Top tips on how to write the best CV.

CV writing advice

A CV should show how your strengths and achievements could be transferred to a new position and company. Look at the Checklist below and ask yourself if your CV is:

  • Attention Grabbing
  • Relevant
  • Original and Interesting
  • Easy to Read
  • Strong
  • Concise
  • Factual and Believable
  • Targeted to the Market
  • Achievement-based
  • Well Laid Out

For in-depth advice on writing your CV, why not read You’re Hired! CV: How to write a brilliant CV by Corinne Mills. As a Local Job Frog candidate, you can purchase it with an exclusive 15% discount. Visit www.trotman.co.uk/CV and quote the code LJFCV17 at checkout.

  

 See an extract from the book below:

 

Gathering the facts for your CV

At its most simple level, your CV is a historical record of who you are, what you have done and your contact details. The first step therefore in writing a new CV, or even revising an old one, is to ensure that the facts are complete, accurate and appropriate.

Every CV should include the following factual information:

  • name and full contact details
  • details of your career history
  • educational record
  • any professional qualifications and/or professional memberships
  • relevant skills and knowledge
  • relevant training and development.

Although this seems very straightforward, getting it wrong, as candidates frequently do, can have serious implications. Factual information that has been supplied by a candidate and which is found to be false, may exclude you from any other applications to that organisation. Even if it is discovered after you have been employed for some time, the employer could still legitimately dismiss you for gross misconduct.

So let’s go through each of the above items in the list in turn to make sure there are no omissions or gaffes.

 

Contact details

Name

Decide the name you want to be referred to and stick to this throughout. In your private life people may call you something slightly different, e.g. Robert or Bob, but try to ensure that you refer to yourself in a consistent way to avoid any confusion. If you have a fairly common name, e.g. John Brown, then you may wish to add an initial to differentiate yourself.

Telephone contact number(s)

It is now acceptable just to quote your mobile number as your preferred point of contact. However, if you do this, ensure that you keep your mobile charged, topped up with credits if you are on a ‘pay as you go’ plan, and check for voicemails regularly.

The voicemail may be the first time that a potential employer hears your voice, so make sure the message is suitably clear and professional. Jokey voicemails may be fun but are not going to set the right tone for you as a serious candidate. Employers who are unable to contact you immediately or leave a message will be unlikely to ring back. Their view will be that if you could not organise a working voicemail, you are unlikely to have the professional approach that they are looking for.

If you provide your home number, then ensure that anyone who could pick up the phone is ready and equipped to take messages. They need to note down the person’s name, company, contact number and pass it on to you quickly. Opportunities do get missed because messages are not passed on promptly or properly, so make sure that you leave clear instructions.

If you are currently working, do not give your current work telephone number as a contact number unless your manager is aware that you are looking for a job and is supportive. It’s too risky. 

Email address

Try using a personal email address for your job-searching activities rather than a current work email address (if you have one). Many companies now have an internet and email policy that warns employees that their facilities are for company business only and they will take action over inappropriate use.

It’s not a great idea to risk disciplinary proceedings when you are looking for your next job, so just play it safe and set up your own personal email facility. You can set one up quickly and easily using services such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo. The advantages of these email addresses are that they are free, confidential and you can access them from anywhere that has internet access. You can also set up this email address specifically for job-searching and close it down at a later date if you have no need for it, or if it becomes a magnet for spam.

Make sure that your email address is suitably professional. Your surname with initials or numbers usually works best. Be aware also that email addresses you currently use, perhaps with your friends, may be inappropriate for prospective employers, e.g. jonathan@sexanddrugs.com. This will certainly create a strong impression, but just not necessarily the right one.

 

Career background

Employers will want to know details of your work experience, educational background, professional memberships, etc. Each aspect is discussed below:

Career history

  • Previous employers: list all of your previous employers with some additional information about their size, turnover, key products or services. You can use this information later to draw attention to any similarities between your previous organisation and the one you are applying to, e.g. similar turnover, products, multi-site locations.
  • Dates of employment: these are essential to get right. You can enter the dates as month to month or even year to year if you want to cover gaps of a few months. However, these must be 100% accurate. Employers will check with previous employers the dates that you worked for them and your P45 will clearly state your date of leaving. Some companies even hire external specialists to double-check information on previous employment supplied by candidates. Any doubt about the date you have given them may lead them to question whether the other information you have supplied is accurate. Don’t be caught out by some casual error that could cost you the job offer.
  • Key duties and responsibilities: for each role, include some brief bullet points about the key duties you performed. Employers want to know the scope and size of your role so try to quantify this, e.g.
    • What staff responsibilities did you have? How many staff did you recruit, train, appraise, manage, etc.?
    • Did you manage a budget, and if so, for how much?
    • Who were your customers? How big were their accounts?
    • How often did you need to write reports, correspondence, give presentations, etc.?
    • Did you have any national, international or cross-organisational responsibilities?
    • Did you help bring business into the company, and if so, what did you do and how much was it worth?

