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Writing a perfect CV

Writing the perfect CV can take some time, we’re not going to lie.  What makes it hard is sculpting it specifically to the role you are applying for.  You should prepare to take your time and get it right.

Personal details

You need to decide which details to include and which to leave out.  With this section normally being at the top of the CV, and the first thing the recruiter will read, it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself.

Your name is one of the most important parts.  Make it slightly bigger than the rest, put it right at the top and centre it on the page.  This is the title of the document.  Remember you are selling yourself, your skills and personality…but not too much personality.  Leave nicknames off.

Contact information

Giving the employer your contact information is vital.  Without it, they’ll never be able to get hold of you.  But do not use current employment details, obviously.

You should include a minimum of; phone numbers, address, and email address.  However, one of the biggest issues is people forgetting that their email address, beautifulbabe@web.com is probably inappropriate for work.  Open a new account somewhere and use your name or combinations of names so it looks more professional.

Other personal information

There are some things you don’t need to include unless you are asked for it specifically.  For example, marital status, family details, date of birth, nationality and sexual orientation.  Some companies, especially government agencies and departments might ask purely to note equality in hiring procedure.  Most of the time these questions will be asked on a separate form that is probably not looked at by the recruiter themselves but can be reviewed periodically to ensure a fair hiring policy.

There are laws protecting people and ensuring equality.  For example, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 made age discrimination illegal in the recruitment process.

Other things to include depends on whether you believe it is relevant to the role you are applying for.  A very quick note to say you have a full and clean driving licence is great if it could be required.  Designers, for example, might include an online portfolio that recruiters can review before an interview.

Just check if you think it helps your chances or hinders it.  Even if it’s a perfect example of something, if it’s not relevant a recruiter might think you don’t understand the role fully.

The personal statement

The personal statement is written to capture the recruiter’s attention as soon as possible.  A great statement will make them want to read your CV in more detail.

The average recruiter will only spend about 30 seconds reading each CV.  They might have dozens of CVs to read.  This means standing out is difficult but not impossible.  You need to really sell yourself.

You need to explain your professionalism, traits and goals.  The aim is to make them read on.  Each sentence should be selling a different key point about you.

The hardest parts of a personal statement are; condensing it into about 50 words (or three to four lines), and not using clichéd phrases.  So don’t use phrases like, “Looking for a challenging opportunity to…”.  This is too inward looking.  Think about what a recruiter wants to know; how you will help the company.  Think about how your skills will benefit the company using their job description.

A great example is something like; “An eye for detail to check customer correspondence before it’s sent”.  This would be good for someone who would be involved in writing to, or for, customers.

This is an important section for only 50 words on your CV, but it’s really important.  If you have trouble, write 100-150 words to start with, read it out loud, cut it and edit it down like a Tweet until it’s the right length and it’s all meat, no fat!  Keep reading it out loud.  Would you hire you based on these 50 words?  How will the recruiter read this CV?

Skills

Once you have the recruiter hooked with the statement you need to go through your actual skills, what you will bring to them?

The skills you note here should be sculpted specifically to the role you are applying for.  However, this can be difficult sometimes as job descriptions vary wildly from company to company.  Searching the i2i website for similar jobs to the one you are applying for can help you better understand what might be asked of you in the job.

There are some skills that are popular with a lot of employers:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • IT skills
  • Initiative

Think about your skills.  Some are learnt at school, in jobs or whilst playing sport.  Others skills are qualifications directly relevant to a job, and some are difficult to prove as they’re personality traits or you are self-taught and not qualified.  An example of non-qualified skills could be someone who has taught themselves to code but has yet to take an actual qualification.

A bit like the personal statement, some skills are not 100% relevant, however, they could show a great understanding of something.  For example, a second language shows you are good with words, a programming language shows you are probably advanced in other, more basic IT skills, or at least will be someone who can ‘figure it out’ easily.

Former jobs

Knowing what jobs you have been in in the past and are in now is crucial to most employers.  They want to see your history in the workplace and what you have done that could be similar or transferable.  This is their way of quickly sense-checking some of your skills section.

Your previous jobs should be listed with the current, or most recent job first and move backwards through your history.  You should include the company name, job title, the dates of employment, responsibilities and achievements.  The main responsibilities should be a few sentences over three to five lines, slightly longer that the personal statement.  A lot of people tend to put their key achievements into a bulleted list showing three or four of the most important.

Been out of work for a prolonged time or seeking a new career path?  Don’t worry.  You can focus on the experience and skills you have rather than the specific jobs.

In this case, rather than having a few sections for jobs, you can list the most relevant skills you believe the employer would like to see.  You can then back these skills up with a few different points explaining why you feel this skill is important to the role.  You will also need to list the jobs and positions you have had with rough dates, but the list can be very basic with no detail.

There is also the option of using a combination of both the employment-led and skills-led CVs.  However, the issue is that you may end up running out of space quickly or more likely, repeating the skills in both sections.

Qualifications

If you believe your education and qualifications are your strongest selling point for a role, then you should put this section at the top of the page, after your personal statement.  Alternatively, if you believe your employment history and experience is your strongest selling point then this should go after the personal statement instead.

Like a lot of the CV, the qualifications should be tailored to the role and employer rather than a list of everything.  They don’t however, need to be embellished like job experience, this is what a grade is for.

To help keep the qualifications section relevant and concise it’s helpful to summarise, rather than list them.  For example, you could write; “11 GCSEs grades A-C, including A’s in Science, Mathematics and English”, or “8 GCSEs grades A-C, including Geography and German”.

Interests

You can choose to add an interests section if you like.  This is where you can add a little bit of you.  For example, you can tell the recruiter; you like running marathons, love films, have swum across the channel, bungee-jumped, enjoy socialising with friends, walking, cycling etc.

There are hundreds of different things you can write here.  It doesn’t have to be relevant to the job but should put you in a good light, so don’t tell people you’re a notorious graffiti artist or have been arrested.

References

Everyone struggles with references on a CV.  What of they call your current employer?  The easiest way to get around this is to just say something along the lines of; “Full references are available on request” at the bottom of your CV.  This tells the recruiter you are willing to give them out when they’re needed.  Recruiters shouldn’t call current bosses of candidates and jepordise their career, however, writing the above will guarantee it.

Multiple applications

When searching for jobs you may find a few slightly different jobs that appeal to you.  This is great and applying for multiple jobs will obviously increase your chances of being asked in for an interview.  However, your CV should be as tailored to each role as possible.

This can be time-consuming, but it’s the best way to make sure that your CV is specific and has the best chance at attracting the recruiter’s attention as possible.

Here at i2i Recruitment, we can help with multiple applications.  When you register with us, we’ll get you into the office to meet with one or more of the consultants.  This way we have multiple people looking through our jobs for you.  We get to know you, not just through your CV but with an initial meeting in our office.  This all means we can help sell you to our clients.

Last but absolutely not least

The last thing we can advise is to check, check and check again.  If you send out an incomplete CV, or one that doesn’t read well or isn’t relevant to the role, your chance of getting an interview will be really low.  Why not ask family or friends to read it and suggest any changes?

Another thing you can do is go through our Biggest CV mistakes guide to see what other people commonly do wrong.

Once you have your CV ready and you are happy, look at our jobs, contact us to register, come in and let us help you find a job.  We have multiple exclusive contracts with clients meaning the jobs we have won’t appear anywhere else!  Between us we also have 75+ years of experience, we’re here to help.