20 March 2012

It’s something everyone hates doing but a good CV can make all the difference.

Part three of our Helpful Hints.

CV's this week: It’s something everyone hates doing – writing your CV, but it really is worth putting in the effort.  This is your ‘shop window’ a place to demonstrate all your achievements and outline why you are the person the recruiter has been searching for.  A well crafted CV can make the difference between getting an interview or not.  Start out with a general document which you can then update and adjust as required.

It’s best to tailor your general document to the specific post making sure you highlight the areas mentioned in the job description and leave out other areas which although they may seem important to you simply take up space and don’t really add anything to your application.

A few general guidelines: A CV should be clearly laid out with bold headings and ideally be no more than two sides of A4.
Don’t include graphics or photos (unless requested). 
Don’t go overboard on bold and italics.
Use a clear font, sans serif (like arial) is good, especially if your CV is to be submitted electronically and don’t be tempted to drop the point size just to fit more in – remember quality not quantity.
Don’t title it CV, use your name instead.  Likewise for electronic submission save it as your name and perhaps the date if you have lots of different versions (make sure you send the right one!)
Useful headings are:
Contact Details
Personal statement / professional profile or career profile
Qualifications
Experience
Employment History
Hobbies and Interests
References

Contact Details
Name, address, phone numbers (mobile and a land line), your email address all clearly and sensibly laid out.

Personal Statement
Your personal statement is the place to really stand out but keep it relevant an employer doesn’t need to know your whole life history.  Ideally a Personal Statement is 5-10 lines and usually reads better in the third person. Mention a little about who you are and how you see yourself progressing the future.
e.g. “Fred is a popular effective ranger with a special talent for problem solving.  Having been in an assistant post for 3 years Fred feels ready to take on the challenge of overseeing a small ranger team.”

Professional Profile / Career Statement
This can be included in your personal statement or can be a separate section, again no more than 10 lines ideally.
Here you outline what you have already achieved and where you would like your career to go in the future.  It’s important that this section is tailored to the job for which you’re applying.  It’s no good saying how you would like to manage a nature reserve if you’re applying to the education team.

Qualifications
Keep to the main relevant qualifications, usually in reverse order, so the most recent first.  It’s helpful to split your qualifications into academic and practical / professional.   You can mention other qualifications not strictly relevant for the post but demonstrating your personality in the hobbies and interests section.

Experience
This section can be one of the hardest, working out which areas of your past history to include and which to leave out.  For new graduates with no or only a little experience it can be even more difficult but don’t be tempted to pad it out to make it look good, be honest.  It’s important to be able to prove your claims.  A week long course on survey techniques does not qualify you to claim you have lots of experience.  If you have been on the course or completed a term as a volunteer keep records of when, where and what you did especially if the course is not certified.

Employment History
Like qualifications usually listed in reverse order.  Include a little more detail in the areas of your employment record which are relevant to the post.   Don’t leave gaps in the history.  If you have been out of work emphasise what you’ve done with the time – brushed up on skills, added a new qualification etc.  If you’ve had long term sick leave or taken time out to care for relatives or children include it and the basic details eg dates.  Any irregularities will set the employer wondering and might just push you into the ‘No’ pile.

Hobbies and Interests
This is the place to outline your off duty activities and interests.  It is often the most revealing part and can be the area which pushes your application from the maybe into the yes or no piles.  Use it to your advantage to demonstrate a well-rounded personality and highlight skills which may be useful in your new role.  If you’ve held a position of responsibility in a team or organisation (which you should already have mentioned) that shows you can organise and get things done which is only to be expected, however, if you’ve blogged about it mention it here that shows your IT connections go beyond work skills.

References
Usually the last on your CV.  You can include full contact details for your referees or simply their name and organisation stating that references will be provided upon request.  It’s worth mentioning why they are your referees, eg a character reference from a voluntary group you’ve previously assisted or a work reference from your current employer. For new graduates include your college tutor or someone who oversaw a project / thesis etc.  Don’t include family even if you’ve worked for them.  Don’t include copies of already written references with your CV unless specifically requested by the employer.

As with job applications check your spelling and grammar.  Get a friend to read it – they know what you’re trying to say but they may read it completely differently from how you intended!

Like all industries, ours has its jargon and buzzwords, ensure you know them and that you understand exactly what each TLA1 means but limit their use to where it’s essential.
(1 look it up)

Finally – Be Careful.
The internet never forgets!  So it might worth cleaning up your Facebook profile and checking your tweets.  If you refer back to your blog make sure it is suitable for potential employers.  In 2011 recruitment agencies admitted they regularly check Facebook profiles.  So google yourself and see what come up in the first few results.
On the plus side this can be an appendix to your application showing off all of those things for which there was no space.
LinkedIn is a good way to make contact with people already in the field, get your name known so that when the application is seen an employer might already have some knowledge of you.  Likewise interact with groups, staff and whole organisations across the social media spectrum.