uncommon to have 100 or more applicants chasing one vacancy – and that’s not just the high flyers.

However much or little experience you have, it’s getting harder for anyone to reach interview stage. Repeatedly being refused interviews, often with little or no explanation, can undermine anyone’s self-confidence. If you were feeling a little shaky to start with, this can quickly become a problem. Before long you find yourself sending out applications that you don’t really believe are going to get you anywhere. Once this happens, it’s often clear to the person reading your application that you’ve given up. Unless you work for an anti-smoking charity, quitting is not a desirable quality in an employee.

What is a CV?

The one tool that everyone needs in a job search is a great CV, or Curriculum Vitae, which literally means ‘the course of one's life’.

Ignore the Latin roots: a CV is simply a brief written summary about you. It tells prospective employers three things:

what you can do for their business
why they should interview you for this job
How to get in touch with you to arrange it...

Ch. 2: Getting the basic details together

In this chapter you will learn how to:

pull together accurate facts about yourself, your skills and your experience
understand what to put in and what to leave out
The following headings cover the key pieces of information you will need to write down, check or think about in this section:

Personal details: name, address, telephone number, email.
Your personal information: discrimination law, disability, security.
Education: accuracy and proof.
Career, employment or work history: company details, first jobs, voluntary work.
Professional qualifications and memberships.
Further skills and training.
Interests.
References: professional and personal.
Personal details

NAME
Your CV should start with your name. Don’t put ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’ at the top, because everyone knows what they’re looking at. You don’t write ‘Shopping List’ above a list of bread, milk, beans and toilet roll; your CV doesn’t need to be labelled either.

The name you put doesn’t have to be the full one from your birth certificate. Roger Winston Richard Johnson can just be Roger Johnson. If your first name is Christopher but everyone calls you Chris, put Chris. For a first name that is unusual, long, or often mispronounced, you might feel more comfortable using a shortened or anglicized version. This could be the name friends or colleagues normally call you.

Harichou could become Hari or Harry, Abhayankari might change to Abha or Abby, or Gbone turns to Bonnie. When doing this, be careful not to end up sounding like a nickname or a joke. Shortening Madi any further could give the wrong impression. It’s better to wait until the interview to admit that your colleagues call you Mad!

In general, if you’re not a native speaker of the language in which you have to write your CV, or a resident of the country in which you're applying for a job, it's a good idea to check name changes (as a minimum) with someone who is.

Insight
Abbreviating names can change gender. This shouldn’t affect your chances of interview but can cause confusion! Christine shortened to Chris might imply a male: changing Madhusudhana to Madi might imply a female. If you prefer your gender clear – it doesn’t have to be – you can always add a Miss, Ms, Mrs or Mr to your CV and covering letter.

CONTACT DETAILS
Standard practice is to list your:

home address
telephone number
email address.
Address
State your full postal address, including an accurate postcode.

Telephone number
Be sure to include the area code and double check it is correct. Most recruiters will bin a CV if they dial the contact number and the person who answers has never heard ...

Ch. 3: What skills do you have?

In this chapter you will learn how to:

• understand what employers want to hear
• tell them how good you are
• prove what you say

What makes you attractive?

The answer has nothing to do with physical appearance. How attractive you are to an employer is based purely on what you can offer them.

What you have done in the past will give most employers the best indication of what you can offer them in future. Their initial focus is most likely to be your Employment section.

Make it personal

An ideal Employment section is a series of bullet points in which you show off your skills.

What it is not, is a simple list of job responsibilities.

A list of job duties won’t make you stand out from anyone else who does a similar job. Employers don't want to know what you were supposed to be doing in another job; they want to know what you actually did in that job, and what you can therefore do for them.

Prove yourself

The key to doing this well is proof. Each bullet point must give some evidence that supports your claim to have these skills. When you think about it, anyone can claim to be anything. We can all claim to be amazingly motivated, valuable, committed, skilled employees. If all you do is make claims, there’s no reason for a recruiter to believe you. And no way to tell you apart from others.

The moment you start coming up with examples to show that what you say is true, your CV starts to gather real power.

Building your Employment section

Starting with your most recent job in mind, try to answer the following three questions:

1 WHAT DID YOU ACTUALLY DO?

Don’t rely too much on your job title to explain your past roles. What your job title says you do in your current company is often not the same at other companies you apply to.

