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CV Writing Guide

You’ve all heard the clichés,"you never get a second chance to make a first impression" and more often than not when applying for a job, it’s your CV that'll make that first impression  – so you simply can’t afford to take a chance.

Here are a few top tips on how to write a winning CV from our team of specialist recruitment consultants – after all we’ve seen one or two of them!

General Tips

Keep it simple, concise and clear. Don’t try to be too fancy with fonts, styles, colours, language and lay out. A simple clear and consistently well presented CV will win most times.

Long winded CVs do not get read. Keep it to 2 or 3 pages max. Make the most relevant points stand out as most CVs are skim read.

You’re constantly developing as a person, learning new skills and benefiting from new experiences – make sure your CV reflects this. It’s a working document and should be constantly updated.

Your CV needs to tell the employer that you can not only do the job that you are applying for, but that you’re so good they simply have to employ you. So, be prepared to adapt your CV to the job and person specifications provided. You may be applying for jobs in a number of different sectors e.g.. Education and Fitness. A CV that’s right for one job sector may not be appropriate for another. Be prepared to write several versions of your CV and to suit the sector you are applying for.

  • Keep it simple
  • Keep it brief
  • Keep it updated
  • Keep it relevant to the job
  • If a position requires specific qualifications, ensure a recruiter can see that you have them quickly and easily.​

Language

Be economical. Avoid writing long winded sentences, instead use bullet points to highlight key facts.

  • Avoid using “I” choose action verbs such as achieved, initiated, developed, presented, organised and supervised.
  • Don’t use Jargon, colloquialisms or clichés.
  • Ensure your grammar is spot on and you’ve spell checked the whole document.

Layout

If it’s clean and uncluttered it will not only appear more appealing to read, but will be easier to read too. Keep presentation consistent.

  • Use a popular font e.g.. Ariel or Courier and use the same size throughout. Headings should be slightly bigger than body text.
  • Try to create as much white space as possible. Use wide margins and double line spaces where appropriate.
  • Embolden Headings, but don’t over format your CV. Avoid capitalisation of entire words and needless underlining.

Personal Information

This is purely for information purpose and forms no part of your sales pitch, so limit the amount of space this takes up and the type of information you give, whilst ensuring they know who you are and how to contact you.

  • Name, address, mobile and home telephone numbers and email address are essentials.
  • Ensure you have professional sounding email address. If you haven’t, get one!
  • Avoid needless information such as National Insurance Number (- we see it all the time!)
  • You do not need to include your age, date of birth or marital status. (Remember that there are laws to protect you from Discrimination on the the grounds of gender, age, sexual orientation, religion etc.)

Professional profile/ Personal statement

Perhaps the most important section of your CV and certainly the most frequently read, this is your BIG sales pitch. Like the first page of a book it’s your chance to capture the reader’s interest and entice them to read on.

  • Concentrate on a well written flowing paragraph.
  • Inform the reader about the key qualifications and skills you have acquired through employment and the personal attributes you possess.
  • Ensure it matches the person and job specification of the job you are applying for.
  • Make sure the employer can quickly identify if you hold the required attributes for the roles they are trying to fill – don’t bury the key skill or qualification they are requiring in your CV
  • Ask friends or colleagues to read it and ask for constructive criticism.
  • Writing your personal statement needs very careful thought and consideration to make you stand out from the pile of other CVs in front of a recruiter.
  • This is your ‘elevator pitch’ – it is difficult to sum yourself up in 4 lines – but that’s what a recruiter is looking for. Remember their time and patience may be short.

