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Writing a perfect CV is the first, and often biggest hurdle of finding a job. It’s the first impression that a future employer will have of you, and the deciding factor on whether or not to invite you in for an interview. Most employers spend less than 30 seconds scanning through each CV, so yours needs to be the one that stands out amongst the rest.
It can be incredibly hard to sell yourself on a piece of paper so here, recruitment specialist Jak Whitehouse, shares her top tips for writing the perfect CV.
The short answer, is yes! A CV is very important. I must admit I am not a great lover of CVs as they don’t always tell you everything in regards to someone’s personality and skills, and people often undersell themselves too, but they are important and often essential when applying for a job. Below I’ll run through each of the sections of a CV and in the order I recommend my candidates to list out their information.
I suggest starting your CV with a short personal statement. No more than 3-5 lines that summarises who you are. This is where you should detail skills, experience and attributes that the employer is looking for, and why you’re going for that job. Keep it short, sharp and concise. The most important thing here is to ensure you address the job you’re applying for, so it is highly relevant to the person reading your CV - use terms from the job specification, for example if they say they’re looking for a ‘highly organised individual’ put that in your CVs personal statement. This is essentially an introduction to the rest of your CV.
After your personal statement, go straight into your key skills. This should be four or five bullet points on your areas of expertise. Read the job specification you’re applying for and try to mirror your key skills to the skills the recruiter is looking for to show you’re experienced in the areas they need. A lot of candidates I see miss out what computer packages they can use; it sounds basic, but computer skills are the fundamentals of many jobs these days! Employers want to see that you are computer literate. If the job specification lists things like ‘communication skills’, ‘listening skills’ or even ‘presentable’, and if it is true for you, make sure you list these within your CV. It might sound obvious but these are the skills the recruiter is looking for, and this section of your CV is to show what you’re capable of doing and why you’re the right person for that role.
The employment history section of a CV is quite straight forward. Put down the company name, job title and when you worked there. The ‘to’ and ‘from’ dates are important to show how long you’ve stayed within each role and may provide an insight into why you left certain roles and moved onto the next.
My top tip here is always use bullet points to explain what kind of tasks you did whilst at each job - hiring managers are busy! They might be sifting through lots of CVs that day so with a quick glance they’ll be able to see what you’ve done and what you’re capable of.
Start with the most recent job first and my recommendation is to list the last ten years of your career. If you’re 60 years old, an employer probably doesn’t need to know what job you did when you were 16! The last ten years is plenty and should also keep it relevant. The other thing to consider with your employment history is ideally, the dates need to flow. You may be asked to talk about any gaps in employment, so if you can, detail this on your CV too.
Most people leave space on their CV to write a few sentences about what they like doing outside of work. This is really nice way to show your personality and your passions, so it’s definitely worth including, however my advice is to only include this if you have something to say! A lot of the CVs I see say ‘I enjoy socialising with friends and family, going for meals, and going to the gym’. Doesn’t everyone? Writing generic information like this isn’t a necessity, however we do want to see something about you on there. What is personal and unique about you? Do you love art? Are you into horse riding? Have you travelled to 15 countries? Can you speak another language, and what is the reason behind that?! This is the kind of information that gives the hiring manager an insight into your personality! Make this section five lines maximum.
There is a myth that CVs should only be two pages long, personally, my rule is that three pages maximum is fine for a CV. Whilst you want your CV to be thorough, adding too much information means that whoever is recruiting for the job you are applying for has to sift through pages and pages, and there is a high chance it won’t even get read if it is too long! Your CV won’t be the only one in front of the hiring manager that day, so make their job a little easier and increase your chances of being seen with a concise, relevant CV.
Spelling and grammar mistakes won’t go down well with future employers. If you can’t handle the basics of spelling before you start, how will you manage with the more difficult tasks that the job entails? My advice is check over your CV, and check it again! This step is vitally important as I know many businesses who won’t even consider a candidate that has a spelling mistake in their CV. If spelling and grammar isn’t your strong point, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member for that fresh pair of eyes.
It may seem like there is a lot to consider when writing the perfect CV, but what I will say, is that if you work with a good recruitment agency, they will always help you tidy up your CV. Here at Top Star Recruitment I have a tried and tested CV template that I work with, and a list of CV and interview hints and tips that I send to all of my candidates.
I pride myself on my personal approach and I meet with every single one of my candidates to get to know them. Experience and skills are important, but so is culture and I make it a priority to ensure I understand both my candidates, and clients, and I know who will make a good fit.
To get in touch with Jak for more career related support, contact her via LinkedIn, here.
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