EXAMPLE
Example
Question: Which of these is the most senior sales position?

Territory Sales Manager
Regional Sales Executive
Regional Account Manager
Sales Development Executive
Regional Sales Manager
New Business Executive
National Account Manager
Customer Development Manager
Answer: It depends. Even where the same title is used, the levels of responsibility can vary enormously. One company’s office manager can be another’s post sorter and coffee maker.

Accurately note what you did/do for each company you’ve worked for, and at what level.

From the following list, note what you were/are handling:

workload
team sizes
team complexity
project deadlines
budget sizes
performance targets.
Specific detail is what will make it clear to another employer whether you are likely to be able to cope with the level of job you are ...

Ch. 4: How to SHORTlist your best points

In this chapter you will:

learn to SHORTlist examples: prove skills in a distinctive, personal way
use SHORTlisting to write your Profile, Employment History and more
What makes a good example?

When you go back and read them, some of your examples describing how you have shown key skills might seem a bit weak. It could be that you aren’t very practised at this skill – but more often, it’s because the example you’ve given is not specific enough.

For every example that you’ve noted, you need to check whether it is specific enough to add power to your CV. This next process, called SHORTlisting, will help you transform woolly examples into concise proof of your skills.

SHORTlisted examples make it clear why you should be asked for interview. They are your starting point for everything that follows in your job search: they form the basis of your CVs, application forms and covering letters, and help you right up to interview stage.

How do I SHORTlist my examples?

Every example needs to be as SHORT as it can be:

Specific: what exactly did you do, why and how?
Honest: did you do it? Alone or as part of a team (what part did you play)?
Outcome: was there a measurable result or benefit for your employer?
Realistic: does what you are claiming sound achievable – or like a fantasy?
Transferable: will this skill be useful to any future employer?
Let’s take each aspect in turn.

Specific

Use details or numbers to explain exactly what you are talking about.
Example
A sales administrator responsible for compiling reports for the sales director every month wants to show he has good communication skills as his next step is moving into sales.

EXAMPLE

Good

Reporting on sales expenses.
He states clearly what he is reporting on. But what kind of report is it, how often does he do it, does it need input from other people?

Better

Comparing year-on-year sales expenses, reporting to the sales director every month end.
He is now stating exactly what his reporting involves. It’s still not clear how big a task this is and whether he does it alone.

Best

Solely responsible for working with the 30-strong sales team to understand year-on-year sales expense trends, reporting to the sales director every month end.
This covers all the bases about size and scope, what he does and with whom he does it...

Ch. 5: Prioritizing the essentials

In this chapter you will:

understand what employers really want to know
make it easy for employers to find that information first
It’s time to understand just what an employer is going to do with your CV. To do that, you need to know who is reading your CV – or at least, what is important to them.

Whoever reads your CV will be working under two main constraints: time and knowledge.

Time constraints

Most people are under time constraints at work; no one is ever going to take as much time to read your CV as you hope they will. This can seem unfair given the effort you are going to, but if you make it easy for someone to quickly see why you should be shortlisted for interview (or why your CV shouldn’t go in the bin), then all the effort will have been worth it.

Insight

If 100 people applied for a vacancy and each CV took five minutes to read, it would take the reader an entire day (without breaks) to read them all. That’s on top of their normal job.

It would take a week to get through 500 applications. What if there were four vacancies at once, not one? No one can take a month out of their job to do nothing but read CVs.

That’s why you’ll be lucky if anyone spends more than two minutes reading your CV. Even a whole minute should be considered a gift: many readers decide in seconds.

……………………

Time constraints are partly why many employers turn to recruitment agencies to help them fill vacancies. Hurray, you might think: an agency will read my CV properly! After all, that’s what they do for a living. But in fact it isn’t much easier for recruitment agents.

Reading CVs is most definitely a part of a recruitment agent ’ s job, but they also have research, interviews, client meetings, negotiations and internal issues to handle – and often they will be dealing with many different clients and vacancies.

So don’t be fooled into thinking that sending a CV to a recruitment agency instead of an employer – whether speculatively or for an advertised vacancy – means you can submit something longer or less finished. True, many recruitment agencies rewrite selected CVs in their preferred style (or that of their clients), but they may not bother rewriting yours and passing it on if they can’t easily see what you have to offer their clients.

