The ten golden rules we recommend you follow
- Be concise and punchy. Don’t over-write. People won’t read the detail. They want to see brief, relevant summaries. Remember your CV is likely to be one in a large pile they have to review. As a rough guide aim to list no more than 5-6 bullet points for each job. Avoid long paragraphs of prose. Try to keep the CV down to two pages (or max’ three). There is no career on earth that cannot be summarised on 3 pages! Be aware that sometimes ‘less is more’. Apart from anything else, omitting the details leaves something for the employer to examine in an interview. Don’t tell them everything – leave some stuff for them to find out and, thereby, a reason to want to meet you.
- Put the key facts clear and prominent at the top of the page. The average CV-reviewer initially takes approximately ONE SECOND to decide if your CV goes on the ‘Reject’ pile or the ‘For Further Consideration’ pile. So make the key information stand out. If you have an exceptional degree and/or qualification, make sure they are shown right at the top. List your jobs in reverse chronological order, starting with the key responsibilities and achievements of your current (or most recent) role. Employers are usually most interested in “what does this person bring to the party – and what are they doing now?”
- Be honest. Don’t lie. Recent research revealed that up to 43% of job seekers misrepresent qualifications, dates, skills or experience on their CV but that most are eventually found out. There have been cases of dismissals being upheld by employment tribunals because the job-holder had originally lied on their CV.
- Use action-oriented and ‘impact’ words and descriptions where appropriate – and true! .e.g. ‘delivered’, ‘introduced’, ‘implemented’, ‘successfully’, ‘exceeded’, ‘secured’, ‘won’, ‘managed’, ‘trained’, ‘supervised’, ‘obtained’. etc. Quantify your achievements with data, sales values and/or statistics wherever supportable.
- Discard the ‘Personal statement’! That is a contentious thing for us to recommend, because all university lecturers and career advisors tell graduates to include them. But take it from us, all personal statements look and read the same (“I am a conscientious, diligent and ambitious marketing professional looking for a….”). They take up valuable headline space on your CV and nobody reads them. Instead the reader’s eye will almost always go first to your qualifications and current (or most recent) job details. Fact.
- Adapt your CV to fit the role you are applying for, highlighting your skills and experience that are most relevant. Maybe have a couple (or more) alternate versions ready to use depending, for example, on whether you are applying to an agency or a client-side role.
- Pay attention to the layout. That doesn’t mean you have to turn your CV into an over-elaborate ‘design classic’ – in fact doing so will be counter-productive. But ensure the layout, font, spacing and general presentation looks professional and that you have taken care over it. Using company logos can be effective – it adds interest to the document and draws the reader’s eye to the job.
- Include brief details of personal interests and activities – but only if they enhance the CV. Make sure they are supportable and that you can discuss them in detail if necessary. Avoid listing things that everybody does, such as ‘reading’, ‘socialising’, ‘TV’, ‘listening to music’ or saying which football team you follow.
- Important! Do not include the names and contact details of your referees. Put ‘references available upon request’.
- Proofread it! Obvious perhaps, but you’d be surprised how many CVs are out there with basic grammatical, spelling and factual errors. Spend five minutes checking your CV before you hit ‘send’. And don’t just rely on your PC spellchecker – it can sometimes amend correct spellings to incorrect ones.
… and finally, include a brief and concise covering note or email – NOT a long letter! You will probably have the space to make just one relevant key point which connects you to job. So think carefully what that USP might be and make the point clearly. It is often also a good idea to end with something like “I am extremely keen to speak to you about this application. Please feel free to call me any time on… [mobile number]”. It may just prompt the employer (or recruiter) to pick up the phone there and then!