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Where Am I -   Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Preparing a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Introduction
Structuring your CV
Specific CV Types
CVs for Career Changers
Covering Letters
Professionally Designed CVs
Psychometric Testing
Example Profile

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Introduction

"Only a piece of paper" is what some say about a CV, but your CV is the single most important document you will ever be involved with in your life. This piece of paper, like it or not, will shape your future. The Latin term 'Curriculum Vitae' actually translates to 'Course of Life'. If your CV doesn't appeal to the reader then it is unlikely to get a second glance. So let's face it, if you don't put the effort in here, you are making a monumental mistake. It's as simple as that.

As a Redundancy Help user, we want you to succeed in your job hunt, so we have enlisted the people at CV Expert.com to give you all the advice you need, the do's and don'ts and much more. In these pages we will give universal advice to all career types, the rules that go right across the board on what a CV should seek to achieve, because without an effective CV, job interviews will be a rarity. Also, we will disseminate even further to look at different job market sectors and the unique expectations of each sector, allowing you to further fine-tune your CV and get results.

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Structuring your CV (The 13 steps to CV Success)

1. Compact CV's Win Interviews

You may think that this is stating the obvious, but too many CV's resemble War & Peace and recruiters don't have enough time to read each CV from cover to cover. If you try to include every scrap of information on your CV, it could end up in the bin. Remember the three 'P's:

  • Professional
  • Pertinent
  • Punchy

Your CV must be informative and relevant, but punchy too, highlighting only relevant or important points. If your current CV is crammed with pages and pages of text, then your chances of being called for interview will lessen dramatically. Don't despair, though - in the following pages we will show you how to formulate an interview-winning CV!

One very useful tip to keep the information in your CV pertinent is to focus your employment history on the last 10 years or so, and only include previous positions in a simple list form (i.e. job title held, company name and dates). If a prospective employer wants to know more, they will call you in for interview so that they can ask you.

2. Sell Yourself

If you don't blow your own trumpet, then who will? You must be prepared to sell yourself throughout your CV in terms of your character, experience and achievements.

Begin your CV with a 50 to 70-word profile, which briefly encapsulates all of the points above. Use active words such as gained, co-ordinated, and managed. Be sure to sprinkle in one or two achievements. For example, if you hold an MBA, say so in your profile as well as in the education section. Similarly, a strong achievement in the workplace is also worth mentioning here as well as in the employment history section. You should look at the profile as a preview of the rest of your CV. If the content of the profile is impressive, then the reader will be encouraged to read on and find out more about you.

3. Work Experience

One thing that you must bear in mind here is to list your employment in reverse order, starting with your most recent role first. There is little point in beginning your work experience section with a role that you occupied ten years ago, and bears little or no resemblance to the role that you are applying for. As stated previously, you should focus upon jobs held and experience gained during the past ten years or so and include the rest in a brief list form. This helps to both reduce the length of your CV in general, and prevents a recruiter being bombarded with more information than they need.

For each of your detailed employment entries, you should begin the description by offering 10-20 words on what the company actually do - If a recruiter knows what kind of environment you were working in, then the rest of the description will make twice as much sense to them. Many candidates don't realise the importance of this particular point and lose out on valuable opportunities. Give a positive description of your role and objectives within the job. Be sure to mention any equipment or systems you became adept at using.

As your employment goes further back, you should lessen the length and detail of each job description. This will highlight your more recent roles and experience. Also, the amount of time you spent in a role is a factor. If your most recent role was a short-term contract, then briefly summarise it, and then go into greater detail when detailing the most recent full-time role that you previously occupied.

4. Achievements

Think about the achievements and experience you have gained within each post and insert them in bullet-point form after the job description for each post. Think carefully about these key points and write them in a punchy, sales-like manner.

If possible, use hard facts and statistics to give a particular achievement more backbone, as the use of solid figures adds credibility to this information.

5. Education

Where you place information about your education depends on the amount of work experience that you have gained after gaining any official qualifications, such as HND/C's and Degrees.

A recent graduate's CV, for example, will go straight into education after the profile section, whereas a seasoned professional should list educational qualifications after their employment history, typically on the second page of their CV.

Wherever you place your education section, you should be sure to structure it so that it shows your most important qualifications first, listing qualification grade and where you studied. If you have room, you may also wish to include details of the subjects or modules studied and brief details of your final dissertation, if any. Any additional qualifications supporting these 'main' ones, such as 'A' levels or GCSE's should be listed below, in reverse order of when they were obtained. Descriptions of these supporting qualifications should be kept as brief as possible. However, you should include details such as places of study and dates, as this information adds credibility to your qualifications.

6. Contact Details and Address

You should include every possible contact method at your disposal, including email address. Always put this information right at the top, slightly smaller than your main body text, but not so small as to be difficult to read. This places your contact details within 'easy reach', but does not distract the reader too much from the profile and other main body sections.