Some companies save time by using automated CV scanning to sift through the first round of applications by computer, only giving real people CVs to read once this initial shortlist is over. This is also something you will need to take into account; more detail on this can be found in Part four, Targeting it carefully.

To suit time constraints, your CV needs to be brief and relevant...

Ch. 6: Effective language to make you stand out

In this chapter you will:

understand why your choice of words is so important
choose the most powerful action words to suit you
refine the language in your CV
How you approach this aspect of CV writing depends largely on how you feel about language.

Some people deliberately ignore this stage: they feel confident that their concrete achievements and proven abilities speak for themselves, and don’t appreciate how essential good writing is. Others simply don’t understand what this part involves and therefore can’t see why it is so important. There are also those who recognize good writing when they see it, but for some reasons aren’t able to replicate it themselves.

The basic rules of CV writing:

There are three basic points that it helps to understand before you start:

1 The most critical words on your CV are those you start each section or bullet point with. These will be the first – and possibly the only – words read by an employer or recruiter who quickly scans through your CV. They should be verbs – action words.

2 Most, if not all, CV writers and readers would agree that the words you use to describe yourself speak volumes about you as a person. This is especially true of the verbs – or action words – that you include in your CV.

3 Impressive words or ‘management speak’ are not the foundation of a well-written CV. Just think carefully about the words you choose and, in some cases, try stretching yourself a little bit further than might normally feel comfortable. Anyone can – and should be able to – produce a clear, well-written CV.

Why action words matter

The most important words in your CV will be your action words. This is partly because all examples in your Employment section should begin with action words, and partly because these are the words that show employers what you are capable of doing.

You may not believe it yet but how you describe what you do can give someone a strong impression of the kind of person you are. They might even assume you have certain character traits. The following examples show how the action word you choose can make a big difference:

1 ‘On your first day in your new job, you walked towards the building, looking up at the company name above the door.’ This is a simple, straightforward description of what you did. Nothing wrong with it, but it says very little about you as a person.

2 ‘On your first day in your new job, you strolled towards the building, glancing up at the company name above the door.’
This choice of words suggests a much more casual approach. Strolling and glancing implies a person who was relaxed, and not fazed – but possibly not very enthusiastic either.

3 ‘On your first day in your new job, you crept towards the building, peeking up at the company name above the door.’
You sound like a timid, nervous person who was scared about starting work.

4 ‘On your first day in your new job, you raced towards the building, checking the company name above the door.’
Hmmm … overslept?

5 ‘On your first day in your new job, you marched towards the building, gazing up at the company name above the door.’ ...

Ch. 7: True lies: when marketing becomes deceit

In this chapter you will:

• define a lie

• appreciate the risks of lying on your CV

However well you present your skills and achievements in a positive light, there will probably still be areas of your CV where you wish you had something better to say. It can be very tempting, when looking at these less impressive parts of your CV, to make something up. But the only possible advice for someone in this situation is: Don’t.

Education lies

Let’s say you lie about your grades or qualifications. They don’t quite meet the job spec or aren’t something you feel proud of. What happens when you are asked for evidence? Where would a certificate come from … or could you sit a test to prove your knowledge?
Lies are not just when you claim to have something that you don’t – exaggeration is also a form of lying. You don’t feel proud of your 2.2 in English from Bristol University so you bump it up – just a little – to a 2.1. Or maybe you say you got your degree from Cambridge University instead, as you had a girlfriend there.

How could you possibly be found out? Lots of ways:

An interviewer who studied English at Cambridge themselves and wants to know which tutor you had.
A chance search on Facebook, where you clearly show as part of the Bristol University network.
A pre- (or post-) interview screening by a professional screening company in which your university attendance and results are verified.
Employment lies

When you lie about a former job or exaggerate your responsibilities, what happens when your prospective employer … contacts your old boss? … Googles you and finds an old web page showing your real job title? … asks the professional screening company to make a few calls?

