CV basic guide

How To Write A CV – The Basics

 

Happy Monday!

 

But is it for you? Or are you stuck in a job you hate? In that case, we’re here to help you on your first step to a better job – with a better CV!

Whether you call it a CV or a resume, (we’ll call it a CV here for I am English and Curriculum Vitae is our way), your CV is your first chance to wow a potential employer. 

So many people blow it by not following some of the basic points.

 

THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.

 

Lemongrab agrees.

So let’s sort you out with our top tips for having a great CV. We’ll dive deeper in a later blog.

 

CV basic guide

LET’S GET THE BASICS RIGHT!

It’s a short piece of marketing designed to get you a job. It sells you, your knowledge, skills, experience, and to a certain extent attitude, to your prospective employer.

You may be required to also complete a covering letter and an application form (which irritatingly will often simply mimic your CV in many ways – you still need to do it!).

Now here’s the thing, you ask 100 different people for advice on a CV and you will get 100 different responses. There is no one size fits all approach and the nature of your own experience and what you’re applying for all plays into how you should best present yourself.

This is from my experience reviewing literally thousands of CVs and resumes during my career in Engineering, Physics, and Town Planning Professional Standards. I have recruited, given advice, taken applications for chartered status. I have seen things you wouldn’t believe.

With that in mind… let’s go!

 

1. YOUR CV IS AN ADVERT

 

This is a piece of personal marketing. Remember this. If it is ugly, too long, full of mistakes, doesn’t capture the important info – then you ain’t gonna make a sale today.

Make it look good. Be proud of it. Always be closing. 

We won’t be adopting the shady tactics of Premiere Properties, but Always Be Closing is the right approach.

2. LENGTH

For most jobs in the UK, 2 sides of A4 is the standard. 4 sides? Probably going straight in the bin.

Do not make your prospective employer work to find your important info, be succinct.

Some roles may call for 1 side, or they may ask for an extended CV which may be many more.

 

3. TAILOR IT TO THE ROLE

 

Keep a generic CV to hand, and keep it up-to-date. Do not send that one out. Look at the job role, look at your experience, tailor and tweak it to emphasise what they want to see and know about.

 

4. STRUCTURE

Let’s take a look at how to format and present your CV.

A ‘chronological CV’ is standard, with your work experience presented with the most recent first.

You should include:

 

Personal Details

This is very important and I have seen way too many CVs which don’t include the applicant’s name.

 

Firstname Surname | Professional Title

City/Town, (County, country only if necessary)

Telephone

Email

 

Personal Statement

This does not need a title. It just needs a paragraph that gives an idea of who you are and what you are about. TAILOR THIS EVERY TIME.

Highlight the knowledge/skills/experience you have that makes you an excellent candidate. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. 

 

Employment History

 

 

This is the meat of it and the majority of your CV will likely be your experience, unless you’re at the very start of your career.

Starting with the most recent position and working back, include jobs, internships, and any work experience.

Even if you have roles that are more relevant to this position, start with the most recent.

 

A good approach is:

mmm/yyyy – mmm/yyyy Position | Company | Location

  • Brief Outline of Role
  • Key Responsibilities
  • Key Achievements

 

TAILOR IT TO EACH APPLICATION.

Highlight the experience that would be of most interest, and most valuable to your new employer. Use their job vacancy description and try to match the words and skills on your CV to their requirements as closely as possible.

Brief outline – what the job is. Don’t assume they know what your job title means.

Key Responsibilities – exactly that, who, what, are you responsible for? Sales? Cleaning? Projects? Money? Marketing? Customer Service? Break it down into chunks and if you have your job description it can be a useful prompt.

Key Achievements – give details of any projects you worked on, any initiatives you started, and where possible adopt a ‘Task, Action, Outcome” approach.

For example, “I was tasked with increasing application numbers and identified key routes to market that were not being used. I develop a social media marketing plan across Facebook and LinkedIn and increased applications by 20%.”

Task – increase applications. Action – social media marketing. Outcome – increase in numbers by 20%.

You could then bring examples of the work to the interview should they want to see it.

 

Education and Qualifications

In reverse chronological order please. Use a similar format to the work experience so it all looks consistent.

If you recently left education then include your degree, A-Levels, GCSEs.

 

mmm/yyyy – mmm/yyyy Institution Name

Grade/Award Qualification/Subject/Course as appropriate

 

If you’re later in your career you probably don’t need to include your A/O Levels, GCSEs and can include fewer details.

Year – Qualification – Grade – Educational Institution

 

5. OPTIONAL EXTRAS

This is where it can get messy, folks. People love to include a lot of unnecessary bumf, padding which would be better served by including more of the above.

However, depending on the role some of these may be useful.

Key Skills – no more than 5 bullet points of REALLY relevant skills for the role, with a little justification. A great way to explain skills derived from extra curricular activities, hobbies, etc.

Hobbies and Interests – often this can be more damaging than helpful. If you must include it make sure they are interesting and relevant to the job. As an employer I don’t care if you read, and if I see ‘regular clubbing’ I might have worries about your state of mind on a Monday morning.

Organising events, playing D&D, volunteering, short courses – now these are more interesting and help to develop useful transferable skills.

References – they will likely ask for references on the application form, you don’t need to include them on your CV. If space allows ‘references available on request’ will do.

 

6. FORMATTING

The body of your text should be 10-12 point and choose an easy-to-read font such as Arial or Calibri (there will be exceptions for design based roles).

Your margins should be 1.28 – 2.5cm to keep things nice and clear. White space helps with reading.

Proofread that thing. Get someone else to. And someone else. Typos will taint an otherwise perfect CV. Be consistent throughout in formatting, oxford commas, date format, etc.

Save it as both a Word document and a PDF. Submit the PDF (they may ask for Word too). Don’t send it in WordPad or a proprietary format they may not be able to open.

 

BONUS: What not to include.

A header saying ‘CV’. They know what it is and you’re wasting valuable space. Your name is the title of the document.

A headshot, unless requested.

Work experience older than 10 years unless really relevant to the position.

Age/date of birth – it’s illegal for employers to ask. Don’t put them in a potentially awkward situation under the Equality Act of 2010.

Marital status – also protected under the Equality Act.

There we go! 

 

That’s how you create a CV that gets you interviews. We’ll dive deeper into some of these soon. Now go get writing!

 


Robin Bates – I’ve seen thousands of CVs and applications. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe.


 

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