Remember that a prospective employer may wish to contact you right away, so include your mobile or work number if possible. Many candidates have qualms about including work or other daytime telephone numbers, but remember that if a recruiter calls you on one of these numbers, they will know that discretion is required. If you get a call at an inconvenient time, simply say 'I can't talk now', and ask for a name and number so you can call them at a more convenient time.

'Round-the-clock' contact information will maximise your exposure and ensure that you will be presented with all available opportunities because you are easily contactable.

7. Spelling and Grammar

Overlook spelling & grammar considerations at your peril - just one mistake can put the reader off and consequently your otherwise dazzling CV could end up in the wastebasket. No employer would be keen to employ someone who cannot be bothered to correct a few spelling & grammatical errors in a two or three-page document, because such lack of attention to detail does not speak well of the candidate.

Our advice here is to simply check and double-check. Make full use of any spelling and grammar checkers used by your wordprocessor. Get friends and family to read your CV once it is complete, as a fresh perspective can often identify mistakes that would otherwise have escaped your notice.

8. Tailor Your CV To Suit the Job

Be sure to adjust the profile, employment history and achievements to more relevantly reflect the specification of the job that you are applying for. This will give your application enhanced credibility and suitability.

Examine the advertisement or job specification carefully and ponder the qualities sought by the prospective employer. Whilst remaining completely honest (NEVER fabricate details on your CV - untruths are all too easy to uncover at interview stage), match your CV and its content to the requirements of the particular job. You can do this by highlighting those aspects of your experience that have the greatest relevance to the requirements of the job.

9. Hobbies and Interests

You should insert this information near the end of your CV, as a small paragraph of text. Remember; keep it short (around 20-30 words), simple, colourful and positive. Try not to mention activities or interests that indicate lethargy or vices such as watching TV and spending time at the pub. Also, it is generally understood that details of any strong political or religious affiliation should be omitted.

10. References

Don't bother to list any references on your CV. Your experience and suitability alone should decide whether or not you are called in for interview. You should take details of referees to interviews with you, however, as this is the most likely point when a prospective employer may require them.

You should choose your referees carefully. The best references, i.e. those that give the most accurate measure of your abilities, are those that come from current or recent employers. Also, you should make the referees aware of the possibility that they be contacted. Unsolicited reference requests are often met with ambiguity, which will have a damaging effect on your application.

11. Choose the Right Format

No matter what sector your chosen career may lie, your CV will fall into one of the following formats.

  • Graduate
  • Standard
  • Executive/Management
  • Total Career Changer

Examples of each of these CV categories can be found later in this section.

Decide which category you fall into and stick to the general format suggested by the examples we have provided.

For example, a graduate CV would have its own unique format, placing greater importance on qualifications by listing these first after the profile. In contrast, an executive CV would list the employment history first, as work experience is generally of greater importance to positions of this level.

12. Recruiters and Keywords

When sending your CV into a recruitment organisation on speculative basis, it is worth remembering that quite often your details will be stored electronically on to a database. For this reason be sure to think carefully about what area you are likely to be searched on in the career type you seek.
The more specific your skill base the easier this is to achieve, for example, if you seek a career in medical sales the more times you include the words 'medical' and 'sales' onto your CV the likelier you are to come up on a search.
NEVER overdo it, otherwise your CV will become repetitive to the point of being ridiculous. Try not to compromise the overall effect of your CV.

13. Do's & Don'ts

This quick, point-by-point guide will assist you in assessing your current CV and remedy any common mistakes that are committed:

Do's

  • Do tell the truth - Inaccurate information can be easily uncovered at interview stage.
  • Do have your CV typed or wordprocessed and ensure that reproduction is of high a quality as possible.
  • Do have a simple and conventional layout - complex or highly stylised layouts will distract the reader from the information you are trying to present.
  • Do keep information concise, factual and accurate.
  • Do use your date of birth but not your age.
  • Do use 'action' words where possible, describing positive achievements and contributions.
  • Do include a cover letter.
  • Do attempt to seek professional opinions and advice where possible.
  • Do customise your CV to suit the job that you are applying for.
  • Do apply as soon as you become aware of the position - getting in early never hurts.

Don'ts

  • Don't date your CV. Don't exceed three pages - An interviewer must review a large number of CV's and concisely presented information will be easier and quicker to digest.
  • Don't mention salaries earned or required.
  • Don't include information regarding political and religious affiliations. Don't mention specific information regarding sex, race, or nationality.
  • Don't include a photograph - In most cases, your stunning good looks will not be an issue for selection.
  • Don't give reasons for leaving previous positions - if an interviewer wants to know, they will ask.
  • Don't take a negative tone when writing about a previous employer or role - Keep it positive.
  • Don't put letters after your name - There will be plenty of time to highlight your qualifications in subsequent sections.

