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CV and Interview advice

Your CV needs to be more than a simple list of your previous responsibilities and job titles. It must promote you by showing WHAT you can do, as well as WHERE and HOW you have done it.

In other words, it describes your achievements and skills as well as former job titles and functions.

Your CV should be:

  • Truthful
  • Relevant
  • Interesting
  • To the point
  • Devoid of waffle

The Basics - CV Format Checklist

  • Print in black ink on one side only of A4 white paper, using standard typeface e.g. Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica
  • Your name should be at the top of the page
  • There is no need to write ‘CV’ at the top of the page – it wastes space!
  • Font sizes of 10-12 for text and sizes 11-14 for headings. Use capital letters/bold for emphasis
  • Don’t use italics, underlining, shading, graphics, vertical/horizontal lines or boxes
  • Use key words picked from the job description that you’re applying for
  • Set off your achievements by solid bullet points and with action words or phrases
  • Date ranges (i.e. years at a company) should be on the same line
  • Avoid using personal pronouns i.e. instead of ‘I managed a team of four’, write: ‘Managed a team of four.’
  • Include links to the companies that you've worked for if it's not immediately obvious what they do
  • Use the past tense
  • Choose strong action verbs
  • Generally, avoid abbreviations
  • Make your point quickly in the upper third of the page
  • Avoid coloured paper or strange fonts
  • There is no right length for a CV – get all the information down without waffling
  • Keep the look simple and clean

Types of CV

CV format is not ‘one size fits all’…you can adapt the way you lay out your CV to fit the type of role you’re looking for and where you want the emphasis to lie. And don’t forget – you can tailor your CV every time you apply for a role – there’s no reason to send the same version to everyone.

1. The chronological CV

This is the traditional CV format that focuses on your career history. Use it when you are looking for a job in a similar career area, and use the layout detailed above.

2. The Functional or Skills-based CV

Useful when you are making a career change to a different job type or industry. This type of CV emphasises your skills and abilities rather than your recent employment history. You might consider using a functional CV if:

  • you want to change to a new area of work and show your relevant transferable skills and experience
  • you've got gaps in your employment history
  • you've had a lot of jobs and you want to describe the experience you've got as a whole
  • you want to highlight skills you've gained in previous jobs but that you don't use in your current or most recent job

Switch the order of your CV content so ‘Achievements’ comes ahead of ‘Key Skills’ and ‘Career History’.

When writing a Functional or Skills CV, you can provide details of the functions or skills that you’ve performed, depending on which fits best with your experience and goals:

Functions:

  • CRM
  • Campaign Management
  • Direct Marketing
  • Market Research
  • Planning

Skills:

  • Leadership/Management
  • Negotiation/Influencing
  • Analysis

CV Content and Order

  • Name and Contact Details
  • Summary/Profile
  • Key Skills/ Achievements
  • Career History
  • Qualifications & Professional Development
  • Your hobbies

Name and contact details

Keep it brief with name, email and phone number. You don’t need to include other personal details like:

  • nationality, unless you will need a UK work permit
  • marital status
  • age
  • details of children
  • your health status

Summary/ profile

Your opening paragraph should aim to summarise your key selling points. Think, ‘if I were a brand, how would I sell myself?’ This needs to be hard hitting and rather than being a personal objective, should aim to give the reader an overview of your key strengths.

It should be written with your goal/next job in mind

It should state who and what you are i.e. how do I describe myself

It should indicate your breadth/length of experience

It can include 2/3 key skills/strengths

It should state your USP

It may state your next move/objective

Key skills and achievements

Whether you’re using a chronological or function/skills based CV format, you should detail your achievements under each heading.

Think back through your work history and identify work that produced especially good results. You can use the following STARS guidelines to write up these achievements:

S          First describe the Situation you were in

T          Describe the Task that was involved

A          Next describe the Action you took (be certain to say ‘I’ not ‘we’ when explaining this – interviewers want to know what YOU did, not the wider team)

R          Then explain what the Result was

S          Describe the Skills you used in your achievements

 

Examples of work achievements

MONEY

Think of a time when you saved or made money for your company or client

TIME

Did you save time or increase efficiency?

