There’s no perfect CV. There are good ones, bad ones… really bad ones and one that stand out for all the right reasons. Having a good quality CV is essential. I’d say it’s more essential than learning to drive. But while writing a CV seems all well and good, each time I go to sit at my computer it is the most daunting, overwhelming task I’ve ever faced.
Feel the same?
I believe in adjusting my CV to suite each job I am applying for. I’ve applied for jobs on bars, in restaurants, retail stores and even abroad and each time I’ve adjusted my CV to suit my prospective employer. As you can imagine there are do’s and don’t’s when it comes to writing your CV. I’ve decided to outline a few to get you on your way.
But first, remember when you were at school, in lesson, and your teacher (let’s say English) sets you an essay. Ugh. What was the first thing they would suggest you do? As essay plan! Well I’d like to suggest tackling your CV like an essay. In your essay you have a structure, an opening statement perhaps; you discuss the subject of the essay briefly. The next 2/3rds of your essay is arguments for and against and you finish off with your closing stance, your opinion. For a CV you need structure too. Once you know the structure you can create a ‘CV plan’- make a note of the required skills or job specification and write down all the things you want to include in your CV.
To begin you will need a header, please make it your name, nothing spells ‘unemployed’ better than not making it clear who you are. Underneath include your address, phone number, email address and possibly a professional social media presence (I don’t recommend the latter. It’s very unprofessional unless you’re an internet blogger or have a Facebook page dedicated to your photography/cake decorations etc). You do not need to advertise your age/DOB.
Next unless you’ve just graduated school/college/university you should begin with your employment history it is probably of most relevance (having said that if you’ve been working in bars since your masters & applying for jobs in a labs then begin with your education (i.e. you’ve been to university and in the current climate are struggling to find a job so to pay rent you’re working at the bar below your flat. If it is more relevant to the job mention it first-be smart, you make the call)). Don’t delve too far into your past; most employers are only looking for up to 10 years of prior employment. You should list your employment from most recent, including your job title and the address. You might like to outline a few of your duties if you think they would be applicable to the job you’re applying for or are particularly impressive but keep it brief 4 or 5 bullet points and try to avoid long winded paragraphs (much like this one). If you were a waitress at two different restaurants split your acquired skills between the two, don’t list them twice.
If you’re 18 and never had a job before don’t focus on it, or at the very least don’t paint it negatively. If you were involved in a lot of after school activities, such as a theatre group, sports team or simply concentrated your spare time on your education (homework/studying) then an employer will understand and it will show your dedication. Don’t however list these activities in place of an employment section; they will come later in the ‘Personal’ part.
After you’ve completed your employment history, remembered all the dates maybe even included your working holiday or voluntary work (you might what to put the latter in with your ‘personal’ section) it’s time to tell them that you can read and write! Education guys!
The dates of your education aren’t important, Mr Perky doesn’t want to know when you qualified to teach astrophysics to 6 year olds he just wants to know where you studied and what qualifications you achieved. Again begin with the most recent first. When talking about the grades you achieved at high school/college simplify it (12 GCSE’s A*-E) it’s preferable to just lump them together but if you only got 2 D’s and an E you might what to group them (9 GCSE’s grades A*-C 3 GCSE’s grades D -E) if you didn’t get less than a C don’t bother with D & E and visa versa, don’t imply you got at least one A*, if you didn’t get anything higher than a B just be honest and write B-E. Give a shout out to English, Maths & Science, employers love them! And a special mention to the subjects that are relevant. If you did Graphic Products & ICT and you’re applying for a graphic designers position tell them!
‘Personal’ does exactly what it says on the tin. It is about your character and the personal skills you have acquired. It should include your interests, activities (some people will tell you an employer won’t care but I think they’ll still want to know you’re human), qualifications for example hazard awareness, food hygiene, cake decorating courses. If you received an NVQ in hospitality whilst working at a Hotel (not whilst in full-time education) list it here, remember to still list the most recent first and if there’s a lot try to keep it relevant, your short course on pattern cutting isn’t relevant to your application to be a tree surgeon. You can add extra information that you think relevant, like reasons for a career change but only if you’re not required to provide a cover letter. Remember to sell yourself! You want to advertise your best, most desirable qualities so think about what they’re looking for and how you can tick their boxes.
References! Include at least 2 and no, that does not mean your mummy and daddy. If you have no previous employers ask a teacher if they would be willing to be a reference. You can ask family friends to be personal references but professional ones are the best, they’re more unbiased and just look good!
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER:
DONT ‘over-do it’. There’s no need to over load a CV with information on everything you ever did. Keep it simple, relevant and clean! Try re-reading it from an employer’s point of view, would you care about how many rabbits someone has, how old they are and what their names are if you were just looking for a barista.
DON’T LIE!!! If you don’t have the experience don’t pretend you do. Earn your dream job the right way. Your degree might say you know how to type 1000 words a minute but if the job you want requires 1000 hours of experience you’ll just have to look for a job you may think ‘beneath’ you and work your way up. Do volunteer work; email everyone and anyone, even if you don’t think anyone will respond you may be surprised, especially if you can offer a good amount of free time a week in exchange for experience and inside knowledge! Your time might be valuable to you but what better way to spend it than to get onto the job ladder. No one starts from half way up so you may as well start from the bottom.
DO proof-read!!! Don’t just use ‘spell checker’ even if you’ve changed it from English ‘US’ to ‘UK’ get someone to proof read it, someone who you know can point out if you’ve put a comma or apostrophe in the wrong place. If your CV is littered with bad punctuation and spelling you might as well have gone to all that effort to throw it in the bin yourself. That’s what an employer will do.
Hopefully this has straightened things out for you. If it still seems like an arduous task, work through it slowly, a bit a day. Take regular breaks (keep yourself hydrated) but don’t distract yourself. Toilet breaks are essential, but not every 30 minutes, if you’re going that often consider a visit to the doctors, you probably have a bladder infection.
OH and NEVER HAND WRITE A CV. Ever. Some teaching positions will require an example of your hand writing, so just leave the hand writing for the cover letter.