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Did you know that the average employer will only spend 5-7 seconds looking at your CV, and that jobs in the UK can receive up to 250 applications? It is therefore vital that your CV is the best it can be. Our comprehensive CV tips guide and downloadable CV template are the perfect resources to get your CV up-to-scratch. Not what you are looking for? We have loads more tools in our candidate resources section, or you can get in touch with us to discuss your needs.
When it comes to looking for your next role, your CV is one of the most important tools at your disposal. Get this right and it could open up many more doors as your CV will usually be the only way of securing an interview. For that reason a winning CV is the base for every successful candidate. It is therefore essential that you put as much time and effort as possible into getting it right to ensure whoever reads it has the best first impression of you. Here are our top tips to ensure your CV stands out.
The basics of your CV
First and foremost, remember that a CV is a snapshot of you. Keep in mind how busy the individual or individuals reading your CV might be, so make it short, snappy and memorable. It is also important to lay your CV out in a way that is easy to read. Space everything out, use bullet points and ensure your language throughout is accessible so that the person reading your CV can understand everything, and ensure they get a real insight into you as a business professional.
Some other points to consider are:
- Use an appropriate font and size so that your CV is easy to read. We recommend using Arial font size 11.
- Bullet points are extremely useful in CVs as they allow you to highlight key points succinctly and keep the document looking tidy.
- The standard length of a CV in the UK is two pages, however, one size does not fit all. For some professionals more than two pages may be more appropriate.
What sections to include in your CV
Contact details and professional profile
The structure of your CV is flexible, but we would always advise that you start with your contact details – your name, email address, and contact number. Never include your age, religion, race or marital status, as these are factors that should not be taken into account by employers during the hiring process.
You may also want to include a short biography in this top section to expand on your professional title and experience. This should be no more than a few sentences outlining your experience and what you are looking to achieve with a new role. This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression, so be concise and ensure that anything you put here is reflected in the rest of your CV. This section should be tailored to every position you are applying for. Remember to highlight relevant skills and detail why you think you are the perfect candidate for that particular job. As a minimum you should try to answer the following three questions.
- Who are you?
- What can you offer the company?
- What are your career goals?
Work experience and employment history
Next you need to detail your work experience and past roles to date. This is vitally important as it will showcase your skillset and give the employer a chance to see whether your skills are right for the role, so please remember to tailor this section to the job specification you are applying for. We would always advise you to present your information out chronologically. Begin with your work experience and employment history followed by your education.
You should list your most recent or current position first, followed by your previous four or five positions; there is little need to go further than this, unless you feel the positions and experience you gained are particularly relevant to the role you are applying for. If you have only had a handful of jobs in your career that is absolutely fine. Be specific about your most recent role, and the one before that as these will highlight your skills. Earlier positions can be described in less detail. Remember to explain any gaps you may have had, whether they are due to deciding to have a career break, for study, or travelling.
Download our CV template to find out how to present each position of employment on your CV.
We would also advise candidates to put quantify any achievements where possible. For example, if you have increased productivity within your previous business, state that you have increased business output by 40 percent. This is more meaningful than simply saying you increased business output, however remember not to lie or exaggerate as it is likely the interviewer will find out as you progress throughout the process.
Education and qualifications
Add in details of your education, qualifications and evidence of further study. You may want to include accreditations such as GCSEs if you feel them to be necessary. Include the name of the institutions and the dates you were there, followed by the qualifications and grades you achieved. If you have recently left education, you may write your degree, A-levels or GCSEs (or equivalents).
Download our CV template to find out how to present your education and qualifications.
Additional sections you may want to consider for your CV
There are a range of additional sections that may strengthen your CV and highlight your skills. Here are just a few you can include if you have room. Remember try not to go over two pages, so if you cannot fit these sections in then do not worry. You will have a chance to explain these should you secure an interview.
- Key skills: if you are writing a functional CV, or have some abilities you want to show off to the employer immediately, insert a key skills section underneath your personal profile. You should aim to detail four to five key skills at most.
- Hobbies and interests: you can also boost your CV by inserting a hobbies and interests section at the end. Be careful though and always avoid listing hobbies that do not add value to your CV. If your CV is already very long you may want to leave this section off.
- How to include references: including reference contact details should be avoided – not only are these likely to change frequently, but it is more professional to state that “references are available upon request.” Additionally, you are more likely to be contacted prior to interview rather than the employer going straight to your references.
Formatting your CV the right way
In terms of formatting, keep it simple! Use a font size no smaller than 10 and typeface Arial. Always use bullet points to keep sections concise and highlight significant facts. Use appropriate headings and section breaks to ensure it is easy to read and that potential employers can find information without hassle. We would also advise candidates not to include a photo as this can contravene equality and diversity measures within businesses.
Finally, always check for spelling and grammatical errors, as these will be picked up and will reflect badly on you. Remember that spell checking software does not correct words if they are spelled correctly but are in the wrong context (i.e. there and their) so keep an eye out for these common errors. Furthermore, make sure you change your contact details after moving house or obtaining a new phone number so that you are always reachable.
Finally, getting someone else to read over your CV is always helpful – ask family, friends or your Consultant to double-check your details.
Think you are ready to give it a go? Why not download our handy CV template to help get you started! Good luck.
Still need a hand? Why not take a look at the rest of our candidate resources section here. We have tips on everything from brand you to interview tips. Alternatively you can get in touch with one of our expert team for more advice on getting your CV up to scratch.
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