Before you start: imagine yourself in the place of the reader, your prospective employer. What response do you want them to have to your CV? Have that in mind when you construct it. Write it imagining that you are the employer and that the employer is getting really excited as they read your CV and realise that you could be the one!
Your CV is a selling document: the reader should feel interested and curious to learn more. They can find out more at the interview. The purpose of the CV is to get you that interview.
It must be easy to read: readers may skim the CV for as little as five seconds before they decide whether to actually read it. So the appearance of your CV matters enormously.
Length: 2 pages are ideal. Certainly no more than 3 pages. Any more than this and the reader may not feel that they even have time to start. Once they put down your CV, or close the Word document, they may not open it again.
White space: don't have too much crammed on to each page, it will be easier to read if there is a good amount of white space on the page.
Contact details: make it easy for the reader by putting your name, address and contact details (landline number, mobile number, e-mail address) at the top.
Profile: next come a few lines that sum up your skills and that position you. You may wish to amend this for every job you apply for so that it is absolutely relevant to that position.
Employment history: then record your employment history, with the most recent positions first. Rather than record what you did, think what your prospective employer might value. What were the benefits to the organisation of what you did?
Dates: note the dates (month and year) on the right-hand side of the page. The employer will skim down this column looking at length of service and looking for gaps in your CV (see below).
Ancient history: the further back in time you go, the less you need to explain about the role. Unless of course, that role is very relevant for the position that you're applying for.
Gaps in your CV: you may have had career breaks. If you don't explain any gaps in your CV they will raise questions in the prospective employer's mind. At best they will come back to you to ask about the gap, at worst they will move on to somebody else's CV. Include a short sentence on how you used that time.
Were you raising a family, a career, on maternity leave, unemployed, travelling? Give some indication of what you did during that time that was productive, that involved doing something that the employer might value.
Did you do a DIY project on the house, some personal development work, and study and keep up-to-date, give some assistance to a friend setting up new business? Include any temporary, contract, unpaid or voluntary work. For example: "managed a household and a team of three lively children", "learnt website design". If you can find something that may have a value for your prospective employer, all the better.
But be honest. You may have to talk about any aspect of your CV at the interview.
Education: next record your professional qualifications and education, most recent first. You may want a separate section on computer and systems experience if this is one of your strong points. If not, leave it out, you can always get training and improve your skills if necessary for the role.
Things to leave out: photograph; religious or political allegiances (unless they are relevant to the position).
Optional: date of birth; nationality: you may want to include this if it shows that there will be no difficulty for the employer about employing you; marital status. If you think that any of this may be perceived less than positively by the prospective employer then leave it off.
Personal details/further information: this could include clean driving license if driving is going to be a part of the job. Leave this information out if you have points on your license. You can mention interests or hobbies briefly if they add something to your CV.
References: leave information about referees until your prospective employer requests them.
Finishing off: use your spellchecker and check punctuation. Generally short sentences are easier to read. If you can split a long sentence into two or three shorter sentences then do so. You want the reader to be able to read quickly and efficiently and absorb your key messages.
Review your CV before sending it: if you have time, send the CV the next day when you have had time to review it from a different perspective. It can also be useful to get somebody else to review it. Accept any feedback as constructive rather than as criticism. Be appreciative of any suggestions for how you can present yourself on paper in a way that will give the best impression to the reader.
Clean white paper: print your CV on plain, white, good-quality, paper. It will look professional, clean and clear. That is likely to get you more positive attention than trying to catch someone's eye with gimmicks.
Final review: look once more at your finished CV, imagining yourself as your prospective employer reading your CV. If the impression you're getting is not completely positive, then change your CV.
Different CV for different jobs: amend your CV, the profile and perhaps the detail in the employment section, for each job you apply for. Tailor what you write about your skills, abilities and achievements to the particular job profile you're applying for.
Covering email or letter: make your covering letter or e-mail short and sweet; specify the position you're applying for and one or two reasons why you're interested in the job and would be good at it, drawing on a key example of your work experience to support this.
Keep a copy: make sure that you label the Word version of your CV and letter with your name when you e-mail them out (e.g. Martin Lloyd-Penny CV.doc and Martin Lloyd-Penny letter.doc). Then on your system rename both documents with the employer name so that it's easy for you to see which CV went to which employer. You may also want to print out a hard copy of the CV and letter. File the hard copies where you can find then if you're called to interview a few weeks later.
Other feedback: don't expect a recruitment company to check your CV. At Matureaccountants however, if we notice something that we think may not work in your favour, we may ask your permission to give you feedback. We will make this constructive, with suggestions for improvement. It's better to get feedback from us than to be continually missing out on getting to interview and not knowing why.
Feedback for us: if you have any feedback for us about this information and any suggestions for improvement, please email me.
Sending your CV to us: send your CV to us when you register, but make sure that it has your name as part of the filename!