When looking for a job, getting your CV right can create a great first impression and land you an interview.
With employers only spending an average of six seconds reading a resume, you haven’t got long to grab their attention. Your CV is how you sell yourself to prospective employers and should summarise the skills and experience that set you apart from other candidates. From the different types of CV, to the essential dos and don’ts, we cover what – and what not – to include in your 2021 CV.
CV formats: Which one should I use?
How you structure your CV and the amount of space you devote to each area of it will depend on your level of experience, the role requirements, and what you feel are your strongest selling points. There are two main types of CV: chronological and skills-based.
The chronological CV – also sometimes known as a graduate or traditional CV – will probably be the CV format you’re most familiar with and remains a popular choice. Chronological CVs work in reverse chronological order, meaning that your most recent qualifications and experience are listed first. Chronological CVs make it easy for employers to identify and shortlist potential candidates, as you can closely match your work history and qualifications with the requirements of the job role, and the reverse chronological structure allows you to highlight the skills and experience you’ve gained throughout your career.
When should I use a chronological CV?
A chronological CV is great when you have recent, relevant work experience for the job you’re applying for.
Most chronological CVs contain these sections:
• Your contact details: Include your full name, address, telephone number, email address and LinkedIn profile link (optional)
• Profile: Keep it concise, not more than 2-3 sentences long. Summarise relevant experience and qualifications, along with your career objective.
• Education: Start with your most recent qualification first and work backwards. Provide the title of your qualification, the grade you were awarded, where you studied, and the date you achieved it.
• Work experience: Consider splitting this into two sections; ‘Relevant Work Experience’ and ‘Other Work Experience’, to highlight the industry experience you would bring to the role. If you’re going for a customer service role, for example, you could have a ‘Customer Service Experience’ section, which quickly signposts recruiters to your most relevant experience. Including an ‘Other Work Experience’ section can also help to explain any apparent gaps in your work history without distracting the recruiter from your suitability for the role.
• Interests (optional): Keep this section brief, and consider the impression your hobbies will create. Include any hobbies or activities particularly relevant to your chosen job sector, as it helps to demonstrate your interest in the industry and any additional knowledge you’d be bringing to the role.
• References: Simply ‘available on request’ will do here.
This dynamic CV format works by highlighting the most relevant skills and experiences that you have gathered throughout your career. A skills-based CV, also sometimes knows as a functional CV, should demonstrate the achievements and abilities that you feel make you the ideal candidate for the role. This CV format allows you to evidence your relevant key skills, usually through a series of bullet-pointed statements under each heading.
When should I use a skill-based CV?
Skills-based CVs are often used for job seekers looking to change career, as the lack of chronology places more emphasis on transferrable skills over work history. A skills-based approach can also be handy in cases where you have periods of inactivity, as the emphasis is on your skills and accomplishments rather than a timeline of previous roles.
What does a skills-based CV look like?
Start with your contact details at the top, followed by your personal profile – a concise summary of your relevant qualifications and experience, and your career goal. Include the most relevant skills to the role you’re for – use each key skill as a heading, with supporting examples and evidence of that skill:
Managerial and Leadership:
• Managed a team of four
• Conducted inductions and ongoing training
• Evaluated individual work performance
• Advised on career development
• Led the implementation of new customer service approach
Now you’ve chosen the type of CV to best sell yourself to potential new employers, there’s a few more things to consider. Not sure how far back your work history should go, or whether more is less when it comes to styling? Here’s six golden dos and don’ts to get you on the right track and make sure the recruiter reads your CV for more than just six seconds…
• Do write a cover letter: You should always include a covering letter with your CV. Use it to strengthen your application by building on the skills and experience in your CV which are most relevant to the role.
• Do share links to your social accounts and work portfolio: In addition to your contact details, why not share a link to your LinkedIn profile? Recruiters can explore your work history and qualifications in more depth, and if you have LinkedIn Recommendations (like testimonials) from colleagues and clients on your profile, potential employers will form a positive impression of you before you’re even in the interview room. Is your LinkedIn profile in need of some attention? Read our blog article for tips to maximise your LinkedIn profile.
• Do tailor your CV to the job: Already applied for enough jobs to make your head hurt? Even so, tailoring your CV to the requirements of the role is essential – and it could help you be more selective, as you should be matching up your skillset and work experience with what the role is looking for. Even a few tweaks, such as featuring keywords from the job title and person specification in your CV heading and profile, helps to show recruiters you’re a good fit.
• Do check your spelling and grammar: Small mistakes are easily missed but could cost you an interview. Run a spelling and grammar check on your CV before sending it off, and ask friends and family to check it too.
• Do include ‘power words’: Not to be confused with overused and vague buzzwords like ‘motivated’, ‘innovative’ and ‘creative’, use clear, practical terms, such as ‘supervised’, ‘solved’ and ‘launched’ to demonstrate what you have accomplished. Use these action terms to show how you have added value or achieved a certain result.
• Do support claims with evidence of your skills and experience: Employers and recruiters want specifics, so back your claims up and use numbers where possible. If you reduced your department’s overheads, by how much and over what length of time? Did you achieve over 100% of your quarterly target? Project and team size are also good numbers to demonstrate your level of responsibility.
• Don’t list every single job you’ve ever had: Although it might be tempting, jam-packing your CV with every single role you’ve had, including all your student and part-time jobs, clutters your CV, and at worst, can suggest a lack of commitment and direction. Select the roles which are relevant to the job you’re applying for. The recruiter will have the opportunity to ask you about any gaps in your career timeline at the interview stage, so you can cover any additional work history then.
• Don’t handwrite your CV: Keep your CV smart and professional – it should be word processed, which also makes it much easier to update.
• Don’t go over the top with styling and design: A smart, eye-catching design is great, but going overboard with colour and font choice will distract from your CV’s content and can look unprofessional. Stick to fonts such as Calibri, Garamond, or Cambria. Never Comic Sans. And don’t even think about Papyrus.
• Don’t overuse jargon: Spell out acronyms and avoid jargon in your CV. The first person to read it may be from the HR team and not directly involved in your role, so ensure your CV is accessible and doesn’t alienate the person reading it.
• Don’t let your CV run for more than two pages: Stay concise - you’ll have plenty of time to expand on your skills and experience at the interview stage, so avoid waffle and stick to a two-page limit. In addition to relevant work history, include the most compelling information which demonstrates your suitability for the role, along with the basics such as your contact details.
• Don’t lie! It could cost you your job, and hiring managers are more diligent than ever when performing background checks, so it’s just not worth it. It’s fine to include qualifications that you are currently working towards, as long as you make it clear that you have not completed them yet.
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