A CV is the most important document in the whole process of landing a new job and it’s designed to do just one thing: get you an interview.
It’s the first touch point a hiring manager will have with you and based on it alone he or she will make a decision whether to take your application forward or not. They will generally skim read in the first instance, creating a short-list of candidates for closer scrutiny. It’s generally though that a HR professional or hiring manager spends less than 30 seconds before making a judgement.
It is therefore imperative that you package, present and sell yourself well in your CV. It has to be apparent how you could positively benefit the employer and it must inspire confidence in your abilities. It should also make the person reviewing it want to find out more about you.
We’ve put together a simple guide to constructing that winning CV that will get you that all important interview.
Assemble the information
Start by assembling the information, sorting it into the below sections.
- Personal details such as hobbies and interests
- contact details
- A chronological list of your qualifications
- The responsibilities of each of your previous jobs
- Notable achievements in previous jobs
This information will form the basis of your CV.
Write your CV
Now that you’ve got all the information that you need to put it all together you need to start writing up the CV. Always keep focus on that it should sell you to a potential employee so don’t be too bashful.
Remember that a CV is a work in progress and as such can’t be expected to be perfect at your first attempt. Additionally, do make use of feedback to improve it, including having a chat with one of our consultants who’d be happy to provide some feedback.
At the top of the document you should state your personal details such as name, address and other particulars. There is no need to use the term ‘CV’ on the document as space is at a premium. In certain countries you may be expected to state your marital status, date of birth and nationality and whilst we encourage you to comply with local conventions, we don’t advise to put this information on the document for discrimination purposes. If the role you are applying for is likely to require a driving licence, then by all means, include this information here, otherwise you may want to include it towards the back of the CV.
Objective / profile statement
Many good CVs include a brief statement about who they are and what their career objectives are. This is an effective way of giving whoever is screening your CV a brief glimpse of who you are and what you’re looking to do so use this space well and if possible tailor it to the job you’re applying for.
The below statement is a good example.
Highly experienced global leader and manager of regulatory operations with an excellent record of developing effective teams in a multidisciplinary, global environment. Effective communicator, strategist and manager of change. Open to new challenges in both a local and international setting.
Achievements vs. skills
Aim to create an achievements-based CV where you can demonstrate how you have added real value to organisations in the past, and by implication how you would add value to the prospective employer. A good way of doing this is to divide the previous positions into two segments: ‘key accountabilities’ and ‘key achievements’.
May 2005 – January 2011 - GSK, Senior Regulatory Affairs Manager
A brief summary of the role in two or three sentences.
- Accountability #1
- Accountability #2
- Achievement #1
- Achievement #2
Skills obviously have their place and should, if they are crucial to the position, be mentioned on the first page of the CV. A typical example of this would be if the role requires you to be GMC registered physician with experience in cardiovascular disease, then to feature this prominently is a good idea.
Below are some pointers as to how you could approach it.
- Tailor your CV to your ideal next role, whether a particular specialism or organisation/sector.
- Ensure you make the most of the first page – it’s where the decision to interview or not is made. The first page should excite the reader about who you are and what you can offer.
- The style should be professional and commercially aware. Make sure you demonstrate how you could benefit a prospective employer.
- Highlight your strengths and tone down your weaknesses.
- Question the relevance and importance of everything you include on your CV. Real-estate is at a premium so ensure you make the best use of it possible.
- Stick to the truth as you will most likely be found out in an interview if you haven’t.
- Make sure you don’t leave any unexplained gaps on your CV. If you’ve been travelling or were out of work for a period of time, say so. There is no shame in having been made redundant for example.
- When stating your work history, work in reverse chronological order and put the latest position at the top.
- Create an impact with appropriate ‘action words’, e.g. successfully achieved…, energetically lead…
- So once you’re happy with the content, order and structure of your CV it’s time to give some attention to the presentation.
Style your CV
There are a few things you should keep in mind here. Consistency and legibility. Just like with every other aspects of life, people judge things based on first impression. If your CV comes across as messy and poorly structured, this is likely to be perceived as a reflection of yourself.
Below are some important style rules on how to create a visually impactful resume.
- Keep to two pages maximum – certainly no more than three. There are a few exceptions to this rule and if this applies to you you’re likely to be aware of it. An example includes when you have an academic record and have published your research in journals.
- Employ an A4 portrait style.
- The background should be white and you should not include any decorative details such as borders or images.
- Use a commonly used font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Georgia and stick to it throughout the document. The font colour can be black or dark grey but don’t get too creative.
- Highlight headings using italics or bold; avoid capitals and underlining.
- Keep paragraphs under five lines long.
- Use bullet points only when it’s called for. Never put sentences in bullet points (i.e. don’t do what I’ve done here).
- Use negative space (white space) to highlight and break sections.
- If you print your CV, use a good quality white paper.
Proofread your CV
You should now have a powerful sales tool that will be crucial in landing you a new job. However, don’t undo all of the hard work you’ve put in by including glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes.
Spend some time proof reading the CV carefully; don’t rely on spell checkers (but do use them by all means) to spot mistakes or typos for you. Pass a copy to a few of your friends (or even your recruitment consultant) and ask them to review it for you.
Future-proof your CV
Remember that a CV should be seen as a document in progress so keep updating it as you go along, even if you’re not looking for a new opportunity. If you were to be approached with an irresistible opportunity you will thank yourself for having stayed on top of it!