Other lies

There may be some areas of your CV where you think you are quite safe to lie. Little lies, because you can’t possibly get caught – not even by the professionals. A more interesting-sounding interest; elevating your spoken Spanish from tourist to business level; several months’ travel abroad to cover up that inconvenient gap in your employment. If an untruthful CV does get you to interview, can you carry trough your lies convincingly? You could be challenged in any number of ways, not just at interview but in future:

You add yoga as an interest: your interviewer turns out to be a Hatha Yoga instructor.
You claim advanced spoken German: the HR manager spent a year in the Munich branch (or married a German) and happens to speak it fluently.
You add ‘six months’ backpacking in Vietnam’, thinking it an unusual destination, but end up face to face with someone who toured South East Asia during their gap year.
You mention abseiling as a hobby, but then refuse to go near a climbing wall during your first corporate event, citing your lifelong fear of heights...

Ch. 8: Honest spin: handling problem areas

In this chapter you will:

• understand the difference between honest spin and lying

• construct a positive story or explanation for something

• Deal with trouble spots using spin

Just as Max Clifford does for his clients through clever PR, being careful with your words can help transform a lacklustre CV into something everyone wants to read. The trick is to find a way to make people focus on what you want them to focus on. Generally speaking, it’s best not to bring up a problem area if it can be avoided: you are perfectly entitled to be picky about what you include in your CV. Some things will need explanation though, or your reader could end up making assumptions that are much worse than reality. For this, you can use honest spin. Honest spin doesn’t lie about an issue; instead it acknowledges it but focuses on the positive. So, what kind of problems can be tackled using honest spin?

Gaps in employment

Employment gaps can happen to anyone, and can be caused by a number of things:

voluntary or involuntary redundancy
sabbatical
long-term illness
being fired
career break to raise a family or care for a relative
retraining
being a school leaver or university graduate
a prison sentence
travel
Resigning after making a poor career move.
Any of the above can see you out of work for some time. While many do not actually reflect on your ability to do a job, most employers still see being out of work as negative.

Mind the gap

Shorter gaps of a few weeks or months can sometimes be smoothed over by mentioning only the years (not the years and months) that you worked for an employer. It’s an effective way to avoid focusing on any gaps, but because of this some recruiters may automatically view with suspicion any CV that gives only the years of employment.

Longer gaps, or gaps that happen to span two calendar years, tend to look more obvious and it's rather awkward to handle them this way. Depending on the reason for the gap, it is often better to include a brief explanation rather than leave the reader to fill in the blanks themselves. Chances are you can explain the reasons better and more positively than their imagination will. Volunteering a brief explanation for an employment gap can make you seem a more attractive prospect as it shows you are honest, which sensible employers value highly.

Another way to distract recruiters from a gap is to change the format of your CV so that your skills examples are given before your employment history and dates. This is called a functional CV and will be covered in more detail in Part four.

Targeting it carefully.
In the following examples, only the job dates, titles and companies are listed for simplicity...

Ch. 9: Jargon: when to include, explain or avoid

In this chapter you will learn how to:

• define jargon

• understand when and how to use jargon

What is jargon?

Jargon consists of words, brands, acronyms, abbreviations and expressions with specific meanings. It can be industry-specific, company-specific, technical or generic and it is almost always used as a kind of shorthand. Jargon allows you to refer to something in an agreed way that your colleagues should understand. Most people use jargon in their everyday speech at work and, while some jargon is fairly specialized, much is so widely used that it becomes commonplace.

Whether you enjoy using – or reading – jargon is a very personal thing. Even if it’s something you dislike, it can be tempting to use lots of jargon in your CV simply because it’s a great way to save space. But at the initial stage of the recruitment process – or at any stage of it – you have no control over who might read your CV.

It could be a specialist, but it could equally be an HR executive with little or no understanding of the specific role you are applying for. So, use jargon as little as possible.

There is plenty of generic ‘business’ jargon about. You may well have:

heard of SMART objectives
been told to KISS
said the budget was TBC
listed a URL
sent an email FYI
heard a step-change is needed
benchmarked performance
Done some ‘blue-sky’ thinking.
How you use jargon when talking to your colleagues is up to you. If it saves time and you know it ’ s helping your audience understand you better, then by all means make yourself a target for buzzword bingo.

Whenever you are unsure of your audience, use plain English.
Industry-specific jargon is popular and includes many things, such as:

Finance: P&L (profit and loss), YOY (year on year), Sage (accounting software)
Printing: CMYK (4 colour print process), CTP (computer to plate), B1 (sheet size)
Retail: FSDU (floor standing display unit), Plano (where products should go on shelves).
Within a particular industry, this kind of jargon may be widely accepted – especially if it relates to standard equipment, processes or technical specifications – and may even be seen as a way of showing you are knowledgeable in the field. Use this kind of jargon only when it’s essential, widely understood, and won’t confuse someone who reads it.

