CV guide

The purpose of a CV is to offer a snap shot of you, so you can grab the prospective employer's attention and make them want to call you in for an interview.

Why a CV is important

In the current market it is becoming increasingly hard to get to the interview stage, with 100s of people applying for 1 position. It is very important that your CV is as good as it can possibly be and stands out amongst all the others. You need to devote a great deal of time and effort into writing a CV because it is vitally important that its construction, presentation and delivery are beyond reproach. It is also helpful to be aware of common myths surrounding CVs.

To work in PR you must have impeccable writing skills and an excellent command of the English language. If your CV has mistakes in it, 1, it demonstrates a lack of care and 2, that you probably have poor writing skills, so you might not even be considered for an interview.

The most important elements of a CV are, in order of priority:

  1. Accuracy of information
  2. Spelling
  3. Grammar
  4. Detailed work history
  5. Layout
  6. Document length

Most recruitment agencies believe an employer makes a decision about a CV within 30 seconds. This means many CVs are judged purely on how they look. Also on average, readers absorb 60% of the first page and 40% of the second, so think quality not quantity; always include the most relevant information on the first page of your CV.

You can make an instant impression by:

  • Keeping your CV short - no more than 2 pages, any longer could be detrimental
  • Using good quality paper - a light coloured paper could make your CV stand out from the crowd, but you can't go wrong with white
  • Lay out information using clear section headings to make it easier to navigate
  • Use bullet points to describe things like duties, responsibilities and achievements

Generally, the format of a CV is up to the individual, as long as it is easily understood. The content is relatively standard from one CV to the next: personal details, profile/summary, educational details, work history, leisure interests, additional information, references, make sure though you take the time to tailor your CV to each individual job you are applying for , employers can spot a generic CV. Each job you go for will want different skills and experiences from you.

Your personal profile is the section that normally appears first on a CV. This paragraph is very important, keep it to around 100 words. It gives you the chance to provide the employer with details about yourself that do not appear in any other part of the document. This is your opportunity to sell yourself and describe what you have to offer the employer in terms of personal skills and attributes.

Explaining about your work history is quite difficult. Concentrate on providing just enough information for the reader to gain an accurate picture of your role. Many people have a tendency to go into complicated wordy detail about their previous responsibilities, but this should be avoided - simple and straight forward explanations will suffice and are easier to read. Obviously if you are at university you may only have summer jobs, but these are just as relevant.

TipDon't list work experience/employment in the wrong order. Always put your most recent position first.

Make sure that you read up on the organisation you are applying for. Get to know how they present themselves, this will give you an idea of what kind of person they might be looking for in a candidate. Consider if you have any skills, interests or experience that would be relevant to what they might be looking for in an employee.

If you can, tailor your CV to match the language and feeling of the organisation used on their website. Tailoring your CV to match the kind of tone they use will signal to the prospective organisation that you might be the kind of candidate they want to recruit. It will also help them answer that all important question – will this person fit into our team?

Discuss areas of responsibility you have had, skills you've acquired etc. Always try to be specific about what you have done (i.e. managed 2 staff, responsible for a budget, completed a project, used specific systems such as Lotus or Quark Express). Vague generalities do little to sell your skills to employers. Where possible, use positive action words to describe your work duties (action words draw a visual picture to the reader of a hard working, dynamic individual).

TipDon't include your required salary within your CV. You will either underestimate yourself or overestimate. Either way it will not do you any favours. Negotiate this after you've got the job!

Although leisure interests are not as important as the main body of your CV, they do provide an employer with some insight into what you are like out of work. Often employers use this section to assess your personal qualities, so remember not to overlook it, but keep it near the end of your CV.

References always appear last on the CV and can be dealt with by 'available on request' rather than listing individual contact details.

TipAlways get someone else to proof your CV no one can 100% proof their own work, you will always miss something.

You will find that if you try to adhere to these basic rules when compiling your CV, you should be well on your way to gaining that all important interview. Good luck!