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How to write the perfect CV

perfectcvimage1The perfect job doesn’t come around that often, so you need to know how to grab attention in a few words…

Whether you’re a new graduate, a first-jobber looking to work your way up the career ladder, or an established name keeping an eye out for your next move, you can’t have failed to notice that the competitive scramble for desirable positions is at an all-time high. The recession has meant more applicants are fighting for fewer roles – figures show employers get an average of 70 CVs for every vacancy, so making your application stand out is crucial. But where do you begin? Your most pressing task is to hone your CV.

Streamline and check
The very first thing to consider is that your search for a new job won’t be easy. Unless you are lucky enough to be headhunted, you are likely to be in this for the long haul, with numerous rejections and knocks before you clinch a new role. But, as Hayley Taylor explains, making sure your CV is up to scratch will give you a good head start, when it comes to being shortlisted by prospective employers. ‘This is a document that enables you to sell yourself to a prospective employer, it is not about fancy boxes and margins, it’s about content,’ says Hayley. ‘Make it too elaborate, long and difficult to read and the employer will become confused, distraction and boredom will ensue and it will land on the ‘no’ pile. If you are applying for a position that involves portraying a certain image like a beauty consultant, don’t be afraid to attach a passport sized photograph as image is very important in this particular field. If they like what they see, you might just get an interview.

‘Remember to use only top quality paper. A nice watermarked cream sheet of paper will feel and look different to the standard white paper most people use.

‘Make sure you include everything on your CV especially if you have little work history. So if you were in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and achieved awards then put it down. If you were a member of a club or society put it down. If you were in the Territorial Army put it down as interests show you have focus, commitment and determination, which are valuable qualities to an employer.’

Creating a targeted CV and covering letter is vital. Many people make the mistake of sending out the same, tired catch-all CV, and lose out to candidates who have prepared one that showcases work relevant to the job in question.

cvboyCV writing: You in black and white
With so many applicants flooding the job market, it’s vital your CV is marketing you as best it possibly can. Here are a few golden rules to follow…

  1. Target your CV for every job you apply for. The best way to achieve this is to always refer back to the job advertisement that you’re responding to and make sure that you fulfil each of the criteria listed. Think about things you’ve done in the past that may suddenly be relevant to this new role – there might well be a forgotten work placement or achievement that could help your CV shine.
  2. Put a positive spin on everything you’ve done, however insignificant it may seem to you, eg, work experience placements taught you to manage your time effectively, or presentations at university helped you work as part of a team. Pretty much everything can be turned into CV-speak for ‘this person is the ideal candidate for the job’ – it’s just a matter of identifying your strengths and playing them up.
  3. If you’re lacking experience, put the emphasis on your skills. You want your CV to ooze at-a-glance greatness, so open with a paragraph outlining the specific skills you have that make you perfect for the job. This is the ideal place to talk up deal-clinchers like IT and language skills.
  4. Avoid opening with a personal statement or ‘objective’. The bottom line is: your prospective employer probably isn’t all that bothered at this stage, and would rather you just laid out the facts. If you can’t resist a self-indulgent paragraph or two, put it in an ‘interests’ section at the very end of your CV.
  5. Keep your CV to two pages at the absolute most. Three is overkill, while one will struggle to contain the must-haves for any CV while remaining at a readable font size (no smaller than 11 point).
  6. Add value to your CV by undertaking courses or developing transferable skills, like book keeping, to make you stand out from the crowd.
  7. Still struggling? Then maybe it’s time you called in the experts. CV-writing pros can whip yours into shape from as little as £10 a pop. Go online to find someone who can help.

This article was first published in Careers with Hayley Taylor in August 2011. [Read the digital edition here]


 Images: Getty, Shutterstock

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