Writing an Effective CV

cv Royalty Free Stock Photo

I did something new (to me at least) in L&D this week…I presented a webinar.

I’ve watched and participated in webinars for some time but haven’t had the opportunity to present one before.  If you’re in L&D I’d suggest it’s something that you should do; I learnt loads from doing it.  Most important was making sure I had a deep understanding of the material – how the different parts linked, how I had to be freeform around a structure, where the breaks for questions neeed to be, etc.  Fascinating experience that I want to do again.

The subject of this webinar was effective CVs.  I know, there’s thousands of blogs and internet pieces about this subject, and CVs are ultimately about opinions.  Bear with me while I tell you my opinion.

I worked in retail before my current role and was tasked with shortlisting applicants for roles.  I must have seen hundreds of CVs and the significant majority were poor.  There were a few themes that recurred in the poorest CVs:
Length – any CV over 2 sides is a mistake.  I’d suggest most CVs are looked at for no more than 40 seconds or so on first view, and if your CV is more than 2 sides the recruiter is going to place it on the reject pile if only to give themselves time to read everyone else’s.

Anonymous – any ‘standard’ CV that a jobseeker sends out is always going to struggle against targeted CVs.  It’s obvious when an applicant has taken time to review the person specification and job description and create a CV that ticks all the boxes.

Templates – a quick Google for CV templates brings up over 54million results.  Now, I’m not suggesting I’ve seen any more than the minutest fraction of them but they’re easy to spot.  They tend to be overdesigned and lack the ‘spirit’ of the applicant.  A good CV template doesn’t make a good CV; in many cases the applicant hasn’t invested enough time in its design and struggle at interview justifying comments that they can’t quite remember were put there.

Mistakes – chek you’re speeling and granma.  It’s simple to change the dictionary setting to UK English (if you’re in the UK).  Don’t rely on the spellcheck – you should have a team of 4-6 editors to look at your CV to provide constructive feedback.

Personal Statements – I’d like someone to explain to me what value they add to a CV.  Think from a recruiter’s perspective; they have a list of skills required on the person spec so tell the recruiter that you have those skills.  They have a list of expected requirements of the role in the job description so tell the recruiter your experience  in this area within the Employment history section.

Dates – so you remember to leave your date of birth off the CV and then add the dates you got your GCSEs and A levels at school.  It’s not difficult to work your age if the clues are there.

So that’s what you find on a poor CV…what makes a good one?

They meet the needs of the role – adding your key skills front and centre on page 1 makes it easy for recruiters to mentally tick off the requirements of the person spec.  The employment history section has relevant, measurable, and verifiable examples of performance that relate to the requirements of the vacancy.

Full reference details – The names, email, and telephone contact details of the referees are included.  It will save a recruiter time.

Simple design – Written in a san serif font that reads well on screen or in print, eg Gill Sanso r Verdana.  A 3cm margin on each side of the page to make notes.  Line spacing of 14-18pt – again, it leaves space for a recruiter’s notes.  Putting the applicant’s name in the header so each sheet won’t be lost if it’s printed.

Appropriate language – An applicant who has taken the time to research the website, looked through the language of the application, and demonstrates they understand the cadence and timbre of language used in an organisation makes them much easier to shortlist.

So, my opinion of the do’s and don’ts of CVs.  What are your thoughts?  Add them in the comments section below.

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