The golden rules are:
· Get professional help if you need it. Not everyone is brilliant at expressing themselves on paper. There are plenty of good CV writing companies out there.
· Tailor a bespoke CV for each job you are applying for. This does not mean a complete rewrite each time, but it’s easy enough to make some intelligent amendments on your Word document. You should always try to playback, in the body of your CV and in your summary Profile, some of the specific words used in a particular job specification. This will make your application sound and look more relevant and help to get through that first or second sift – crucial if you are perhaps one of several hundred applicants for an advertised position.
· Keep your CV flirtatious but not too revealing! Remember that your CV is simply a means to an end – to get you an interview. It should leave the reader interested and wanting to know more.
· Make it simple, short (2 pages max) and neatly designed. Put your name at the top of both pages. Absolutely no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors can be tolerated. Use spell check. Get your final version thoroughly reviewed by people you can trust.
· We said ‘stand out’ is key but that does not mean bizarre fonts, the inclusion of pictures or photo’s or dodgy colours. Think ‘white’ (cream if you must), black typeface, quality paper.
· Avoid meaningless clichés, slang and business-speak. Be concise, clear, and professional.
· Think about what you will be bringing to the party. Your mindset and frame of reference should be ‘what can I do for you?’ as opposed to ‘aren’t I brilliant?’
· Make it positive. Lies are silly – you’ll most likely be caught out at some stage – but sins of omission are usually OK and generally accepted. For example, if you were out of work or ’resting’ you do not need to draw attention to what might be a questionable gap by giving your employment dates to the month: just give the year as in ‘1996 – 1998’, not ‘Oct 1996 to Feb 1998’. Your aim is to make a positive, vibrant statement about yourself and to show smooth progression from one role to the next.
· Don’t include salary details. If these are asked for in an advertisement, provide an answer in your covering letter.
· Work to the following format. It’s the safe option but you can still be interesting!
o Section 1. Beneath your name, give main personal details – DOB, address, telephone numbers, e-mail.
o Section 2. List your highest-level qualification(s). Summarise any others.
o Section 3. Your ‘Profile’ – an outline of who you are (current role) with a succinct summary of achievements and how you are looking to progress, e.g. ‘a retail Area Manager with extensive fashion experience and a record of achievement in the profitable development of new and existing stores. Willing to relocate for next position as Regional Manager’.
o Section 4. Your ‘Career History’ - the main body of your two pager starting with your current or most recent role and working back
List each position held as a sub heading, along with the name of the company and the start/end date of your tenure. Also include a brief outline of your role and reporting lines.
Then highlight, as separate bullet points, your achievements – quantified where possible and with a brief illustration to show how you did what you did e.g. ‘introduced space management programme to give more exposure to faster moving ranges, increasing sales of accessories by 18%’.
Start each bullet point with punchy verbs, such as: ‘grew’ ‘saved’ ‘managed’ ‘opened’ ‘planned’ ‘pioneered’ ‘developed’ etc. Remember – make it interesting and always quantify if you can.
o Section 5. Your ‘Outside Work Activities’. These are not obligatory but can be used to give your CV a human dimension and personality.
Again, make them interesting. If reading is what you do, don’t just say ‘reading’; say ‘reading – particularly books by Paul Theroux’ or ‘reading – mainly drama and historical novels’.