Can you win your ideal job interview with just two letters? Well, if those letters are C and V, then maybe. It’s time to spill the beans on how to create a CV that ensures other candidates are toast.
How hard can it be?
With widespread availability of online templates, it is tempting to think the CV is a bit old hat and an easy thing to rattle off in a few minutes. Wrong. It’s amazing how many CVs let applicants down – putting up red flags to prospective employers and blocking access to that critical first interview.
Open with the basics: your name, address and contact details. If you are prepared to relocate, say so right up front to avoid rejection at the start of the process. The next tip is to personalise each application. The days when you wrote your CV once and photocopied it 100 times are long gone – or should be.
Your personal statement is your chance to say, in five lines or less, what you would bring to a role. Experience, skills, relevant personal factors – for instance if you are applying for a job as a dairy rep and grew up on a dairy farm – what you want to achieve or how you have prepared for the role, such as shadowing a rep, can all make a big impact on your prospective employer.
Next, it’s time to cover your career. Start with your current job and work back. Sounds obvious? We’ve seen graduate applications that lead with their experience as a shelf stacker, rather than their previous job in marketing. Include dates, company, job title and responsibilities for each job. Use the same format each time to make it easy to read and differentiate between different posts. Include a few details of projects relevant to this application. Most important of all – don’t leave gaps. If you have had periods of time when you were not employed, whether that was due to redundancy, illness or time out, explain what you were doing during that time. It worries a prospective employer more to have unexplained blocks of time, as it looks as though the applicant has something to hide.
Qualifications should come next, and it would usually be relevant to include third level qualifications and above (A-levels). GCSEs are not normally included, unless these are the only qualifications you hold.
The hobbies and interests section is meant to give the employer a more rounded view of you as a person. Like the rest of the CV, it needs to be honest and truthful, but try to keep in mind what you might be communicating here. Some employers might be looking for evidence that you have skills related to your job – so a sociable person for a rep job, or someone who is interested in team sports if the position requires team working. Others may be looking for evidence of skills that are harder to assess formally, such as creativity or enthusiasm. Don’t just present a list – include specifics and achievements where they add to the application.
When it comes to people who may vouch for your abilities, it’s usually best to include the phrase “referees available on request”. Arrange with the relevant people in advance that they are happy to act as referees and preferably have several so you can choose the most appropriate referees for the job in question.
The covering letter that accompanies your CV can make all the difference. Don’t make it too long, but create some interest and intrigue. Think of it like a first date – provide enough interest to make the employer want to find out more, but not so much that he or she knows everything about you.
Always think about what your audience wants to hear about, as much as what you personally want to say, and review your application from these two perspectives before you send it off.