Jargon can also be company-specific:

JDE – in-house customer service system
XLOB – across different lines of business
Sekunda – self-erecting unit
Tranzit – artwork file transfer system.
While your colleagues may understand you perfectly, no one outside your organization will. Avoid using any terms like this on your CV...

Ch. 10: Being specific – targeting an industry

In this chapter you will:

• highlight norms and expectations in different industries

• evaluate chronological, functional and hybrid CV types

• apply basic CV principles to your targeted CV.

In general a finished, targeted CV should be one to two pages long and should contain some or all of the sections described in Part one, Preparing the details and Part two, Writing the basics. Creating a targeted CV from your generic CV, which may be much longer, means selecting the most relevant and powerful material to put in your one to two pages.

If you are unsure about what is required in a particular CV, bear in mind that a powerful, concise two-pager never offended anyone. However, it helps if your CV is appropriately constructed for the sector you are applying to and includes all the relevant details an employer would normally expect to see.

Understanding your sector and following some guidelines will help you to get it right.

Understand what the sector expects

Ask yourself what you will be doing, and what kinds of skills and knowledge are most likely to be valued. This question is obvious if you are a school leaver, graduate, or trying to change careers, but it does in fact apply to everyone. You can’t tailor a CV effectively unless you know what is desirable.

Careers services, recruitment agencies and employers often provide useful summaries of different fields, online and offline. If you don’t have easy access to a computer or other research facilities, try newspapers: reading a variety of job adverts for the industry you are interested in (not just those for roles you intend to apply for) will highlight common themes and desirable skills that you can demonstrate in your own CV.

Be genuinely enthusiastic about the field you are trying to get into

If railways are your passion, make sure it is clearly demonstrated in your CV when you apply for that job as a track maintenance technician or rail customer service adviser.

Genuine enthusiasm will help you stand out from a crowd of applicants who are simply desperate for any job as a technician or in customer service. Or just any job. If it’s your dream to work in Formula One, make sure your interest in and relevant experience with cars and motor sport is mentioned throughout your CV.

If you apply for a job in the Health and Beauty sector as office administrator for a large corporation, highlight your work experience at a salon between jobs, or your Beauty Therapy course at college. These will make your application appear more considered, and help it to be remembered.

Most companies want to attract and retain loyal employees. It’s a far safer bet to recruit someone who’d love to work in their industry and who can show them why.

Follow industry expectations

There are many ways to divide up employment: sectors; segments; industries; fields.
Some people might consider retail banking, investment banking, financial planning and accounting to sit closely together under a single umbrella called Finance. But should financial sales also be included within Finance? Or Sales?...

Ch. 11: Being specific – targeting a job and employer

In this chapter you will:

• identify which skills and competencies are important for the role you want

• learn how to win over people and automated scanners

• understand the role of research in effective targeting

The role

Once you’ve got a handle on the industry or sector you’re hoping to work in, and have structured your CV accordingly, you must tailor it to the specific role that you are after.
To do this successfully, you first need to know which skills and competencies are essential to be able to do this job well (at least in the employer’s eyes, which may or may not always reflect reality), and which other skills may also be beneficial. This can be straightforward or may need some additional research on your part.

Skills and competencies

RESPONDING TO A JOB ADVERT

This makes it easy: the job advert lays out a concise list of the key competencies and experience that a company is looking for in an ideal applicant. The priorities – whether a particular skill is essential or just nice to have – are usually made clear.

It cannot be stressed enough how crucial it is to read a job advert carefully. Writing down two lists as you read through it, one for the requirements considered essential, the other for the nice-to-haves, can help you focus on what’s important. This is purely the company’s wish list: don’t be put off if you don’t meet every single requirement 100 per cent, as many other candidates probably won’t be able to either. However, realistically you should meet at least 75 per cent of the essential requirements and have other skills you can ‘sell’ in order to be considered seriously. If you meet less than 75 per cent of the criteria, your chances of getting an interview – particularly in a job-scarce climate – could be slight. It's up to you whether you spend the time and money applying anyway, or focus on those job specifications that you meet more closely.

