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Industry view: Crafting a top CV

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For many people writing a career profile is such a daunting task that they put off updating their CV and even delay finding a new job.

In my line of work I review a lot of CVs and it amazes me how many people get it wrong, damaging their prospects of being selected for interview. With some time and effort, not to mention a bit of careful attention, you’ll create an attractive, hard-working and successful profile that really makes a positive impact.

Before you begin, think about what the prospective employer is looking for. Most likely it is the right skills and experience and the ability to prove a successful track record.
What will really help you start off on the right track is to take time to understand the job specification and make sure you tailor your CV to that specific role, no employer wants to receive a generic “I’ll fire it across to every application” type of CV.

There are certain sections you must include in your CV. Write a short and snappy profile at the top of your CV about your skills, don’t try to summarise your life story.

You must also include a comprehensive job history and education. Some people go to great lengths to describe a career spanning all of 18 months or people provide a list of achievements so numerous that even your mother would get bored in the telling.
Remember – keep it specific to the role and highlight quantifiable achievements and how you contributed to successes.

List your work experience and education in reverse chronological order. Explain any gaps, otherwise people will jump to incorrect assumptions.
The further you are into your career the more selective you need to be with the information you share. If you have a proven track record of success in your field, no one is that interested in your school results from 20 years ago.
If you state what you actually achieved you will be demonstrating a track record of success.  What are you most proud of? Tell us!

In the section about interests – make it interesting. Socialising and food do not qualify as interests, they barely qualify you as human. Also, don’t include passive interests, watching TV doesn’t make you remarkable.
Most people like travelling, eating out and occasionally going to the cinema or a gallery – not many play the trumpet, make their own clothes or volunteer. As a rule of thumb if your interests say something about you, your personality and are memorable, keep them in.

There are also the fundamental crimes of bad spelling, grammar, combined with terrible layout, font and design.
Your CV must be 100% accurate. It must be clearly structured, well presented and neat. Just remember white paper, black font.

This seems pretty obvious but for goodness sake don’t lie. You will be found out. Inflating your achievements will only backfire when you are proving yourself at the interview. Honestly it’s not worth it. Keep to the truth.

Oh no, social media! Now there’s an area you must be very careful with. Amusing but slightly risque pictures on Facebook might send out the wrong signals to a prospective employer.
Adjust those privacy settings so potential employers won’t see something you might be embarrassed about out with your group of friends. If you have a website or blog that you’re proud of, reference it on your CV. Google yourself if you haven’t already, and see what comes up. You might get a shock.

Keep your CV up-to-date, that might sound pretty obvious but surprisingly lots of people don’t. You just never know when you might need it quickly and remembering what you achieved three years ago is harder than you think.

Another big no-no is the over-used cliche. What is a team player anyway? Problem solver and proven track record are just as bad. It’s much better to say how you contributed to a team and what problems you actually solved, give clear examples.

Remember that it’s a professional document. Don’t display bikini or scantily clad pictures on your CV. Yes, people really do this! There’s actually no requirement to provide a photograph at all and definitely not one from your holiday in Ibiza.

Your CV doesn’t need to be restricted to two pages – just don’t make it a thesis. The sad truth is that most people will spend just moments glancing over your CV, so be selective and accurate with the information you include.

Lastly but by no means least, read your CV as a potential employer would, with a critical eye, then get someone else to do likewise. Check and check for any mistakes.

Good luck and happy job hunting!

Lauren Wards is senior consultant office personnel at Thorpe Molloy Recruitment