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How to write an effective CV

When you begin to compose your CV there is one very important point you must bear in mind. The perfect CV is the CV that achieves the interview. The CV is designed to be a window into your life showing why you would be the ideal candidate for the position you are applying for.

You have only one chance to get your CV right, so make sure you take time to construct a CV that creates enough interest in you to ensure the prospective employer wants to know more. A common mistake is to create a five page document detailing everything you have ever done. This is unnecessary and very often will lead to a lack of response. Aim for no more than two or three pages of focused information designed to create an impact.

The great news is that it is down to you, so you can take your time, change it as often as you want and ask others to read and review it for you before submitting it to any employers. You have complete control over your CV.

In order to help you through the process we have put together some key points which should help you create that perfect CV. There are no hard and fast rules, in fact you may alter your CV slightly when applying for different positions. This is very common as different positions or companies will have different key skills or characteristics required and therefore you may wish to highlight different things.

CV Structure
This is a typical structure for a CV which can be used in the majority of situations.
Contact Details
Start with the most important points, your contact details, after all the key objective is to get that all important invite to an interview. You will need the following as a minimum:-

· Full Name
· Home Address
· Telephone Numbers (Home, Mobile and Work if you don’t mind being contacted there)
· Email Address

Although not essential you can include your date of birth, marital status, number of children and driving license status at this point.

Personal Profile
This is possibly the most important part of your CV and the section you should take most time over. If you consider that the majority of people reviewing CV’s will make a decision on whether or not to read the rest of the CV in the first ten to fifteen seconds, you can see that this is your one chance to encourage them to want to read on. Make it punchy, no more than twenty to thirty words, and it should state your career aspirations and the key competencies you are able to bring to the table.

Work History
This is the area that differs in many CV’s. Some CV’s will now move on to professional qualifications or education. If you have recently left college or university, or consider that the employer is looking for these key qualifications more than your experience to date then I would lead with that. However in most cases you should move on to Work History.

Start by listing your previous jobs in reverse order. List dates, job title and company name. Then list your key responsibilities and what you have achieved. Try to show what you have influenced or impacted during your time in the role.  For example let us assume you used the following bullet point

· Supervised checkouts

Whilst this clearly shows what you did, does it sell the experience you gained to the prospective employer. No!  
What you could say is Supervised a successful checkout team of up to ten operators, which improved my ability to manage under pressure and deliver a high standard of customer service in a fast moving environment. Consistently delivered 90% plus on customer satisfaction surveys.
This shows any potential employer what you did, what you learned and more importantly the impact you made. A good way to test your bullet points is to ask yourself so what? Ie does it make you stand out from someone else who has performed the role.

Professional Qualifications
If you have any professional qualifications or are studying towards a professional qualification this is your opportunity to detail them. Remember if you feel these out-way your experience prioritise this section before work history.  

List your educational history in reverse order (i.e. Degree or Highers before Standard Grades). It is not necessary to list every single exam result. In most cases it will suffice to put the number of 1 or 2’s.  Any additional responsibilities held or activities you were involved in can also be listed here. For example represented 5th year on the pupil/teacher committee for term 2007/2008 which involved liasing with co-pupils and providing feedback to committee.

This section can tell prospective employers a lot about you so think carefully about what you include. For example saying you like crosswords/puzzles may show you are intellectual and like your mind to be stimulated, saying you enjoy football and rugby may show you like to be active and have a competitive edge.
If you do not feel you have anything worth listing in this section it may be best to not have it at all.

I hope these pointers help. Remember there is no right or wrong, try to imagine what the employer will be looking for. Finally here are a few do’s and don’t’s to finish with.

CV Dos & Don’ts Donts
· Don’t leave gaps in your work history.
· Don’t use too many fonts, one font with key points slightly highlighted is often better
· Don’t try and be humorous, it will not appeal to everyone
· Don’t list your salary requirements, this can be discussed later
· Don’t use the word “I” unless absolutely necessary and use the past tense
· Don’t use jargon unless you are including key professional qualifications
· Don’t use pictures or photos.
· Do check thoroughly using spell-checker
· Do use a computer word processing product or at least type it.
· Do use short, punchy statements
· Do use good quality plain white A4 paper if you are printing your CV.
· Do use bullet points and headings to break up long sections of text
· Do try to stick to 2-3 pages.
· Do use key words which may be searched for by recruiters such as retail manager etc
· Do take the time to get it right. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Visit our CV templates page to get started.


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