When you submit your CV to a prospective employer, it needs to clearly show what knowledge, skills, experience and qualifications you have which make you a suitable candidate for the position for which you are applying. Jobseekers should think of their CV as their opportunity to sell their skills to a recruiter, whether it is submitted in response to an advertised vacancy or as a speculative enquiry to an organisation they would like to work for.
The most important thing is that the recruiter can quickly and easily find the information that they need to make a decision about whether to shortlist you for interview. Many recruiters will take no more than 15 seconds to skim a CV and decide whether it goes in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile. This means that your CV must be well laid out, with clear section headings and plenty of ‘white space’ between sections. Most recruiters would also agree that it should, preferably, be a maximum of two sides of A4 paper. Generally speaking, bullet points are also preferable to long paragraphs.
If you have actual experience in a similar position, you will probably have what are known as ‘job-specific’ skills e.g. in nursing, teaching, admin etc. and you should make sure these are clearly listed and, preferably, demonstrated with examples, such as any initiatives or procedures you may have been responsible for implementing.
Whether or not you have such relevant skills and experience, you will almost definitely have what are known as ‘transferable skills’ i.e. skills which are useful in any position, such as good communication and interpersonal skills, teamwork, computer literacy etc, and you should try to give examples to demonstrate these and the ways in which you feel they would be useful in the position you are applying for. These are particularly important if you have little, or no, actual work experience and need to make the most of what you do have to offer.
You may also have personal qualities which make you well-suited for a particular job, such as patience, honesty, sensitivity etc and you should also mention these, with examples if possible.
If you are applying in response to an advertised vacancy, the advert will usually specify what particular skills and/or qualifications the recruiter is looking for and your CV should show how you meet these requirements. If you do not show this, again your CV may find itself, unread, in the wastepaper basket. If the advert suggests that the recruiter appears to favour experience over qualifications, then this should be the first section of your CV, after your personal and contact information, but if specific qualifications are required then make sure you show how you meet these requirements before you give any further information.
Always keep in mind that the recruiter may receive large numbers of CVs in response to their advertisement, and you want them to see the most important and relevant information about you before they get bored of reading through all the other things you may feel it’s important to include.
However, you should not be tempted to use brightly-coloured paper, or unusual fonts or layouts, in an attempt to make your CV ‘stand out from the crowd’. Again, most recruiters would agree that these can appear frivolous and that simple fonts, such as Arial or Verdana, on plain white or cream paper are preferable as they are easiest to read and more likely to be taken seriously. Try not to overuse features such as bold type, italics and underlining, it is enough simply to emphasise your section headings and previous job titles in bold type. Over-use of these features can make a CV appear cluttered and difficult to read.
Obviously, jobseekers should not lie about their qualifications and employment history, as this generally results in the waste of both the recruiter’s and the applicant’s time. If you have gaps in your employment history, you should try to refer to these in a Personal Profile section, where you can mention periods when you were travelling, at home raising children, doing voluntary work etc. Such gaps will be noticed by recruiters and you should be prepared to discuss them at interview, especially if they have not been fully accounted for on your CV. Referring to them in this way can help to avoid putting anything negative on your CV, such as periods of unemployment, and may allow you the opportunity of explaining them more fully at an interview. A brief Personal Profile or Statement should be included at the start of your CV, after your name and contact details, and should be just a few lines describing some of your personal qualities, experience and career aims.
Ideally, then, your CV should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for, so that your relevant skills, qualifications and experience can be emphasised and should contain honest and up-to-date information. You should also ensure there are no spelling mistakes, preferably by having it checked by someone who is competent to do this, as a computer spell-checker will not always pick up incorrect usage of words such as ‘there’ and ‘their’ or ‘our’ and ‘are’.
Also, remember to keep it brief, concise and relevant – recruiters don’t need to know that you are good with children and animals if you are applying for an admin job or to work in a supermarket!
Attach a short covering letter, which states why you are submitting your CV (in response to an advert or as a speculative enquiry) and, perhaps, drawing attention to any particularly relevant skills or experience you may have.
And finally, make sure that you provide contact details that you can actually be reached on – there is no point just giving a home telephone number if you are never at home during the day. Try to provide a mobile phone number and an email address that you check regularly.