When assessing how well you meet the requirements of a job and what else you could offer, try comparing similar job adverts from other companies: ones for distant locations or other industries.

There will be much overlap, but every now and again you may see a skill mentioned that you hadn’t thought of; one you could sell as a benefit to this employer.

Examples of adverts for sales roles on one date

Weighing solutions: Formal sales training, AM experience, a technical background. Self-organization, attention to detail, target-driven, tenacious, resilient. Computer literate. Full UK driving licence.

Medical equipment: Proven sales track record, confident communicator and presenter. Commercially astute, comfortable discussing finance and capex budgets at director level.
A will to win, real drive, ambition, tenacious, organized, able to prioritize. Team player also able to work autonomously, personal charisma, a real ‘people person’.

Facilities Management: Proven sales track record ...

Ch. 12: Layout - how should a finished CV look?

In this chapter you will:

• make your CV legible, scannable and readable

• ensure your CV is error-free

You have already put a lot of work into content and style. Now it’s time to perfect the layout to make sure your CV is read, understood and remembered.

The basic elements of good layout are drawn from years of scientific study into how people look at, read and process information. There are three things you must get right. A CV needs to be:

legible
scannable
readable.
Getting this right means a CV that begs to be picked up and that won’t be forgotten.

Making your CV legible

This simply means that someone can clearly make out the letters and words in your CV. It’s amazing how often people get carried away making a page look ‘pretty’, or trying to fit too much onto two pages. Looking inviting is important, but don’t forget the purpose of your CV is to be read and understood.

Here are some basic legibility guidelines:

FONT

Don’t spend hours picking out complex fonts that look nice – these can be hard to read.
Do use simple, clear fonts: for printed CVs, popular serif or sans serif fonts are both fine. It's okay to mix two fonts like newspapers do, for example, sans serif for headlines, serif for body text:
Profile
A freelance marketing consultant with a highly creative yet proven commercial approach. Winner of industry awards for planning and executing successful branding and launch campaigns, such as 2009's Yobabes organic yoghurt drink, Exobet online betting services and Pinx fashion accessories.

For online CVs, sans serif fonts are better as they are more legible on screen. If you are likely to send your CV on both paper and email, stay with sans serif. Changing fonts back and forth can alter your page layout so once you find a font or a combination of fonts that you like, it ’ s best to stick to it.

Insight

The most popular fonts are popular for a reason: now is not the time to be different. Times New Roman is the classic serif font, and is still the most common in printed material. Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are all common sans serif fonts. Try to avoid fonts like Courier New as they can look rather primitive on a CV.

SIZE

Don’t think tiny text will help you to cram in more words –they end up too small to read easily.
Don’t use text smaller than 10 point as it is too hard for most people to read easily...

Ch. 13: CV format - factors to consider

In this chapter you will learn:

• how to choose between digital and paper CVs

• about other non-standard CV formats and when to use them

Whenever you have a choice and the job advert doesn’t specify, send a paper CV.

Why paper?

Most studies show it takes people longer to read from a screen than from a printed sheet, so make it quick and easy. Paper can even encourage a recruiter to take your CV away from their desk and read it elsewhere, even at home. Your CV is likely to be paid more attention under these circumstances. Paper may cost a bit more than email, but it’s worth it to make life easier for the recruiter. Of course, a paper CV is not welcome if you are specifically asked to submit by email.

Advantages of a paper CV:

faster to read
layout and text cannot be altered
has a physical presence, is touchable
can be read anywhere
no compatibility issues
it can't be 'unopenable' (unless you decide to superglue the envelope) so it’s guaranteed to be right there in front of the recruiter’s eyes, whereas if someone has a problem opening your digital CV file, they might not bother asking you to send it again – especially if lots of other CVs do open first time.
Disadvantages of a paper CV:

more expensive
tempting to print bulk copies (instead of tailoring each one)
can get damaged
untraceable if lost: recruiter can’t go back and print another copy
post is slower than email – not ideal if you’re applying at the last minute.
PAPER CONSIDERATIONS

Question: What kind of paper, print and envelope should I use for my printed CV?

