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The perfect CV

Is your CV heading straight for the bin? Want to know the no-nos for writing a CV? Want to learn from other people's mistakes?

We at Student Times spoke with the professionals to find out the best way to make the perfect CV   

Your CV is the most important career document you will write. There's no 'right' CV because we're all different – but there are right rules.

1. Which type of CV is right for you?
There are two types of CV: 'chronological' and 'functional'.

'Chronological' lists your employment history (with details of accomplishments) in reverse chronological order. This is great when you're applying for jobs in the same line of work – because your CV will demonstrate a clear record of career progression.

Meanwhile, 'Functional' highlights your principal skills and strengths – fantastic for first-time job hunters because the emphasis is on transferable skills. Because Rhys has gained his skills both from university and his work experience, he has combined the two. Good choice, but it needs to be presented more simply.

2. Use headings to sell yourself.
Break down the key accomplishments from your work history and university and used them to 'sell' yourself.

Other good sub-headings might be 'Leadership', 'Specialist knowledge', 'Problem-solving and analysis', 'Commercial awareness' and 'Creativity'.

But keep them brief.

3. Get it right!
Ensure spelling and grammar are correct. It shows you have good communication and writing skills as well as attention to detail.

4. Don't let them guess.
In the UK, age is seen as a relevant piece of information. The reader will guess at your age from other dates in your CV, so there is no point in leaving it out.

5. Avoid unnecessary information.
Employers will only be interested in your home life in as far as it has an impact on your working life. For example, charity work shows you are socially conscious; an interest in sports shows you have teambuilding skills. Too many time-consuming interests may suggest you have little time for work. And what's the difference between film and cinema anyway?

6. Be consistent.
If you've listed grades for GCSE's, do the same for A'levels.

Include any special citations in exams or courses, if relevant (eg Elected Student Union representative).

7. Go back in time.
List your most recent and relevant education first and work backwards.

Do the same for work experience, if you're going to include a section on this.
 
8. Be an action man. Or woman.
Start sentences with action words like 'Advised', 'Appointed,' 'Directed,' 'Accomplished', 'Secured', 'Designed' and 'Solved.'

9. Don't beat around the bush.
Use job titles – and explanations – where necessary. If you were a shelf-stacker, say so. If you say 'I worked in a supermarket' and don't give details, people will presume the worst!

10. Make it look good.
Use good-quality paper and a simple layout, without too many levels of heading, line spacing or styles of type. It will show you're business-like and organised.

Never hand-write your CV or use coloured type. It doesn't scan, photocopy or e-mail well and it looks unprofessional and lazy.

11. Don't give them too much!
Do not include salary detail and do not attach a photograph. They may tempt your potential employer to make subjective decisions.

12. Be specific.
Good idea to explain what a significant course entails. Even an Economics degree can differ extensively in content from one uni to the next. But a more objective and simple solution would be to list some modules.

13. Preserve valuable space.
Don't write an essay. Space is precious. Use bullet points where possible. Take time to find alternative words and phrases to avoid being repetitious.

That should have set  you – on the road to a job-winning cv. But what about the two key issues, length and lying?

Are  porkies are ever acceptable?
Should you lie on your CV? Of course you shouldn't blatantly misrepresent yourself. If, for instance, you claim you have attained qualifications you have not, attended courses you have not, or worked in roles you have not, you'll be in serious trouble if your employer finds out.

At worst, your employment contract could be terminated – and word that you're a liar could be spread around the sector.

But making a dismissal from a job look like a planned career move – or grouping a series of unsuccessful jobs under a generic title to stop you looking too flighty – is acceptable.

Graduates, in particular, are not averse to overstating the skills and experience they gain from work experience. Even professional organisations like the Industrial Society doesn't blame them in such a competitive market.

The trick is to think of your CV like a TV ad. Do all you can to promote and advertise yourself – missing out any negative bits – but be ready to explain the finer details without looking a fool.

  • Date published: 17th November 2015
  • Written by: Richard Evans

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