Based on years of reviewing CVs, in this, the second of our two-part blog about CVs (read part 1 here), we will focus on things that should be in every CV, things that shouldn't be in a CV and things you can do to ensure that writing your CV in the future is as hassle-free as possible.
I want you to think of a CV as something that represents you and that you can and should be proud of. Absorb the information in this article and you may just approach your CV differently in the future.
7. Good formatting and design
In this competitive age where it seems we have to work harder and harder to distinguish ourselves, it's tempting to imagine that CVs need to be a work of art. We've probably all read stories on LinkedIn about candidates who built elaborate self-marketing portfolios and brochures in order to capture the attention of a CEO.
But while I applaud their resourcefulness (they're usually targeting a specific company they particularly want to work for), for most purposes a CV should be relatively simple.
Simple formatting like a layout that makes a CV both easy on the eye and easy to read and understand, is better than one that is overdone with unnecessary photos, graphic design or simply too much information.
Of course there are times to break every rule, and there may be some roles where the more radically-designed a CV is, the better. But the aim of a CV is to convey, as concisely as possible, why someone should hire you. Being too lavish with your design is not necessary; even CVs for people who need to show off their design skills don't have to be too radical – that's what a portfolio is for!
8. Put your name/contact details on all pages
Your CV is quite likely to be printed and become part of a pile of CVs. The hiring manager who will scan your CV may have very little time and a lot of documents to read. They will appreciate it if they can easily identify your CV should the pages become separated.
Anything more than two pages and your CV will most likely be too long, even for those in senior roles. The key is relevance. Those with lots of experience can deal with their early career in brief.
We've already discussed some good practice that will (purely incidentally) help to reduce your CV length and ensure it is a focused document: One is to produce a CV that is relevant for each separate role you apply for – this can help to edit out any content that doesn't meet the brief of convincing someone you're right for a role.
The other is to ensure you're focusing on achievements rather than responsibilities when describing your career to date. This exercise often gets rid of lots of unnecessary content.
But if you're still struggling to get your CV down to two pages, there's another, brutal exercise you can undertake - the "So what?" test! Re-read your CV and if any of the content makes you think "Yes, but so what?" – get rid of it!
10. The right file size and format
There's another good reason to keep your CV short and simple. Many people now submit their CVs to job boards where they will be picked up by recruiters or hiring managers, who may themselves use applicant tracking systems or similar pieces of software to help them summarise and understand your CV.
It's therefore a good idea to create your CV is a fairly recognised, standard format such as a recent version of Microsoft Word, ensure it isn't too large and make sure that your CV is written to reflect any specific roles you are applying for (the keywords may be pulled out by an applicant tracking system that will return a synopsis of your career).
11. Have more than one CV
If you're applying for a number of roles that are significantly different from one another, don't hesitate to produce different versions of your CV with each especially focused for each role. Relevance is crucial to the power of your CV as a sales document.
12. Keep an ongoing record of your achievements, career highlights, awards and wins
Most of us, particularly those who have worked for the same company for a long time, will forget the need to catalogue our career – and most of us will come to regret it! Here at 1-1 Recruitment we've helped many people to finesse their CVs and we've heard the same plea many times – "I probably had that information once but I haven't any more!" I know how you feel, as I was once as guilty of this as anybody!
So, even if it's a case of simply making sure you save all your quarterly/annual appraisals somewhere safe, or having a "dumping ground" word document where you quickly note your achievements once every month/quarter/half-year or so, taking a bit of time to regularly take stock of your career will save you so much time in the long run.
It will also help you to recognise what you're good at, what you enjoy doing and where you've got room to improve!
13. Be aware of your online brand - and where it lives!
However you choose to describe your career, make sure that your CV matches your LinkedIn profile. And to quote from one of our earlier blogs, "people are more likely to scrutinise your online persona today than in the past, and that persona could be more visible than you realise.....if you share content publicly on social media and are actively seeking a job, ensure that content is working for you, not against you."
14. Skills-based CVs
As a final point, if you're either trying to change careers or don't have much work experience to write about, you may need to make a skills-based CV (sometimes known as a functional CV) rather than a traditional, chronological CV. There are many skills-based CV templates available on the internet and I would suggest the best way to start is to simply search for them and follow the example of one that you like. But the key difference between these and "standard" CVs is that they highlight a candidate's portfolio of transferable skills (hard and soft), rather than work history.
If you need more advice on any aspect of job seeking, please don’t hesitate to contact us here at 1-1 Recruitment!