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Specific CV Types

In this section, CV Expert will advise you on what different CV types they use, and what each of these types should seek to achieve. There are, as previously stated, different types of CV. Which of these types is right for you will depend on two basic factors:

  • The extent of your working experience
  • The job that you aspire to

These CV types, as recommended by the CV Expert, are as follows:

1. Graduate
This template is designed to sell an individual with little or no related work experience, who is committing him/herself to the job market at entry level.

2. Professional
This CV type will work best for a non-management professional from any market, technical or commercial, who is seeking a non-management post in a specific or general job market.

3. Management/Executive
If you are an experienced man-manager or senior executive, this type of CV would suit you best, as it is a template designed to sell your management and strategic abilities.

4. Total Career Changer
The career changer needs a completely new and radical type of CV; this template is designed to promote your character, desire to succeed and your transferable skills in a unique manner.

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CVs for Career Changers

If you are a job hunter seeking a totally new direction for your career, you may be driven by the desire to downshift from a senior role to accommodate a complete lifestyle change or simply a realisation that your current arena is simply not for you and that another is.

Whatever the case, this creates the need for a totally new and unique perspective on what your CV content and layout should be. Described as a Functional CV, this CV type does not entirely reflect much of the advice that would be absolutely right for a career continuer.

This type of CV also requires an extremely strong and persuasive cover letter to precede it if it is going to succeed. A functional CV has to be tailored to the specific market it is going into. A standard approach to a variety of sectors simultaneously simply will not work.

Decide what potential role/s and area/s you are aiming for and prepare a bespoke CV for each one highlighting the pertinent characteristics and skills that you perceive relevant for each type.

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Cover Letters

The covering letter is a companion to your CV, but is written entirely separate from it. Its purpose is to introduce briefly you as a candidate, indicating your career goals and objectives. Essentially, it is a slightly longer version of the profile section of your CV, but it should not be overly verbose, ideally remaining under 100 words. We recommended that your covering letter include the following information:

  • The exact position for which you are applying.
  • How you came to apply for the position, as this can be useful to the organisation in terms of assessment of recruitment procedures.
  • Long and short-term job objectives, with brief reference to information contained in the CV.
  • Behavioural and other strengths that especially equip you to do the job well.

In the attempt to fit this information in such a small space, we recommend that you adopt the following policies with regard to the writing style of your cover letter:

  • Impress your suitability for the role upon the reader by describing your character and experience in a way that matches those characteristics described in the job advertisement.
  • Vary your vocabulary carefully to avoid repetitions and overuse of any one word or phrase.
  • Avoid using over-exaggerated adjectives like 'impressive report'
  • Use carefully selected strong verbs like 'managed', 'developed', 'achieved', 'initiated' and 'directed'
  • Always write in complete and grammatically correct sentences e.g. ' I look forward to hearing from you'.
  • Keep your style simple and your tone businesslike and friendly, just as you would if you were speaking to the reader of the letter
  • The interviewer is looking to employ you in the future, not your past, so orient everything you write with a bias to the future
  • Always end the letter on a positive note
  • Finally, REMEMBER THE THREE P's!

In addition, there are a number of layout considerations to be carefully thought about when writing your covering letter:

  • Use a standard business letter layout for your covering
  • Ensure that your letter is perfect in every way i.e. spelling, grammar, and consistency of information with the details contained in your CV
  • Margins must be appropriate in order to frame your letter attractively
  • Only single line spacing should be used and correct line spaces must be left after addresses, between paragraphs and before and after 'Yours faithfully'
  • Typically, a block or justified paragraph format is used rather than the outdated indented paragraph format.
  • A subject line is used, typed in uppercase characters and emboldened.
  • Do not forget to sign your letter. It is surprising how many commit this error in their haste to submit their application.
  • Detail the number of enclosed documents.
  • Use a standard, clean typeface or font - highly stylised text is distracting to the reader and indicates an unprofessional approach.
  • Career changers seeking a new direction must highlight those transferable skills as well as explaining the rationale behind their application and passion to succeed in their new sector.

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Professionally Designed CV's

More and more jobseekers now employ a professional CV or resume writer to scribe an effective CV. This is because people generally find it difficult to present and sell themselves objectively on paper and lack the expertise and knowledge to format that sales pitch to form an interview-winning CV. Whilst the cost of such services is a consideration, if a professionally written CV lands you your dream job, then that CV has paid for itself many times over.

There are many companies on the internet that provide CV writing services, with differing methods. Some of these are excellent and offer a truly professional service like that provided be CV Expert.com, but others could leave you a little disappointed. In most cases, a professionally designed CV will give you the edge over the competition, so we have assembled a buyer's guide for obtaining a professionally designed CV.

