The perfect CV

Many employers still use the CV as a form of initial screening for advertised jobs. They are also a useful tool when making a speculative application.

What is the purpose of a CV? Some people seem to view it as an exercise in self-aggrandisement; others produce a turgid list of activities reaching back to their cycling proficiency triumph in the 1980s. However, to create an effective CV which will work for you, you must consider what you are aiming to produce and what it will be used for. A curriculum vitae is not just a record of your life to date; you might as well write your autobiography or publish your diaries. Instead, a CV is a structured presentation of aspects of your experience, organised in a way that will make sense to the person reading it.

Take your starting point from the job to which you are applying. Good writing starts with the reader in mind; so does a good CV. Think carefully about who will be reading your CV and what they will be interested in. For the most part, employers will have a vacancy to fill. They will have a vision of the sort of person they would like to fill that vacancy. Your job is to write a CV which will convince the reader that you have the knowledge, skills or experience to meet their requirements. You can "sell" yourself as much as you want, using interesting action verbs or a beautifully phrased personal profile, but these techniques are likely to fall short if you are not telling the employer about something that they are interested in.

So take time to look carefully at the person specification and job description and identify the key skills required. Then think about what you have done that might demonstrate that you have these skills. Remember that you don't necessarily have to have done a similar role to be able to demonstrate that you have the right skills. Working in one environment can enable you to develop skills that will be just as useful in a different environment.

In Britain, most CVs are one or two pages long. You have this much space to make a good impression so use it wisely. Everything that you include on your CV should say something about your skills or experiences relevant to the job for which you are applying. Don't waste space on the first page giving details about your various contact addresses if this means that interesting work experience is forced onto page two. Think strategically about where you place the information. Again, think about what will be a priority to the employer: will it be your education so far, or the experience you have gained through other work or voluntary activities?

Finally, the art of writing a good covering letter should be revised and put into practice for each application that you make. A covering letter should be brief but pertinent, highlighting enough information about you to make the reader want to refer to find out more. A good structure to follow is to address three main themes: why you are interested in the job; why you are interested in working for the company or organisation; and what you think you have to offer. This last section should précis your particular skills relevant to the job in question.

 

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