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What is a CV? Curriculum Vitae: an outline of a person's educational and professional history, usually prepared for job applications. Another name for a CV is a resume.
A CV is the most flexible and convenient way to make applications: It conveys your personal details in the way that presents you in the best possible light. An application form is designed to bring out the essential information and personal qualities that the employer requires and does not allow you to gloss over your weaker points as a CV does. In addition, the time needed to fill out these forms is seen as a reflection of your commitment to the career.
A CV is a marketing document in which you are marketing something: yourself! You need to "sell" your skills, abilities, qualifications and experience to employers. It can be used to make multiple applications to employers in a specific career area. For this reason, many large graduate recruiters will not accept CVs and instead use their own application form. There is no "one best way" to construct a CV; it is your document and can be structured as you wish within the basic framework below.
When should a CV be used?
- When an employer asks for applications to be received in this format
- When an employer simply states "apply to ..." without specifying the format
- When making speculative applications (when writing to an employer who has not advertised a vacancy but who you hope may have one)
What Information Should a CV Include?
- Personal details: Normally these would be your name, address, date of birth (although with age discrimination laws now in force this isn't essential), telephone number and email.
- Education and qualifications: Your college degree subject and university, Class XII and Class X or equivalents. Mention grades unless poor.
- Work experience: Use action words such as developed, planned and organised. Even work in a shop, bar or restaurant will involve working in a team, providing a quality service to customers, and dealing tactfully with complaints. Don't mention the routine, non-people tasks (cleaning the tables) unless you are applying for a casual summer job in a restaurant or similar. Try to relate the skills to the job. A finance job will involve numeracy, analytical and problem solving skills so focus on these whereas for a marketing role you would place a bit more more emphasis on persuading and negotiating skills.
For example: "All of my work experiences have involved working within a team-based culture. This involved planning, organisation, coordination and commitment e.g., in retail, this ensured daily sales targets were met, a fair distribution of tasks and effective communication amongst all staff members."
- Interests and achievements: Keep this section short and to the point. As you grow older, your employment record will take precedence and interests will typically diminish greatly in length and importance. Bullets can be used to separate interests into different types: sporting, creative etc.
Don't use the old boring cliches here that don't relate to the work you are applying for: "socialising with friends". Don't put many passive, solitary hobbies (reading, watching TV, stamp collecting) or you may be perceived as lacking people skills. If you do put these, then say what you read or watch: "I particularly enjoy Dickens, for the vivid insights you get into life in Victorian times".
- Show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow : if everything centres around sport they may wonder if you could hold a conversation with a client who wasn't interested in sport.
- Hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary can help you to stand out from the crowd: skydiving or mountaineering can show a sense of wanting to stretch yourself and an ability to rely on yourself in demanding situations
- Any interests relevant to the job are worth mentioning: current affairs if you wish to be a journalist; a fantasy share portfolio such as Bull bearings if you want to work in finance.
- Any evidence of leadership is important to mention: captain or coach of a sports team, course representative, chair of a student society, scout leader: "As captain of the school cricket team, I had to set a positive example, motivate and coach players and think on my feet when making bowling and field position changes, often in tense situations"
- Anything showing evidence of employability skills such as team working, organising, planning, persuading, negotiating etc
- Skills: The usual ones to mention are languages (good conversational English, written Chinese, fluent Tibetan), computing (e.g. "good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, plus basic web page design skills" and driving ("full current clean driving licence").
- References: Many employers don't check references at the application stage so unless the vacancy specifically requests referees it's fine to omit this section completely if you are running short of space or to say "References are available on request." Normally two referees are sufficient: one academic (perhaps your tutor or a project supervisor) and one from an employer (perhaps your last part-time or summer job).
Tips on presentation
Your CV should be carefully and clearly laid out - not too cramped but not with large empty spaces either. Use bold and italic typefaces for headings and important information. Never back a CV – each page should be on a separate sheet of paper. It's a good idea to put your name in the footer area so that it appears on each sheet. The order and the emphasis will depend on what you are applying for and what you have to offer. You will also need a Covering Letter to accompany your CV stating what job you are applying for and why.
- Be concise: a CV is an appetiser and should not give the reader indigestion. Don't feel that you have to list every exam you have ever taken, or every activity you have ever been involved in – consider which are the most relevant and/or impressive. The best CVs tend to be fairly economical with words, selecting the most important information and leaving a little something for the interview: they are an appetiser rather than the main course. Good business communications tend to be short and to the point, focusing on key facts and your CV should to some extent emulate this. The longer and more dense your CV is, the harder it is for an employer to comprehend your achievements.
- Be positive: put yourself over confidently and highlight your strong points. For example, when listing your A-levels, put your highest grade first. Don't be shy to include awards and honors you have earned.
- Be honest: although a CV does allow you to omit details (such as exam resits) which you would prefer the employer not to know about, you should never give inaccurate or misleading information. CVs are not legal documents and you can't be held liable for anything within, but if a recruiter picks up a suggestion of falsehoods you will be rapidly rejected. An application form which you have signed to confirm that the contents are true is however a legal document and forms part of your contract of employment if you are recruited.
The sweet spot of a CV is the area selectors tend to pay most attention to: this is typically around the upper middle of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information. If you are posting your CV, don't fold it - put it in a full-size A4 envelope so that it doesn't arrive creased. Keep an extra copy for yourself in a waterproof plastic folder.