How to prepare your CV
Many people, understandably, have had time to reflect on their career path in the past few months and some have decided that this is the time to explore their career options. Whilst some candidates may not have applied for a role in the past number of years, others may be entering the workforce for the first time or coming back to work after travel/career break/maternity leave etc.
Whatever your reason is for looking for a new job, don’t underestimate the importance of first impressions and your CV is just that. This is your chance to create a positive impression in order to gain an interview and hopefully secure your new role.
If you are not actively looking for a move at the moment, it is still no harm to have an up to date CV to hand in the event that you see a suitable role advertised or you are contacted about a role that may be of interest. The first thing you will need is a strong, well presented CV that shows how your experience/education/skillset is relevant to the role you are applying for.
If you are looking for a complete career change, chances are you have completed a course or gained some experience in this field which has prompted this move. This too will need to come across clearly on your CV.
There are many myths on writing your CV. The main one being that it should never be over two pages irrespective of your working history. Different recruiters, HR professionals and hiring managers often have contrasting viewpoints on the length of your CV but it makes sense to take the advice of the recruiter you are working with. They know their client and what their expectations are. Remember, it is in everyone’s interest to get you to interview stage so it is worth listening to their comments and customising your CV accordingly if need be.
If applying directly for a role, do your best to apply a common sense approach and don’t assume that hiring managers will turn into Mystic Meg and be able to interpret your CV accurately if the relevant information isn’t present to begin with.
Layout and presentation are important. Correct spelling is essential. The length of your CV needs to be aligned to your work experience, number of roles you have worked in, etc. Don’t have it too short, don’t have it excessively long.
Hopefully the following tips will help you with your CV, some may appear obvious to you but not to everyone!
Personal Details: Include your name, contact phone number, valid email address, postal address.
If you have a LinkedIn profile (which I would recommend creating if you have not done so already) I would suggest attaching the link also to your CV. Simply copy the URL from your LinkedIn profile and drop it into the CV.
Many people have a tendency not to include their postal address or even what county they are based in. I would suggest you include an area at minimum which will be helpful for recruiters to gauge what locations could potentially suit you, e.g. Midleton, Co. Cork. This is particularly important if you are submitting your CV on a speculative basis.
Personalised Summary: I encourage candidates to complete a personalised summary in paragraph format in a few sentences highlighting their experience/skills that are most relevant to the role they are applying for. Think of it as a mini-sales pitch. What differentiates you from other candidates applying for the same role? Use facts. Read the job spec in detail, and try sell yourself to the client. Try to aim for less generic and more concise and factual.
Everyone says and believes they are organised, reliable, have strong attention to detail, etc. This is nothing new and there no way of knowing if this is accurate. Find me the person who is going to say the opposite! It is far better to also include factual examples such as:
“Have led multilingual teams of up to ten people in a fast paced dynamic industry providing mentoring, leadership and motivation on an ongoing basis.”
“My broad range of experience includes financial accounting (US GAAP, IFRS & FRS102), regulatory compliance.”
By writing an informative and applicable personalised summary, this should set the tone for your CV. It may also provide a conversation piece and partly form some of your answers in an interview scenario.
Education: Many candidates include education at this point or otherwise after their work experience – either works fine. The important thing is to include the educational details in chronological order i.e. most recent first. There is no need to include primary school details and secondary school can be included if there is no further education or if it is in recent years. For example:
“2017-2018 Higher Diploma in Human Resource Management (1.1) (optional to put in result)
University College Cork
2014-2016 Bachelor of Arts Degree (2.2) University College Dublin”
Achievements: This is optional on your CV. Depending on the role you are applying for and the level of the role, this can be helpful to highlight career achievements that would be of interest to your future employer. For example:
“Hit and exceeded sales KPIs by 30% for the months of October, November, and December in 2019”
Work Experience: It is essential to include the name of the company, your title, and dates of employment, e.g.
“2018- Present: Best Choice, Cork Customer Service Specialist”
You would be amazed how often one of these pieces of information is not included! Always include your work experience. List your work experience in chronological order, most recent experience first.
- Bullet points make your CV far easier to read and absorb other than paragraph format.
- Changing the font to size 20 and only including 2 bullet points after a lengthy career of 10 years is not sufficient.
- It is best not to use the first person ‘I’. It is a given it is yourself you are speaking about!
- Create sentences and not just words, use examples that demonstrate your experience that are appropriate to the job spec as much as possible.
This is your chance to demonstrate on paper that you are suitable for this role so it is pointless leaving out relevant information to ensure that your CV doesn’t go over two pages. Candidates in the past have advised me that they will be able to explain in detail at interview their experience etc. That is useful but the chances of getting to interview without sufficient information on your CV is minimal. Hiring Managers are often looking for key words and evidence of certain experience so think carefully about what information is on your CV. It is important to balance the length of your CV with experience and not get too bothered if it is over two pages. If it is evident that you have the experience and skills required for the role you are applying for, there is a far greater chance you will get called to interview than having a CV, two pages or less without the required information. As I say, use a common sense approach. Equally, it is important not to have your CV excessively long. Balance is the key. This is where it is important to tailor your CV to match the job spec, e.g.
“Responsible for providing detailed metrics on SLA’S to senior management and key stakeholders.”
Use descriptive words at the beginning of your sentence as opposed to ‘I’, e.g. Provided, Demonstrated, Delivered, Facilitated, Trained, Coordinated, Liaised, Managed, Implemented, Responsible for, Initiated, Prepared, Processed, etc.
This is far more effective than using the word ‘I’ and then completing the sentences with your experience.
IT Skills: Always include a section on IT skills, highlighting what ERP systems you have used or are familiar with. I would suggest this for all roles at all levels. IT is a part of all companies and there will always be times for your IT skills to shine! For example, Microsoft office, SAP, Oracle, Sage, JD Edwards, Concur, Workday, etc.
If the role you are applying for uses any of these or similar it will be to your advantage to show that you have this experience. Don’t make the assumption that companies will somehow know exactly how IT savvy and experienced you are without mentioning what systems you have used.
Interests: I don’t think that this comes up as much as it used to at interview but it is no harm to show your interests outside of work and this can provide a conversation piece at interview none the less, e.g. Sport – running, cycling, soccer; Current affairs; Travel; Reading; Music; Baking and cooking, etc.
References: Always state Available on request. There is no need to provide details of your referees when just applying for a role. These can be requested at a later date if necessary.
This is not the definitive guide on writing your CV. As a recruiter, I have found that candidates who present their CV in an easy to read format, normal font size, accurate spelling and include the necessary relevant information have a better chance of getting to interview. At the moment, it is a competitive market so it is in your own interest to give yourself the best chance and your CV is the first step in the process. If I can be of help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me and send me in your CV to email@example.com and we can arrange a confidential chat if you are contemplating a move?
- A cover letter will give an overview of your suitability for the role you are applying for in terms of skills, strengths and experience. It is your initial opportunity to stand out from other candidates and increase your chances of being chosen for interview.
- State the role you are applying for and why it appeals to you and what special interests or skills make you a good candidate. Always display a positive and enthusiastic tone throughout.
- Research the company, their culture, values, interests and recent achievements. Demonstrate knowledge of the company in a complimentary way in the letter and why you want to work with them.
- Conclude with “I am available for interview at your convenience” or the dates you are available.