First published April 2007
In this short article, David Sullivan, a specialist computer forensics recruiter at www.appointments-uk.co.uk, provides some tips on compiling a winning CV along with a suggested CV template (available here).
In the current job market, the key to securing an interview for any role is an excellent CV. Somebody with less skills and experience will often be selected for interview ahead of a more highly qualified individual purely on the quality of their CV. Unfair as it may seem, unless the decision maker knows you personally then they are likely to make a judgement on whether to shortlist you for a role in just a matter of seconds based on the strength of your CV.
Preparing a CV is a time-consuming task and it can be difficult to decide what information to include and what to leave out. The key point to remember when writing your CV is that it is a sales document. It should clearly show the prospective employer just what you have accomplished in the past and what you are likely to be able to achieve in the future. There are literally thousands of articles to be found on preparing a CV, so I won’t go into great detail here, but below I have emphasised some salient points and included a CV template to demonstrate how a winning CV should look:
The person reading your CV does not need an essay. Keeping it short and to the point makes it more readable and demonstrates your ability to organise your thoughts. Two pages is more than enough and for most people I would suggest a punchy one page is even more effective. After all, you can cover the detail at interview.
Do you prepare the information as a summary of your skills or in chronological order? In my experience, chronological CV’s are much more successful as in those vital few seconds when a decision maker first reads the document, they can clearly see what you have done and when you have done it.
Use standard fonts: this isn’t the time to demonstrate your creative skills. Make your CV easy to read quickly by using bullet points rather than long paragraphs.
3, Spelling and grammar
As Steve Buddell points out in another post, this is absolutely crucial and if it is not right, you are likely to be rejected. With the tools available to help with this aspect there are no excuses and poor spelling and/or grammar just indicate sloppiness.
4, Measurable success factors
Whenever possible demonstrate what you have achieved using measurable figures. If you were responsible for a 27% increase in sales over a two year period make that clear. If you have given evidence in court say how often you have given evidence and what the results were.
Most CV’s deal in generalities and if you can demonstrate specific achievements this will give you an advantage over other people applying for the job.
5, Personal details
Thankfully it is very rare to see a photograph on a CV. Why would you include your picture? How do you think this will give you an edge in the selection process?
Ok, you play Golf so add that to your CV. However, there is no real need to go into details about your handicap and how often you play and where. Equally, the joke about how badly you play really isn’t necessary.
No employer needs to know the names, ages or occupations of your family. Likewise, if you are divorced or separated from your Partner, there is no need to put this on the CV.
Make your personal details relevant to the employer e.g., your German college course could well be of interest whereas your collection of rare calculators probably isn’t.
I have known a number of cases of blatant lying on CV’s. If you are tempted to do this be aware of the severe long-term consequences you will face for what often appears to be the smallest detail, e.g., altering a grade or adding a qualification. Many organisations now employ professional CV checking services and you will get caught.
A much better strategy is not to change the facts but to make them much more presentable by either strengthening the content or enhancing the appearance of the CV.
7, External review
Finally, send your CV to somebody else to read and review. If you are working with a recruiter they should be able to give you solid advice about your CV and help you with amendments, otherwise, pass it to somebody you trust who will review it critically.
Those small changes made following advice from somebody else can make all the difference to securing that position!