Writing your CV can be a daunting task especially when starting from scratch and even more so when you’re under pressure to reach a deadline for an application. Trying to remember your key achievements in the past year can be hard enough never mind those from 10 years ago!
My advice has always been to keep a CV even when you are not looking for your next role. Spend a couple of hours brainstorming a draft. Once your brain has been engaged in having to think about what you have been doing, it seems to continue to work at it even if you are consciously not. Previous projects, achievements, skills, strengths will pop back in your head when you’re watching the kids at their swimming lesson or eating your dinner, which can then be added.
Schedule some time to review it and add to it at least on an annual basis but you may want to do it more often. A good time is after your annual performance review. You’ve just been talking about key achievements and have hopefully had some constructive feedback on your strengths, skills and next steps. Reviewing your CV at this time can also help you think about what you want to achieve in the next year in order to expand your skills and experiences and hence what you want in your development plan.
Following this process gives you a solid draft to start from when an interesting role pops up. Reading it will give you the confidence you may need to apply and also remove that pit of the stomach feeling about having to pull together your career history in one evening!
When writing your CV here’s a some nuggets of advice:
- Use a summary at the top of the first page with specific achievements to draw in the reader
- Keep it specific and to the point - most of the time a 2 page CV is ample - unless you have been asked for a technical CV or you are in an executive role
- Research indicates that the most read part of the CV is halfway down the first page so this is a good place to put the juiciest part of your career and the key things you want the reader to see about you
- Remember that this is your marketing tool – you need to sell yourself that inspires a recruiter to call you for first interview. You don’t need to include everything you have ever done and achieved but enough to attract others to want to meet you in person (when you can really sell yourself!)
- Be clear about what you achieved with specific examples. It should not be a list of your responsibilities but a summary of your key achievements in each role. Use budgets, targets, profit figures, team size, promotions, turnaround projects and specific actions YOU took to determine successful performance
- Use positive language and tone – use words that will help highlight your achievements such as ‘improved’, ‘increased’, ‘saved’, ‘implemented’ etc
- Compare it against the role description / advert / recruiters pitch – Make sure it clearly includes the skills you have that they are looking for
- Re-read, review and revise your CV a number of times. Keep checking the spelling and grammar. Ask others to read it and for their honest feedback – How would they describe this person’s skills and strengths? Would they be interested in meeting this person for interview? Is there any confusing messages, missing information? Can they see any typos?
And a few things I have seen and advise against:
- Do not use the word CV at the top of your document but use your name instead - much more useful information to the reader. Put it in the header so it is at the top of every page
- Don’t lie or embellish - it will only bite you somewhere you’d rather it didn’t in the middle of an interview!
- Avoid using vague statements such as ‘I am a self-driven team player’ unless it followed up by something factual detailing an achievement
- Including your photo – unless it has been asked for and your appearance is an important part of the role but otherwise it sends out a different message
My last piece of advice is to keep your CV online. If you are not already on LinkedIn get your profile on there today. Head-hunters and recruiting organisations are looking at LinkedIn for candidates and being contacted about roles is a far more positive experience than looking through the job ads!
Want to find out more tips or need help with your CV? Please call Emma Ryan Coaching Solutions on 07786 080128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org