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What is a CV?

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Advice, CV, Guide, Informative
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Advice, CV, Guide, Informative

What is a CV? – A CV (curriculum vitae) is an essential element of any career path. It is a written overview of your skills, experience, and qualifications that will be delivered to potential employers in the context of a job opportunity.

As your first opportunity to appeal to prospective employers, it is vital that your CV is perfectly crafted to impress them and convince them that you are the right person to fill the role. Employers typically only spend around six seconds looking at a CV, so you must be concise in your efforts to sell yourself.

What is a CV?

What Should a CV Include?

While each CV should be unique to the individual it represents, there are several key features that every CV should contain.

Less is More

For starters, your CV should be no longer than two sides of A4. If you can, keep it to a concise single page of A4. To help with this, only include the main facts that will be most relevant to the position you are applying for. Remember, employers will not spend a lot of time looking through your CV, so don’t drown them in irrelevant info.

When titling your CV, only include your name. The employer knows they are reading a CV, so there is no need to add “Curriculum Vitae” to the title.

Contact Details

Naturally, a potential employer needs to know your basic contact details to learn more about you and get in touch if necessary. Alongside your name, include the following:

  • Mobile number

  • Email address (make it professional - create one specifically for work purposes)

  • Town (do not include your full address as it leaves you open for fraud, especially if you are uploading your CV online)

Personal Statement/Profile

This bio is an essential part of your CV. Placed at the beginning, it is your chance to grab the reader’s attention and prove your worth to them. Keep it to around 3-4 concise sentences, totalling ~100 words – this should be enough to highlight your key attributes.

Explain your career goals and how they relate to the role you are applying for. Make it personalised and specific to the role – do not send out the same CV to several employers. Each employer will want to see your specific interest in the role they are promoting.

Example: Recent graduate with a degree in English from Liverpool University. Practical work experience writing on topics such as human interest, fashion, news and politics as Editor of Liverpool University student blog. Looking to start my career in Journalism in a role where I can build on the skills gained in my education and work experience.

Education

Always list your education history in reverse chronological order – i.e. include your most recently attended first and work backwards. This is because your most recent experiences will be the most relevant to your current situation and to a potential employer. Include the following:

  • List the dates you attended next to each entry (e.g. 2016-2019)

  • Showcase any qualifications you received during these experiences

person graduating

Work History

As with education history, you should list these in reverse chronological order and list the dates you were there for each entry. You should also include the company name and your job title.

Bullet point your key responsibilities for each position, and link them directly to the role you are applying for where you can. Tailoring your CV to your desired role helps you stand out as a strong candidate. Ultimately, your employer wants to see relevant talent at a glance.

If you have limited work experience, insert any transferable skills from relevant projects you have undertaken throughout your life. This can include voluntary work or projects you worked on during your education. If you can highlight examples that demonstrate hard work, passion, and diligence, this area of your CV can remain a strength.

Work History Example

Example: Goliath National Bank

Accounts Assistant

(June 2011 – Sept 2011)

Three months in the Accounts department of a major high street bank.

Responsibilities included:

Reconciling invoices and receipts

Assisting with monthly accounts reporting

Processing staff expenses·

Skills & Achievements

This is your opportunity to prove how your previous experience has given you the skills to excel at your desired position. Again, these should be tailored to this specific role – try not to include anything irrelevant.

If your role involves communicating with customers or clients, perhaps you want to highlight your foreign language skills. If it is a highly technical role, include competency in relevant IT packages you have acquired from past jobs. The point is to highlight the most impressive and relevant skills for the role in question without exaggerating.

Interests & Hobbies

This section is relatively optional. Passion for the role can be effectively expressed to an employer if you have any highly relevant hobbies and interests.

For example, being part of a drama group would be appropriate for a sales role. It shows transferable skills gained through an activity you have an inherent interest in.

However, CVs need to be concise, and most of your focus should be on the skills and qualifications gained through your education history and work experience. This section should only be included if you have the space for it and your points are highly relevant to the role.

References

These are not needed at this stage. A CV is a first impression, and if your employer is truly impressed, they will ask for references at a later stage of the application process.

CV Writing Tips

Dos

  • Use Microsoft Word – it is easy to use and has versatile built-in tools for creating a CV
  • Use simple fonts like Arial or Tahoma – these are more readable and the content should speak for itself
  • Explain any gaps in employment history, if necessary
  • Keep it simple and easy to read – clear spacing and bullet points make it easy to skim
  • Use active verbs when possible – e.g. created, analysed, devised, etc. – these show initiative
  • Use spell check and get someone to proofread it before sending
  • If you are posting it, use plain white A4 paper

Don’ts

  • Avoid borders, colours, images, and unprofessional fonts like Comic Sans (a photograph is only relevant when applying for TV work, etc.)
  • Never lie or exaggerate – you may be asked for more detail or to provide examples during an interview, which will demonstrate dishonesty. Additionally, altering a degree grade is a criminal offence
  • Avoid cliche phrases like ‘multitasking’, ‘team player but can also work alone’, ‘perfectionist’, ‘people person’, ‘excellent communication skills’, etc.
  • Research the company and industry. Employers often ask, “tell me what you know about us”, so research websites and company job ads.

  • Understand your strengths and have examples prepared - what do you have to offer, what are your strengths, why would you employ you?

  • Anticipate any reservations or concerns the interviewer may have, and have good answers prepared - why would you not hire you?

  • Prepare for common interview questions - e.g. “tell me about yourself” - make the most of it to express your strengths.

  • Prepare your questions for the interviewer, even if it's just one - this is important as it shows interest.

  • Possess the right body language - dress appropriately (smart; not too much makeup or fragrance). You want the interviewer concentrating on what you have to say and to remember you for your personality and responses, not for the wrong reasons. Give a firm, confident handshake and make eye contact. Never chew gum.

  • Think positive, be enthusiastic and smile.

  • End on a positive. If at the end of the interview you want the job, tell the interviewer, “I would really, really like this job.” Tell them how excited you would be about the opportunity to work there and thank them for their time. I promise the interviewer will remember you.

  • Never give up. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying and remember every interview is an experience and a learning curve. Rejection is a natural part of the process - do not view it as an obstacle, but embrace it. You’ll get there in the end.

In conclusion, a CV, or curriculum vitae, is a comprehensive document that showcases an individual’s educational and professional background. It is a crucial tool for job applicants and serves as a first impression for potential employers. A well-written CV highlights the candidate’s skills, experience, and achievements, making it a valuable tool in the job search process.

With the rise of technology, online tools and templates have made it easier to create and update a CV, making it an essential part of anyone’s career journey. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to change careers, taking the time to craft a comprehensive and impressive CV is essential to your success.

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