Saturday, 22 June 2013

The perfect CV

The headline might have caught your interest - so let me get one thing straight to begin with:

The one perfect CV doesn't exist.

Now that that's out of the way, let's make a start.

There are two aspects to be distinguished - content and structure.

To get the CONTENT right:

  • Make a list of ALL the things you've ever done - and I mean everything. If you haven't done this before, make sure you have one file somewhere that contains ALL your roles, responsibilities, achievements (not just what you think might be relevant for a particular job which you want to apply for right now):

    people or budgets you have been responsible for / savings you have achieved / teams you have led and where they were successful / projects you have contributed to ...
  • Try to get a mix of things where you can identify your own contribution as a member of a team and things you initiated or led; don't worry too much if you don't have much of the latter:

    be honest with what you write down, don't make things up. You will get caught out otherwise.
  • Over time, you will add to this document as you take on new roles or tasks and, yes, as you remember things you had previously forgotten.
Now look at the role description of the post you're applying for. Or, if you haven't yet reached that stage, try to find descriptions of roles you might be interested in.

Then comes the tedious job of going through the requirements one by one and picking from your comprehensive list those aspects which will illustrate that you are a good match for this particular job.

At this stage, you should give your CV to somebody to read it - to check if you have addressed everything, if you come over interesting enough and - very important - to make sure that the language can be understood.

A simple example:
"2IC" is really bad - "2nd in Command" is marginally better - "deputy to ..." is what you should write.

Do NOT try to disguise that a substantial part (or all of) your experience was gained in the Military. It will become apparent anyway. Most civilian employers will not be able to navigate through ranks and regiments - but you should still be slightly more precise than just state "HM Forces".

A CV always needs to be tailored to a specific role. You cannot use one CV for a variety of applications. Even if you do not respond to a vacancy - tailor it to the organisation / department / role you are interested in. And, if at all possible, talk this through with somebody.

The structure of your CV:

There are numerous templates available online - if you only have a cursory look, you will pick up the basics.

Here's what's really important:
  • At the top is your name and contact details (unless - and it happens - you are asked to submit a CV without those!) Neatly centered.
  • Check that your email address and mobile phone number are correct. And make sure your email address looks professional - what might appear funny in a personal context is generally NOT appropriate for a CV.
  • Do NOT list the abbreviations of all your various qualifications after your name! (Limit yourself to anything which is a requirement or personally important to you. For my part, I sometimes keep the "PhD" - sometimes I don't point it out.)
  • Do NOT add a header "curriculum vitae" or CV - the reader knows what's in front of him or her.
  • Your profile:
    Keep it concise. Four or five lines ought to be enough. Don't overuse the same words everybody else uses - "highly motivated" - "extremely committed" - that's a given and will be expected anyway. "Energetic" could mean anything. Choose adjectives that describe you - don't write what you think the other person will want to read.
  • And don't say "now looking for a career in security or engineering". Maybe it's a poor example - but you need to make up your mind. Otherwise you'll come over as someone who doesn't know what he or she wants.
What then follows is a reverse chronological list of your roles and responsibilities to date. Pick and choose from the list I've suggested above - make sure it fits the role you're applying for as closely as possible.

Before you tire of reading - I'll put together an example and add it to a separate post in this blog.

The second section is your education. But please consider:
  • If you are in your 40s when you write your CV - there's no need to list your GCSEs.
  • If you have only recently gained a numeracy and / or literacy qualification: well done!!! - But don't mention that unless it is a specific requirement of the job.
  • Don't list all the training you've ever done. It might be tough, but limit yourself to what is or might be relevant. (First aid training might not be a requirement but is always useful.)
At the end - any interests which can include voluntary work. You will all have interests - but if all you can think of is travelling, going out and meeting people - don't say it.

Don't try to squeeze it all onto one page - and don't make it worse by resorting to a font size for which the average reader will need a magnifying glass. Up to three pages are generally accepted for a professional CV. But don't waste space either - it will become clearer in the example I'm preparing.

Finally - proof read!!! Then proof read again. (And should you find a typo in this post - I'll buy you a drink when you come through London!)

Watch this space for an example - now scrol back up and get going. It really is easy - just time consuming.


No comments:

Post a Comment