1. Know What You're Getting

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that 'Free' means 'Good'. This cautionary point applies in particular to the free CV formatting facilities offered by many well-known Jobsites. Recruiters easily spot the output produced by these formatting facilities and they generally offer no real advice or assistance in terms of CV content.

2. Check Credentials

Some 'professional' CV writers on the internet, and elsewhere, have had little official training or recruitment experience. Some individuals could possess no more than a simple typing qualification. Anyone can claim to be a professional CV designer, so we advise you to check the background of the organisation or individual to ensure that they are as good as they say they are.

The best CV writers tend to be ex-recruiters - the 'Poacher-turned-gamekeeper' analogy works well here. If possible, you should ensure that your chosen organisation or individual has gained some professional experience that is relevant to the general handling of CV's, preferably those with a recruitment or personnel-related background. We would also recommend that you try to obtain testimonials from previous users of the service, as the more professional CV writers like to offer some credibility to support their previous good work.

3. Online Services

If the website of an online service impresses you, then the chances are that their service will impress too. If the site looks unprofessional or is buggy, we would recommend checking them out more thoroughly, as the general attention-to-detail of a web-based CV writing service can be gauged from the quality of their website. Many CV writers do not offer an 'online consultancy' approach like that on offer at CV Expert.com, so you may find that you will have to find time to consult directly with your chosen CV writer, either via telephone or face-to-face.

4. What Should You Expect to Pay?

Essentially, the rule of thumb here is that you get what you pay for. A service that is very cheap may be of poor quality. Equally, it must be pointed out that some CV writing services are very expensive, with some organisations demanding as much as 5 percent of your expected annual salary. Prices vary, so we advise you to shop around. As a guideline, a good quality, graduate-level CV should cost no more than £60 whereas a high-level executive jobseeker can expect to pay in excess of £200.

5. Conclusion

CV writers and writing services can be invaluable in giving your CV the selling edge it requires to win you interviews, offering a service with an extremely high perceived value. As stated earlier, if a professionally written CV helps to win you the job that you desire, then the price you paid for the service will be refunded many times over every time you receive a paycheque from your new job. These services are becoming increasingly popular with jobseekers at all levels, operational to executive, because of the enhanced results that they bring to jobhunting activity. However, we recommend shopping around for an acceptable price and level of service before choosing your CV writer.

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Psychometric Testing

The way that a person performs in a job does not solely depend upon their ability, personality also plays a very important part. Used in conjunction with other measures and assessments, a personality profile can provide a useful insight into an individual's style of behaviour and how they interact with other people.

It is worth remembering that there is nothing miraculous about a personality profile - what comes out is determined by what you put in. It is a structured way of getting you to describe yourself. In line with best practice, if you are required to complete a personality assessment, you should be offered feedback on your assessment as a matter of course.

Points to bear in mind when exposed to occupational & personality profiling include:

  • These tests look at your style and approach to work, not your ability.
  • They do not have time limits and there are no right or wrong answers.
  • These tests will give you an objective perspective of yourself.
  • By presenting and occupational profile along with your CV, your application will stand out as representative of a serious and thoughtful candidate.
  • You may not like what you see when you read your completed profile. The same could be true for a prospective employer.

Tips:

  • If you see a weakness in your own profile, don't take it personally - nobody is perfect, and employers know this
  • Be aware of your limitations as highlighted, work on them and come out in better shape.
  • When completing a questionnaire, ensure you are in a positive and conducive frame of mind.

In summary, psychological profiling has its good and bad points. This type of personality profiling is not yet de rigeur in the UK, but it's use is becoming more and more widespread, and some foreign and international employers use these methods regularly as part of their selection exercises.

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Example Profiles

Below are several typical examples of an opening profile for a CV.


Profile

A technically adept professional, working within the dental restoration and impression materials markets. Possessing excellent product knowledge, hands-on expertise and first-rate market development skills, I am a natural coach and communicator who possesses a high level of integrity coupled with a strong desire to succeed. Now looking to develop within a technically challenging role within a commercially demanding scientific environment.

Profile

A determined and diligent Engineering professional with extensive product development experience gained within the automotive sector. With proven managerial and technical skills, this adept improver is equally comfortable working both individually and as part of a team. Now seeking a challenging Research & Development or Test role within a dynamic and progressive operation where enthusiasm, dedication and the ability to manage tasks effectively are prerequisite in driving the organisation forward.

Profile

As a highly dynamic player within a legal interpreting business, this adept professional has a solid academic background and international working experience. Confident and approachable, this capable individual now seeks to develop her career in an entry-level legal role within an international organisation where a diligent and results-oriented work ethic is rewarded and actively encouraged.

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