How to create a successful CV / rèsumè
It's the age-old saying, 'first impressions count'. A suit and tie can help do the trick, so too can polished shoes and manicured nails, but what about when you're relying on a few pieces of paper? The simple fact is - we all rely on them. They're our CV and contain our life, work and academic history. We need them to make a good impression and to sell ourselves to potential employees.
So what can we do to ensure our CV will give the best first impression?
Peter Panayotou of The Write Stuff, a CV Clinic based in London says your CV is probably one of the most important documents you will ever write. "Your CV offers an employer a snapshot of you. It is usually all they ever see before they decide to call, or not call, you for an interview. It is therefore essential that your CV stands out and is clear, concise, well presented and error free."
This advice sounds simple. After all, you would hope that all of the work you produce is clear, concise, well presented and error free, but it's not always that easy. How much information should you include? Should your CV be one page or ten pages long? Do you include photos and examples of your work? Should you provide referees at an early stage?
"Keep your CV short," Peter says. "No more than two pages. Any longer could be detrimental, and lay out information using clear section headings to make it easier to navigate. Use bullet points to describe things like duties, responsibilities and achievements."
Generally, the format of a CV is up to the individual, as long as it is easily understood. However, content is relatively standard from one CV to the next: personal details, profile/summary, educational details, work history, leisure interests, additional information, and references. The amount of space you allocate to these areas in your CV suggests the importance you want employers to attach to them.
Peter also recommends that people be specific about what they have done. "Say you have managed two staff, been responsible for a budget, completed a project about, or used WordPerfect, Lotus or Quark Express for example. And where possible, use positive action words to describe your work duties. Action words draw a visual picture to the reader of a hard working, dynamic individual."
"When it comes to listing your work history, concentrate on providing just enough information for the reader to gain an accurate picture of your role", Peter says. "There is no need to go into complicated, wordy detail about previous responsibilities - simple and straightforward explanations will suffice and are easier to read.
Listing your leisure activities is another section of a CV that may be more important than people realise. These provide an employer with some insight into what you are like out of work and they often look at this information to assess your personal qualities.
As for references, the answer is simple. They should always appear last on the CV and can be dealt with by 'available on request' rather than listing individual contact details.
Last but not least, don't forget your personal profile. This section normally appears first on a CV and is very important because it gives you the chance to provide the employer with details about yourself that do not appear in any other part of the document. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and describe what you have to offer the employer in terms of personal skills and attributes.
Creating a CV can be a time consuming and frustrating process but the rewards can make all the hassle worth it. Once you've got your CV template, update it on a regular basis so if another attractive job proposition comes your way, your CV is ready to go. Then all you have to think about is the cover letter.
"When it comes to cover letters, this is another major point of confusion", Peter says. "In truth there is no great secret. One of the most difficult aspects of writing a really good cover letter is to say why you are interested in the job and in some cases what skills/abilities you think you will bring to the position."
As with CVs, a cover letter should follow a set sequence. Start by giving your reason for writing, mention where you learned of the vacancy, or indeed your reasons for approaching that particular employer. Then go on to describe briefly why you feel you are suitable for that position.
Peter also suggests you should introduce the CV early on, and then use the letter to draw the reader to the important elements in your CV. "Highlight key facts (relevant experience, your degree) but don't be tempted to put too much detail in your cover letters - they are only an introduction to your CV. Important information, such as your skills, should be in your CV already so avoid repetition.
"When answering ads requesting a cover letter, make sure you include all the information they have asked for, such as salary expectations, preferred location, etc. as this will not be in your CV. And finish with a call to action, stating clearly what you expect to happen next."
Armed with CV and cover letter advice, you are ready to apply for your dream job. If you're looking for that next position do so actively but remember to exercise patience. Job hunting can be stressful and all consuming but if a winning CV and cover letter are waiting in the wings, you're halfway through the process already.
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