Careers: Writing That Perfect CV

I might not have a graduate job yet (I am dreading starting to apply come September) but having received two offers for a year’s placement I think I’m well enough qualified to give some kind of career advice. I’ll be doing a few posts, generally following the order in which most application processes go…so first up is CV tips!
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Make it Priority

Keep your CV updated at all times, even if you’re not actively looking for roles. You never know when the perfect opportunity will come up, and when it does you don’t want to waste time making big changes on your CV. Every time you get a new job, learn a new skill, gain a qualification, work on a big project – update your CV to reflect this.

Adapt

My previous point should not suggest that your CV should be the same for every role you apply to – you will need to subtly tailor it. Look at the job description, check out the requirements and make sure your CV shows you can tick each box.

Length

I was always told two pages is ideal, and that’s probably true for a graduate with no/little relevant work experience. However if you have relevant information to the role don’t leave it out for sake of length – but if you go over to another page, make sure you fill it at least over halfway. A half-filled page looks a little half-hearted, like you haven’t much to say – no matter how much you’ve written preceding it.
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Structure

I’d include name (you’d never believe how many forget this!), contact details, personal statement, education, experience, key skills, interests, references.

Contents

The personal statement is a few sentences introducing yourself – it’s often the only thing a recruiter will read so make it snappy and memorable. State what type of role you are looking for – and remember to personalise it to the specific role for each application.

Education and experience should both be in the order of most recent first. I’d bold out any particularly relevant qualification – for instance in my case any actuarial exams passed. Add more detail where experiences are relevant to the job being applied for, key skills developed and main responsibilities.

Key skills includes bits like personal skills such as teamwork, and technical ability such as software knowledge – but always back up with short examples. Bold out key works again.

Include a short ‘interests’ section to show off some of your personality, but keep it limited to three lines. And obviously sensor it – best not to mention your love of the pub, but I include bits about my blog, love of reading, and learning to knit,

References can be included or not – if I have a bit of spare space they are included in full, if not I’ll say they are available on request.
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Design

Try and get all your key content written down before you work too much on design. I’d recommend going for a table format that’s easy to edit as you go. Keep size of type consistent throughout, plenty of white space, and a simple font.

What Employers Look For

I’ve been doing some work on recruitment recently, so I can say a bit about what employers look for when they read your CV. They will scan it over first, checking for whether you are eligible for the role in terms of qualifications. They’ll check for professionalism in terms of layout, structure and design, and any spelling mistakes. Personalisation to the role gets ‘bonus points’ and please, please, please spell the company name right – we screen out five CVs recently due to this being misspelt.

Make sure you are demonstrating you are the right person for the job in terms of skills, qualifications, experience. It’s often your only chance to show yourself off before the interview stage, so do it well!

What are your top tips for CV writing?