WORK EXPERIENCE

Starting with your current or most recent job ensure the information about your employment is presented consistently throughout your CV. Include the name of  the employer, your job title and start and end dates. Use bullet points to summarise your main responsibilities and duties, key achievements, skills needed and new skills acquired whilst in role. Think carefully about your presentation if you have had lots of jobs in a short space of time or have changed jobs after a short while. You may feel it necessary if you left your a job for legitimate reasons e.g. made redundant, to insert a ‘reason for leaving’ point. Alarm bells will sound in an employer’s head if they deduce that you are incapable of holding down a job. Employers appreciate longevity, loyalty and progression, but sometimes for reasons beyond our control this is not possible – so tell them rather than letting them jump to conclusions. Be careful to avoid using negative language though. Do not criticise former employees or colleagues. If you cannot put a positive spin on it, leave it out.

  • Start with your current or most recent job and work backwards.
  • Use bullet points to identify key skills and achievements.
  • If you are highly experienced, then summarise less relevant jobs, perhaps early in your career, in a separate smaller section.
  • If you have relevant volunteering experience, consider including it.

Education and Qualifications

If a position requires specific qualifications or level of experience, ensure a recruiter can quickly and easily find them.  e.g. if a job requires QTS, NPQL or REPs Level 3 or Hockey make sure it’s obvious. If a recruiter struggles to locate it on your CV they may move on to the next CV in their pile and you could loose out!

Your Education section can sometimes be given too much prominence and space on a CV but ensure you list the most relevant qualifications. However, you do not need to list every qualification you’ve ever got, particularly if your grades aren’t great. Is an E grade in Food Technology at GCSE relevant to the job you are applying for? Concentrate on your most relevant, recent or highest qualification and condense the others e.g. 8 GCSE grades A-C including English and Maths.

  • Limit the space apportioned for qualifications.
  • Keep it succinct and relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Avoid unnecessarily displaying information which may reflect underachievement.

Additional Qualifications and Professional Development

A commitment to personal and professional development will always be looked upon favorably and most people continually get the chance to improve their skill set. List relevant additional qualifications and any continuing professional development or in service training undertaken. Opportunities will arise throughout your career emphasizing the importance of keeping your CV up to date.

  • Keep this section constantly updated.
  • Ensure you actively seek out and accept offers of in service training or relevant additional qualifications.
  • If the training is not relevant to the job you are applying, for leave it out.

Interests

It’s always good to let the employer know a little more about you, but resist the urge to tell them your life story. Many people go through the motions in this section (how many times have we read “Reading, Cinema, socialising with friends……?”) Tell them about sporting interests and participation, particularly if you are playing, coaching, managing. Give them a small insight into your personality too – information about voluntary work, or additional interests that demonstrate you possess the skills they are looking for in a new employee is golden – but leave them wanting to find out more too.

  • If you can, try to be original in this section.
  • Think long and hard about what you do outside of work that may be particularly appealing to a future employer, demonstrates your skills and passion for an activity or sport, teamwork and gives you that extra "something" an employer might be looking for.
  • Avoid any information that may have a negative affect on your application – i.e. "I like drinking with my mates" – Yes, we have seen this on more than one occasion!

References

Either state “Available on Request” or leave details of your referees. Ensure you have asked their permission and in certain sectors eg. teaching, ensure they have got a reference template for you ready, or can turn one round quickly, as references are often required at short notice and can mean the difference between getting a job and coming a close second. Whist employers are encouraged to seek 2 professional references it’s always worth having 3 prepped, particularly if one of them is unavailable at the time of request.

  • Choose a referee wisely – make sure they are going to be complimentary about you.
  • Ask their permission and get them prepared.
  • Avoid the use of character references especially if from family friends.

PHOTOS

Having your photo on your CV is entirely up to you and how you wish to come across.  If you do choose to include a photo make sure it is high quality and shows you in the best light for the job you are applying for. Head shots are the most popular.

CV Format

Recruitment agencies often prefer CVs in a Word format rather than a pdf so that the key elements of your CV can be forwarded onto the client recruiter or copied onto your personal file. Either way please ensure that you include your name the document’s title, such as “John Smith 2016 CV” or “John Smith – Personal Trainer – 2016 CV” etc. so that if you email it as an attachment, a recruiter can easily identify your CV.​