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Writing a CV

Writing a CV

Curriculum Vitae literally means ‘the course of one’s life’, but in reality it should be a concise and informative document which summarises your education and skills and sells you to an employer.

Ideally you should change your CV for every job you apply for, as you should try and reflect the requirements of the job and person specification, this may just mean a bit of tweaking each time.

Why do you need a CV?
1) Job adverts may ask for them
2) They can be used to send off a speculative application to an employer
3) To register with an agency
4) As a useful reminder of key dates and achievements

Golden Rules of CV writing
• Use good quality white or cream paper
• Use a font which is professional and easy to read e.g. Arial or Calibri
• Keep it concise – two page maximum for most people
• Clearly laid out and easy to read
• Use powerful and direct language
• Use bullet points wherever possible to avoid chunks of solid text
• Spell check before sending!
• Be positive!

MOST IMPORTANT
• Match your skills and achievements to the job you’re applying for

DON’T
• Lie – you’ll be found out if you get to an interview
• Use jargon or slang
• Try to be funny

What should be included?

There is no such thing as a perfect CV as everyone will have a slightly different view of how it should be laid out and what it should include, but there are key things which need to be present.

A Basic CV format
Your name in large bold type
Full address
Home telephone and mobile number
Email
Date of birth (optional)

Personal profile: This is an opportunity at the beginning of the CV to catch the employer’s interest. You don’t have to have one and it is quite difficult to write, but it gives you an opportunity to sell your skills and qualities to an employer in a few lines. Sometimes people end their profile by stating a career objective e.g. ‘seeking a position as an administrative assistant’.

Skills and experience: This is probably the most important section on your CV. You should include any voluntary work experience as well as paid work and be aware of the transferable skills you will have learned from this work and how they match the job description. If you are a recent graduate, academic qualifications and achievements may be more important so you could put them first.

Education and qualifications: List the secondary schools and colleges you have attended with dates and qualifications gained. If you’re a mature person or a graduate don’t list all your GCSE or ‘O’ Level subjects, just mention the number of subjects and if they include English, Maths and Science. Don’t forget to mention professional and vocational qualifications and any short courses you might have done.

Additional information: You could include information such as full clean driving licence, first aid certificate, membership of any professional bodies.

Interests: Only include things which are genuine interests and which will add something to your skills and experience e.g. captain of local cricket team, treasurer for a youth club, or other voluntary activities. Saying that you enjoy socialising or watching television isn’t really a good selling point!

References: If you’re applying for an actual job, they will tell you how many referees they require. If it’s a speculative approach it’s usual to put ‘References provided on request’ so that you can ensure that your references are current. Always check that people are happy to give you a reference before putting their names down, and don’t forget to put a mobile number and an email address if you can, as an employer may need to contact them quickly.

If you’re just leaving education it’s usual to have one academic reference and one from a previous employer. Other people could use two previous employers or if that isn’t possible one employer and a personal reference preferably from a professional person who has known you for some time.

Layout: There are different styles of CV and it is your choice which one you use. You need to consider which one will best show off your skills and experience.

CV styles

Chronological CV: This is a traditional CV which lists your work experience and education in chronological order starting with the most recent. It is best to give the most detail about your present or most recent job, particularly if it is relevant to the job which you’re applying for. Make sure you mention any positions of responsibility or notable achievements. If you have had lots of jobs then it’s a good idea to summarise them and state that you will give more details if required. Don’t leave any gaps, an employer will wonder what you were doing during that time.

This type of CV could be used when:
• you have had a number of jobs in the same occupation
• your experience shows that you have progressed in that area
• the job you’re applying for is a logical progression for you

Skills based CV: This type of CV allows you to draw on the transferable skills you have learned in all areas of your life (work and leisure) and to match them up with the requirements of the job. You will need to give a brief example of how you have demonstrated the particular skill. Once you have listed your skills you will still need to outline the different jobs you have had but this should be kept very brief.

This type of CV could be used when you have:
• decided to change career direction
• gained skills and experience through voluntary work or other leisure activities
• had a variety of different types of jobs
• have had a career break

Covering letter
You should always send a covering letter with a CV. This would normally consist of around four paragraphs.

  1. The first paragraph would state the job you are applying for and where you saw it advertised if you are responding to an advert. If it is a speculative approach you need to say why you are contacting the company and what type of work you are looking for.
  2. The second paragraph should highlight your skills and experience which are relevant to the job and mention anything else which you weren’t able to include in your CV which may recommend you to the employer.
  3. The third paragraph is usually a brief mention of the key personal qualities which the employer is looking for e.g. good team player, able to work to deadlines and manage own time etc. Also you may want to state why you want to work for the particular company and why you feel you would be an asset. As with the CV you need always to be mindful of what the employer is looking for and try to mention those skills and qualities if you have them. 
  4. The fourth paragraph should conclude that you are looking forward to hearing from the employer in the near future.

It is always best to find out the name of the person you need to send the letter to if possible. This will prevent it from getting lost in the system and looks more professional.

If you start the letter with the name of a person then you should conclude with ‘Yours sincerely’, if you start with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ you should conclude with ‘Yours faithfully’.

If it is a speculative approach, telephone after about a week to see if your letter has been received and check any progress.