Your CV is your chance to sell your skills and experience to potential employers.
Many people struggle to effectively communicate their capabilities, strengths and achievements. The most common challenge when writing a CV is getting the balance between enough and too much information.
You have less than 30 seconds to impress an employer with your CV, therefore it needs to quickly and clearly demonstrate your suitability for the role. This is achieved by short paragraphs with clear headings.
What to include
Your CV should include your name and contact details, profile, education, work history and hobbies. The profile should include a little information about you as a professional and an overview of your capabilities. You can also include a key skills section if you wish to.
Education information should include schooling, college, university and any professional development training or courses that you have done. It is relevant for a recent graduate to have entry-level qualifications such as GSCE’s on their CV. However, as you progress in your career, your work experience will become more important and more emphasis should be put on what your have learnt.
Work history should include your complete work history, if there are gaps explain why eg. sabbatical or travelling. Hobbies show what you enjoy to do in your leisure time and can give an insight into a person’s character, but should be kept to one to two lines.
Always ensure that you can talk knowledgeably about whatever you include on your CV, there is nothing worse than stating you can do something and then not being able to evidence that you can.
Start with your personal profile and give a quick snapshot of your experience (this can include reference to qualifications if relevant, background and sectors). If you wish to add key skills this should come next after your profile.
Education can either be next or at the end, depending on whether your education is a selling point for the role. For example if they are looking for degree qualified candidates and you do not hold a degree but you have a wealth of industry experience then put your qualifications at the end. This will spark their interest before they get to your education.
Work history is usually the most important factor for employers, so ensure that it starts on the first page. This should be in reverse chronological order, your most recent work experience is likely to be the most relevant to the job you are applying for therefore the reviewer can quickly see how suitable your experience is.
Detail each job title, employer and dates of service then provide a sentence to describe what the company does, as the reviewer may not know who the company is and what they do. Then detail your responsibilities and a few key achievements for each role, these are often best disclosed in bullet points. Achievements are very important to show that you were effective in the role.
There are a number of myths surrounding how long a CV should be and many people are advised it should be a certain number of pages. In our experience, there is no fixed formula for this, the length of your career and number of roles you have had will surely impact the length of your CV. Although it should ideally be no longer than 4-5 pages it is imperative to include as much relevant information as possible.
If you have a long career history you can either simply list your employer, position and dates of service for your early career and then provide details on your later, more relevant roles. Alternatively just provide less information for your earlier positions to keep it brief.
There are several ways to get more information on each page, by adjusting the margins and reducing text size slightly you can squeeze more on to one page, but be mindful of how easy it is to read.
We would usually advise candidates to tailor their CV to each role they apply for as every position will have slightly different requirements and it is not possible to cover everything on one generic CV. Your most relevant experience or projects for a particular role may not be included.
Ensure that you match your responsibilities and capabilities as closely to the job spec as possible.