Answer:

Good quality paper: ideally 120gsm weight and slightly textured.
Very pale coloured paper: pale cream, pale blue or pale grey, with black text.
Print your covering letter on the same paper stock as your CV.
Unless requested, use paperclips instead of staples.
A4 envelope (remember to use a ‘large’ stamp) – brown or white irrelevant.
WHY?

Good quality paper is less likely to be damaged.
Slightly textured paper feels nicer to hold in your hand.
Black text on plain pastel paper is easiest to read, especially for people with dyslexia. Black text on white paper can cause more glare and makes a CV harder to read.
Coloured text or brightly coloured paper is an absolute no-no. A4 envelopes are better than A5 or DL as you won’t need to fold your CV. If you do fold it, it can be harder to:do automated scanning
photocopy
stack in a pile of other CVs
file.
This also applies to staples, which are awkward to remove for scanning, copying or filing.
When sending a paper CV ensure pages are clearly numbered and also named; then, if the sheets do get separated, it’s easy to see which ones belong together...

Ch. 14: Complementing your CV

Covering letters and application forms
In this chapter you will learn:

• The purpose of a covering letter or email and what it should contain

• How to use CVs with application forms and statements

Covering letters

It’s rare that a recruiter opens an envelope to find nothing but a CV inside. As a rule, a CV is always sent with a one-page covering letter or email that:

names the role you are applying for
highlights why you would be perfect for this role at this company
Encourages the recipient to read your CV and invite you for interview. It’s fair to say that this letter is, in many ways, even more important than your CV. A good letter guarantees that someone will at least skim through your CV. Dull, irrelevant or badly written letters beg to go straight in the bin – swiftly followed by your CV, however good it was.
Your covering letter needs to seduce the reader. It should take them by the hand, pat the seat and say: ‘Come and sit down. I’ve got an amazing CV for you to read. Look – this person has everything you could possibly want, all you need to do is see that for yourself.’ Once they start to read, they’ll be hooked.

Letters that do the literary equivalent of shrugging their shoulders and saying: ‘Here, have a quick peek at this CV. It’s quite good, you might even like some of it,’ are not doing as much as they should to help you. Worse still, if they mutter: ‘It’s a lot to ask but I’m hoping something in this CV might just catch your eye if you have the patience to give it a proper read’, then all your time spent learning to write an amazing CV has been wasted.

What type of covering letter should you use?

Many people feel that you should have a different type of covering letter for each type of application. Job adverts in the press vs. online job adverts, employer vs. recruitment agency adverts, responsive vs. speculative letters, for example.

However, with the possible exception of purely speculative applications, every covering letter or email basically needs to say the same things. It’s how you say them that matters.

What to include in a covering letter

You can include up to six points, ideally all fitting on one side of paper. Have a separate short paragraph for each.

1 Say clearly why you are sending your CV

Are you:

Answering an advert?
Writing speculatively, to ask if there are any opportunities for someone with your skills?
Sending a CV because a mutual contact suggested you do so?
2 Very briefly, say why you are an ideal person for this/a job

What skills and experience do you have that would be useful to them?
What would help you do this job better than others might be able to?
Direct them to your enclosed/attached CV to see proof of this, and more ...

Ch. 15: Living up to your great CV at interview

In this chapter you will learn how to:

• build your confidence before interview

OK, so you’ve finally finished your CV and your application. Now all the careful presentation and positive spin is complete, you have another fear: Does it all make you sound too good?

When you spend so long writing about how good you are, this can become a problem... you start to feel as if you can’t possibly live up to it at interview. Of course you can! Here’s why:

You wrote it yourself

Being able to live up to and talk confidently about the skills you’ve put down on paper has got to be the biggest benefit to writing your own CV. After all, you’ve:

done all the background work
thought carefully about all the times you’ve shown your skills
put these skill examples into clear, short sentences
picked the most relevant sentences and included them in a carefully targeted CV
made sure you’ re comfortable with the words you’ve used
Read it out loud so it feels easy and familiar when you talk about it.
If you didn’t write your CV yourself, there is a risk it will contain impressive-sounding words that you don’t really relate to. For example, would you ever say the following sentence out loud?

‘Maximizing departmental productivity through visionary leadership aligned to strategic objectives?’

OK, a few people might. But be honest – would you? Even if you would, it’s a hard sentence to repeat confidently under the pressure of an interview.

‘Building motivation by showing everyone in my department how their actions impact the whole company.’

