11 Apr 2017

How to write the perfect CV...

I had a CV last week from a new candidate.  The file was named; ‘Joe Bloggs CV Short’.  It was 6 pages long.

One of my most commonly asked questions is ‘how long should my CV be’.  In the old days, the standard answer was 2 sides of A4.  On balance, it’s probably still optimal.  However, you’re not going to not get the job just because it’s 3 pages....but it does rather depend on how you populate those 3 pages.

I understand that in this day and age, employees have many more jobs than they did in days gone by which will make a CV automatically longer.  Clients do hold it against a potential employee if they have to look too hard for what they are looking for and they have a very short attention span when they are reviewing CVs. If yours doesn’t make an immediate impact, you won’t be shortlisted for interview.

But to get around this, it’s important to remember that writing a CV is not rocket science. Some of the worst CVs come from the most experienced candidates – and even worse, they are the people who usually are the most critical of candidate CVs when they themselves are recruiting!  All you have to do is be aware what the client is recruiting for and then ask yourself, does my CV tick their boxes?

Clearly if you are working with a good recruiter, they will advise you when you need to tailor the CV for a specific role.  For the majority of roles, a good generic CV will do the job and most recruiters will send a mini profile with your CV which essentially will highlight why you are relevant for the role and why you should be selected for interview.

For the record, it’s not acceptable to direct employers to look at your LinkedIn profile.  It may be 2017 but the CV still holds a lot of power.  To refer someone to LinkedIn makes you look lazy.
And sorry, but no... I don’t do CV templates.....every CV across the North would look the same!  I can however, share some tips which should help you ensure that your CV is going to secure you an interview.

What I do like:
  • ·         Clear and concise copy. I like to instantly be able to see who you are, what you do, where you’ve done it.
  • ·         Bullets are great for this
  • ·         Results and Examples of success.  I don’t want to just read that you manage projects from A to B. If you can, give succinct examples where you can demonstrate what you did for a particular client
  • ·         Employment History should start with the most recent. So start with the current role and work backwards. Typically you need to write less for the older roles.
  • ·         Make sure you write your CV from scratch every 2 years. Too much ‘updating’ is obvious and a bit lazy.
  • ·         A really strong personal profile that is a summary in 3 or 4 lines who you are and what you are looking for. It must be meaningful!

What I don’t like:
  • ·         Lots of Blah in the personal profile (lots of words just added together....passionate, ambitious, strong, strategic, team player, hard working – like I say – blah). Say something meaningful or don’t bother.
  • ·         Photos.  Admittedly this is a personal thing.  I just don’t think they add value and if they do, it’s not necessarily for the right reason. It offers employers an opportunity to judge you.
  • ·         First person descriptions.  I do this and I do that etc. It can come across a bit Peter and Jane.  My personal preference is for the third person – so ‘Responsible for leadership of a team of 3 and revenue generation of £XXX per month’.
  • ·         No need to add referees to the CV. You can supply them when required.  Use the space to sell yourself. Lazy recruiters automatically add referees to their databases too – don’t make their lives easy.
  • ·         Typos.  No excuse. Ever.
  • ·         American Spelling.  Too many people are still against so stick to proper English!
  • ·         Bolted together CVs.  Some people maintain that they keep their CV up to date whereas they just stick another paragraph on top of the old one.   They then don’t check if the old copy is still relevant and in the right tense. Check! You should keep editing it down each time you add a new role onto the CV.
  • ·         No need to mention salaries on the CV.
  • ·         If you got a 2.2. or a 3rd you are better coming clean.  Saying BSc in Business Studies with no classification is a giveaway.
  • ·         You might as well add your Date of Birth. Employers will only count backwards...
  • ·         Holiday jobs in pubs, hotels and restaurants are only relevant if you are a fresh Graduate where you can argue that they add value to show you are capable of hard work and discipline.  Once you have more than 2 years work experience, these can come off the CV.
  • ·         Absolutely no need to mention the names of your pets. Keep the interests nice and simple.
  • ·         CV tinkering.  Once you’ve got a good generic version, that should be fine unless you are advised by your recruiter to tailor it specifically for a role.  No recruiter wants to get your updated CV every single day!

A real cynic (not me....) would say that 99% of recruiters/employers will look at the first page only. They will check out your Date of Birth, your last two jobs and what degree you did and where, and they’ll have made a decision about you.  Opinions on CVs are always going to be divided. There is a school of thought where they would argue that the more ‘creative’ the better. I’m afraid I’m not in that school.  Wacky doesn’t do it for me and bizarre clip art and six different fonts just looks a bit daft.  However, once you’ve got your CV as you would like it, show it to a couple of recruiters for feedback and then amend accordingly.  CVs still play a huge role in day to day recruitment and it’s the mechanism by which you’ll get your foot in the door. It’s worth spending time on it to get it right!

Finally. It’s worth remembering that when a client receives your CV, they will then check you out on LinkedIn and check out any social media feeds. Make sure whatever you post on the web is clean!