Vocational qualifications and/or professional memberships

List any qualifications you have achieved which are industry related or recognised by professional associations. These could include certificates, diplomas, BTECs, NVQs, degrees or post-graduate training, e.g. certificate in counselling, diploma in social care, post-graduate degree in education.

If you are already working in a specific field, you should also list any memberships of compulsory and voluntary organisations, e.g. the General Medical Council, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Such organisations often require members to work to certain standards and ethics and take professional exams.

Training and development

Note any training or development that you have undertaken. This could include:

  • distance-learning courses
  • attendance at conferences and seminars
  • participation in action-learning groups
  • mentoring or being mentored
  • secondment opportunities
  • health and safety, first aid, risk assessment.

Make a note of any courses you are currently undertaking and their estimated completion date. Employers like to see that you are continually learning and updating your skills.

University or college education

Write down details of any degree or college courses for which you have studied. Note the grade achieved, the dates of study and the name of the institution. Where you have more than one degree, list them all, with the most recent or the most relevant first.

Secondary school education

Write down all of the qualifications you attained at school and your dates of study and exam achievements. Normally, your CV should include information on your secondary school achievements only if you have less than five years’ job experience and/or do not have a higher academic qualification such as a degree.

However, you could include your secondary school education if you had excellent A level results but disappointing university grades. If you do this, then be prepared to talk at interview about why your degree results were poor by comparison. The fact that you were too busy partying is not going to impress the employer. However, they may well have sympathy for other mitigating circumstances.

If you are a first-time job-seeker, you should also make a note of other school activities in which you were involved to show off your capabilities.

Knowledge

Write down the specific areas of knowledge you have of a subject, including specific industry or sector knowledge.

Information technology (IT) packages

These are such an essential skill that it is worth noting all IT capabilities and your level of ability.

Publications/research/conferences/working groups

This is usually more relevant for academic staff, consultants or anyone who is seeking to position themselves as an acknowledged authority in a particular area. Write down any industry- or subject-related working groups in which you participate. Include any instances where your advice has been sought outside your current organisation.

Hobbies/interests

Write down all your hobbies and interests. It is not strictly necessary to include this on your CV, but it sometimes has advantages. If you are going for a job as a sales assistant in a bookshop, it makes sense to put down reading as one of your hobbies. Interesting hobbies can also enliven an otherwise conventional CV. A secretary who is a champion water-skier – fantastic! Sports and physical recreation activities are useful to include because they indicate you are fit and healthy. This is particularly relevant if you are more mature in years and want to demonstrate that you have bundles of energy. Listing only solitary activities such as bird-watching, stamp-collecting and playing video games may lead the recruiter to wonder how sociable you are.

Gaming and online networking are popular and fast-growing social activities. However, be aware that if you mention social networking websites, employers may well be prompted to investigate your online profile on sites such as Facebook. Be careful what you publish on the web as it may be seen by a prospective, or even your current, employer.

Most importantly, if you decide to include a hobby on your CV, then make sure it is genuine and that you can talk about it at the interview. Many a promising candidate has scuppered their chances by writing about their theatre-going or mountain-climbing activities, only for it to emerge at interview that they can’t remember the last play they saw and the mountain-climbing was a one-off as a result of taking a wrong turning.

Voluntary work

Think of all the voluntary activities you have been involved in over the past few years. This could include fundraising, being a ‘games maker’ at the London 2012 Olympics, helping out at your local school, running a local football team or sitting on a local committee.

Employers are often interested in socially responsible activities. They indicate energy and community spirit, the kind of behaviours they want you to employ for their organisation.

Voluntary work can also demonstrate that you have capabilities over and above your paid work experience. Taking a strategic role on an advisory committee, using advanced interpersonal skills in working with vulnerable people, or using financial skills as treasurer are good examples of ways in which you can help bridge perceived gaps in your paid work experience when applying for a new role. It helps to demonstrate to an employer that you are serious about your next career move because you have invested unpaid time and energy to progress your career in this direction.

If you aren’t working currently and have a gap since your last job, enrolling yourself to do some voluntary work at least a few hours a week will be enormously beneficial. It will give you an answer to the interview question ‘So what have you been doing since your last job?’, and you will also develop skills and network contacts.

Additional information

Think about whether there is any other personal information that may be of use to an employer. These could include having:

  • a driving licence
  • dual citizenship
  • language skills
  • rights to work in the UK if you are a non-European Union (EU) citizen
  • other roles undertaken, e.g. magistrate, non-executive director.

Referees

Identify two individuals who will be happy to act as a referee for you. Ideally they should be your current and past managers. If this is problematic, then you could use someone equivalent in seniority within the same organisation or someone with whom you had a key business relationship, e.g. a customer whose account you managed. If you are a first-time job-seeker, you can ask your course tutor to provide a reference.

Always check with your referees that they are happy for their details to be forwarded to prospective employers. Do not assume that they will be happy to do so. The last thing you want is a referee who is unhappy with you because you haven’t extended them the courtesy of asking them.