ORGANISATION

Have you organised, planned or implemented an event or project?

MAKING IMPROVEMENTS

Have you made improvements to a process or project? Are you creative, innovative and good at coming up with new ideas?

TEAMWORK

Do you work well with others? Where have you exhibited this?

CLIENT MANAGEMENT

Are you good at winning, retaining and managing clients? How have you managed tricky situations or difficult clients?

PRESENTATION/PUBLIC SPEAKING

How good are your communication skills? Have you presented in public?

WRITING SKILLS

Do you write reports? Where do you use your writing skills?

FLEXIBILITY

Think of a time when you were called on to be adaptable in handling new or different situations

TRAINING, COACHING

Have you mentored team members or others in or outside the organisation?

Check:

  • Does each achievement begin with an action word or phrase?
  • Is the language you have used concise, specific and professional?
  • Have you highlighted the results of your actions clearly?
  • Is each of your skills illustrated with at least one solid achievement or result?
  • Have you chosen skills that relate to your job objective?

Action words to describe your achievements and pep up your CV:

Achieved Designed Initiated Predicted Simplified
Accomplished Detailed Innovated Prepared Solved
Accelerated Developed Inspected Presented Standardised
Acquired Devised Installed Prevented Streamlined
Acted Directed Instructed Procured Strengthened
Activated Displayed Inegrated Produced Stretched
Adapted Distributed Interpreted Programmed Structured
Addressed Documented Introduced Projected Studied
Administered Drafted Invented Promoted Succeeded
Adopted Dramatised Investigated Proposed Summarised
Advised Earned Judged Proved Supervised
Analysed Edited Launched Provided Supplemented
Appointed Educated Led Publicised Supplied
Appraised Eliminated Logged Published Surveyed
Arranged Employed Made Purchased Tailored
Ascertained Enforced Maintained Qualified Taught
Assessed Engineered Managed Quantified Tested
Assisted Enlisted Manipulated Questioned Tracked
Attained Ensured Mapped Raised Trained
Awarded Established Marketed Realised Transferred
Balanced Estimated Matched Reasoned Transformed
Budgeted Evaluated Met Recommended Tripled
Built Examined Modelled Reconciled Uncovered
Calculated Expanded Modernised Reconstructed Undertook
Checked Facilitated Modified Recorded Unified
Coached Finalised Monitored Redesigned United
Collaborated Formed Motivated Reduced Updated
Communicated Formulated Navigated Referred Upgraded
Completed Fostered Negotiated Refined Used
Conceived Founded Nominated Reinforced Utilised
Conceptualised Generated Observed Reorganised Vacated
Conducted Guided Obtained Reported Verbalised
Constructed Handled Opened Represented Verified
Consulted Headed Organised Researched Weighed
Controlled Helped Originated Restructured Widened
Converted Identified Oversaw Reviewed Withdrew
Co-ordinated Illustrated Participated Revised Withstood
Created Implemented Perceived Revitalised Won
Decided Improved Persuaded Scheduled Worked
Decreased Improvised Piloted Secured Wrote
Defined Increased Pinpointed Selected  
Delivered Influenced Pioneered Shaped  
Demonstrated Informed Planned Showed  

Qualifications & professional development

Detailing your GCSEs really isn’t necessary – a quick summary of number and grades will suffice. You don’t need to mention your individual University modules either unless they are of real importance to a role. Make sure you don’t forget your professional qualifications such as the ISP, IDM, CIM, etc and any other courses you may have attended such as Presentation or Negotiation skills, and IT knowledge.

Your Hobbies

Be careful that this part of your CV isn’t longer than some of your previous roles! This is usually used as an ice breaker in an interview so do put something you are passionate about here, which brings your personality to life.

A word about creativity

Although you may have a creative background, this creativity does not have to be portrayed visually on your CV. The old rule of keeping it simple and sticking to a clean and consistent format will work best. The CV needs to look and sound professional otherwise it may not be taken seriously. It’s also likely that recruitment agencies will be using automatic CV scanning technology, for which simplicity is key.