This might be a more natural way to put it. You can remember this second sentence more easily, and are more likely to be able to say it in front of an interviewer without stumbling.

When your CV and the way you speak at interview are really mismatched, a competent interviewer will assume you probably didn’t write your own CV. They might wonder why.
If you did get a professional CV writing service to provide your generic CV, they should tweak it for you until you are happy.

But you should still ask for it as an electronic file, so you can then make any changes to the wording that will help you sound more natural, more like yourself. It also means you can target your CV properly...

Ch. 16: CV maintenance

In this chapter you will:

• understand why keeping your CV fresh is so important

• follow the checklist to regularly update your CV

However you prepared your CV and got it ready to use, whether it was all your own work or done with help from friends or a professional CV writer, don't just say ‘thank goodness that's over’ once you get the job you are after. A CV should not be chucked into a drawer or archived on your computer as soon as you open the champagne, only to be left gathering dust until you suddenly need it again.

Your CV is the key to all sorts of opportunities and to some extent can determine your career success and earning potential. It has the power to fundamentally change your life and should be treated accordingly.

Your CV is alive

Think of your CV as a puppy. Or kitten, if you’re a cat person. When your CV is young, you adore it. You lavish attention on it you pick it up, stroke it and show it proudly to other people.
When it becomes old, you take it for granted and don’t fuss over it any more.

If you ignore your CV and leave it shut away for long periods of time, it will quickly start to look scruffy. Granted, it won’t pee on your carpet or chew the sofa (pity, as that would be a great incentive), but it’s guaranteed to take much longer to respond to you when you do finally pay it some attention.

To keep a CV happy, you need to regularly check on it: groom it, feed it, and clean it out. It needs your love. OK, that’s about as far as this analogy will go, but hopefully it’s made the point. CVs need to be checked more than just every few years when you apply for another job.

Regular CV checkups

Ideally, you should re-read (and add to) your generic CV a minimum of every six months. More often is fine; by all means update it as often as there is a change to make. Current examples of all your skills are quicker and easier to add if you do it regularly. Thinking of good examples a year or two down the line can be very hard; if you lose your job and need your CV ready straight away, it can be even harder. A regular refresh means you can delete obsolete examples and remove any out of date or irrelevant information.

Revisiting your CV every few months also helps you to keep better tabs on the new skills and qualifications you are adding. If you haven’t put anything new into your CV for six months or a year, maybe it's about time to look into that training course you were thinking about, to ask for more responsibility, to go for promotion – or even to find a new job...

Ch. 17: Enhancing your employability

When nothing else works
In this chapter you will learn:

• How to add to your skills when refining your CV alone is not enough

Room for improvement

If you go through your generic CV every few months, you will usually discover a few niggles.

Those parts that, every time you read them, you wish looked a bit better.

The lack of industry experience that every job you’d like insists upon.
Public speaking skills you don’t have.
Equipment or software you’ve never learned how to use.
French stuck at GCSE level for a decade that is no use in your business.
The ever-increasing amount of time you have been unemployed.
Whatever the niggle may be, don’t just try to wish it away – or worse, lie. If there is something you could do to make your CV look better and give you more of a chance of getting to interview, why not do it?

Getting in early

It’s never too early to write your first CV. Whether you’re at school doing GCSEs next year, or A levels after that, or you are just starting further education, write it today. Yes, it’s going to look pretty empty in places, but that’s just what you need at this stage. The gaps in your early CV might help you decide how to spend some of your time over the next year or two, if you're serious about wanting a job when you finish your education. That’s not to say you should live your whole life by what will look good on your CV. But when things are tough and more people than ever are out of work, thinking about how your CV looks is something best done sooner.

The job market is already very competitive. Landing your first job with no experience can seem impossible. If you see a big gap in your CV now, start thinking how to close it. The following pointers apply to improving your CV at various stages in your career:

START YOUNG

Some larger companies may prefer not to employ under-16s and so may require a national insurance number on your application, but there are many other jobs you can do before then. Types of work under-16s can legally do include:

shelf stacking and other shop work
washing hair or cleaning up in a hair salon
car washing (by hand, on a private basis, not as part of a Commercial operation)
serving or clearing in a café or restaurant
working in an office
reception work
domestic work in hotels and motels
Farm-related work, fruit picking or gardening...

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