How to format your CV
Every years thousands of us update or create our first real CV in the hope of landing our dream job. But what makes a successful CV in 2013? How to format your CV for best impact?
This was a question asked in a HR professionals group on LinkedIn this month. With so many different forms and structures available, this could be an impossible task. So a few members of the group met on a collaborative online meeting to review some CVs to see if there were any common things we look for.
To make things as simple as possible, we opted to look at the CVs of two new or about to graduate people, with limited work experience, looking for their first real career position. The purpose of looking at this, was to see from a strategic point of view if the professionals involved had any common factors they would be looking for.
Summary of key outcomes for the perfect CV
Name and contact details at the top – If you want to show you can use collaboration tools, list your Skype address too. Only list one phone number – avoids confusion
- Email, make sure your email address is a sober and “business like” one – no rude words etc – show the image you want them to hire
- Linkedin and other social media profiles are ok, just ensure they say the same as your CV!
- Do not show your address if you want to be considered mobile, prepared to travel
Start with a short profile statement, who you are, your key strengths and what you are looking for in the role – some people liked this some disliked it! Just a few lines.
Skills and Competences – what you can do
Education & Qualifications – in reverse chronological order. top like only for school qualifications – i.e. 4 A levels at A grade.. not necessary to list them individually.
Work experience – again reverse chronological order. Start each one with a simple statement of your responsibilities – tell us about the job. What you did. For achievement in a given job state what you did and the end result
Additional experience – a section listing other things that show your breadth/ life skills
References – leave them out – they will expect these to be available at an appropriate time – the exception to this are healthcare applications where they will be expected, and they may follow these before the contact you again!
- Style – reverse chronological order
- Keep each section consistent with the others. I.e. if you have an introduction to the organisation in one piece of work experience, do that for all of them.
- If you do not have significant work experience to draw on, list the skills you gained in your degree. Remember team work, project work, self organisation, planning etc.
- In any work experience, show skills and responsibilities – i.e. cash handling, dealing with the public. Yes it may be stating the obvious, but that is what people are looking for.
- Use bullet points not full narrative
- use third person except the intro profile section
- If highly technical content, make sure the person short listing will understand – I’m an engineer and the descriptions on one meant I could only recognise 2 words out of 11! none of those reviewing the CV thought it made any sense!
- Get other people to check your work – grammar spelling and consistent format!
- Avoid using headers & footers
- Customise the skills & profile for each application – read the advert/ job description!
- NEVER lie – you will get found out – better to say working towards… if you have not yet achieved something, examples include Duke of Ed. awards and qualifications – these are often checked!
- Avoid I …I….I !
Fonts and disability discrimination
An interesting comment was made. One CV we were looking at was presented in Times New Roman. One person thought this looked very outdated, and recommended a cleaner font – a helvetica, arial etc. It was said that this could be a reason for rejection. When I shared the feedback with the candidate, they stated that they were dyspraxic/ dyslexic, and found such fonts hard to read. So are people being discriminated against because of font? I cannot say for sure!
If you need more than one page, use more… but do not try to fill the page with irrelevance. Recruiters would prefer a second page with just a few lines on it, than 2 pages of overly padded content!
Most recruiters are not interested in these, unless they show things you cannot show through your work experience or university life
Not enough work experience
Not everyone now has work experience (part time work) before graduating. In such a case, show the reader what you have been doing for 3-4 years at university. Articulate the skills and attitudes you have developed at Uni.
What you did and the skills you developed.
Include IT, teamwork, collaboration, planning and organising etc. – yes you may need to state the obvious – but its HOW you do this that will make the difference.
Goal of the CV
Is not to get you the job, but to get you the interview. Ensure there are no errors which the potential recruiter can use to exclude you.
The bottom line
With more and more employers using online application forms, CVs are being used less and less – much to the frustration of applicants!. But also what this exercise showed was that different people look for different things. The key is not to make “school boy errors”, ensure consistancy, and make it EASY for the reader to SCAN and pull out the essentials they are looking for.
At a time when people get 100s of applications for a single post, people are looking at CVs with a reason to reject – not just for a reason to employ, so make yours stand out for the right reasons. The easier you make it for the reviewer to put your CV on the “yes pile” the better. This may mean making sure the section including profile and skills is directly written for the job/ role you are applying for.
so How to format your CV – I hope this has helped you, there is no “right” – but there is wrong! – good luck