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Writing your CV.


It is important not to underestimate the significance of a Curriculum Vitae (CV), especially when it may be the first and only information a prospective employer receives about you. A CV is your prime marketing tool within which prospective employers will want to see a demonstration of how you could meet their needs. Therefore, it is important to highlight your talents and achievements in a clear and positive light. Your aim is to create an immediate interest to ensure the recruiter recommends/calls you for an interview. To do this, your CV must stand out from the many others they will have received.

When compiling or updating your CV, be sure to choose the format which works best for you and make your message simple and succinct. First impressions really do count, so make sure the layout is easy to follow and that there is enough white space not to be cluttered. Be sure to sell yourself and your achievements clearly and positively, and tailor the CV to the particular position you are seeking. One CV will not necessarily 'fit all' circumstances. Once you have put it together, read it from the potential employer's point of view, or at least ask a friend or contact to offer advice.


A Curriculum Vitae is a vital tool for job hunting. Essentially it is a printed or electronic document which describes you--your career history, education, and personal details--painting an attractive but accurate portrait of your skills, knowledge, experience, achievements and interests.

Action checklist

1. Aim to produce a CV which has impact, is factual and brief

Your CV should be:

* positive--more than just a list of responsibilities

* clear--written in understandable language

* neat--the best standard you can achieve in content and layout

* short--preferably two sides of A4, or the equivalent in electronic format.

It is essential that your CV is as easy to read as possible. Use both headings (Personal, Education, Experience etc) and bullet points.

2. Identifying detail

This important information forms the head of the document and consists of:

* full name

* address

* telephone numbers: home and others where you are contactable.

Organisations often remove this information to meet their equal opportunities policies.

3. Decide on a suitable format for your CV

The two most commonly used CV formats are chronological or functional/skills focused in style:

* Chronological--this is the most widely used format. As it suggests, this CV follows your career back in an historical manner and works well for those who have significant incremental moves. However, gaps on the CV are very obvious.

* Functional--this style of CV highlights the main skill areas such as management, people, operations, finance, budgets and IT. It is particularly appropriate for those who have developed their career on the basis of their transferable skills.

Consider also whether to choose a printed or electronic format. Companies and recruitment agencies are increasingly accepting CVs online and many web sites allow you to post your CV for potential employers to see. An online CV will need to be formatted in a simple and clear style that looks good on-screen. Avoid fancy fonts, italics, underlining, colours and shading, as these may not reproduce well on other PCs that have a different screen resolution or operating system, and keep the page size to A4. Having both formats, for use in different situations, is important.

4. Preparation

Identify your key selling points, consider your career, and starting with your last role work backwards in chronological order stating:

* job title--with clarification if necessary

* outline of responsibilities--including the number of people managed

* main achievements--the areas where you have made positive contributions or achieved identifiable outcomes.

The most detailed information should be provided about your most recent post, with detail reducing as you go back in time (unless a post was of special relevance to the one you are applying for now). Posts held more than about 10 years ago should usually only be listed by responsibilities.

5. Describe your achievements as your own

A CV is essentially a selling tool. By using active words, such as analysed, achieved, created, developed, designed, implemented, specialised or led, a positive picture of your skills can be developed. Use phrases such as:

* "The systems I designed are now contributing to the success of the organisation."

* "I designed and successfully introduced new procedures."

This approach is valuable for both chronological and functional formats.

6. Provide details of your education

Again, in chronological order, list:

* schools/colleges attended at secondary level and above

* qualifications obtained

* professional qualifications and memberships.

If at all possible, each qualification should be limited to just one line. If you are a regular attendee of short courses, include only those of relevance to the post applied for.

Think carefully about where education should be placed in your CV. If you have been studying in the last five years, or if you have completed a qualification relevant to the role, place education towards the beginning.

7. Decide on the further personal detail you wish to include

This information may include:

* date of birth

* marital status and gender

* driving licence

* career aspirations--but only include these if they "fit" with the job for which you are applying

* hobbies--but try to strike a balance between the picture of someone whose leisure activities are so numerous and absorbing that they leave no time for work, and someone with no outside interests. Avoid meaningless terms such as "clubbing" or "socialising".

However, it is not necessary to include:

* height, weight or state of health

* religious or political beliefs

* photographs (unless requested)

* copies of references or qualifications

* last or expected salary (unless requested).

8. Adopt the right approach for explaining experience or skill deficits

You will rarely find the elusive "perfect job" that exactly matches your experience and skills. You may well be applying for a type of work of which you have little experience, especially if you are a recent graduate. Some tips for arranging your CV to minimise the negative effect of this are:

* adopt a functional resume style

* focus on your relevant educational achievements and knowledge, putting this section first on the CV if it shows you in a better light than your employment experience

* bring out skills from non-work areas that might be relevant to the post

* emphasise personal qualities such as motivation and willingness to undertake training.

9. Physical appearance

The grammar, physical appearance and content of a CV, whether paper-based or electronic are very important. Poorly constructed sentences, faulty grammar, careless spelling, illogical layout, scruffy, dog-eared or tea-stained paper or a poor quality photocopy may tip the balance against you, all other things being equal. Emails are particularly prone to typing mistakes as many people are perhaps not totally proficient with a keyboard, or do not use a spellchecker. So:

* check and double-check your spelling

* get someone else to read your draft through

* ensure the presentation is clear and easy to read

* always type or word-process your CV, and send a fresh printout, not a photocopy.

Some companies scan CVs onto a computer and then search for specific key words. Online CVs are very likely to be searched electronically. Use current buzzwords with care. Your CV should support the notion that you fully understand what the terms mean and imply.

10. Write a covering letter or e-mail

Covering letters are also important. You should use them to tailor your experience to the opportunity or organisation and to summarise key elements of your CV. Do not assume that an email is more informal than a letter; pay similar attention to a formal style, grammar, phrasing, spelling and layout. Below are some useful phrases and tips.

Applying in response to an advertisement

"I am writing in response to the above advertisement and wish to apply for the position outlined. As requested, I attach a copy of my CV for your consideration. I am seeking an appointment where my experience can be fully utilised and I would be pleased to discuss this post in more detail."

One successful style of letter writing is one that maps the posts requirements outlined in the advertisement with your skills and experience--this clearly displays how you match the role. For example, you can do this by introducing yourself in paragraph one, say what you have to offer in paragraph two and finally, set the scene for the next step in paragraph three i.e. how and when you can be contacted should the prospective employer wish to discuss the position further.

Speculative applications

"I intend to develop my career with the accent on ... I would welcome a meeting with you to discuss my CV in greater depth in the context of any suitable vacancies in your organisation. A copy of my CV is attached. If you feel my experience could be usefully applied I would be pleased to meet with you to discuss existing or potential openings."

Tips to help you create and use cover letters:

* send it to a named person. Get the organisation name correct as well as the address. Proofread your letter for grammatical and other errors

* be clear about what you want. Give clear reasons why the company should consider you

* a professional, friendly style is usually best. Avoid the hard-sell

* as with your CV, make the letter look good by using a standard business format

* target your letter. You could be responding to an advertisement, following up a phone call or interview. Each of these situations requires a different approach.

How not to manage Writing your CV


* lie

* be afraid to ask for advice

* lose your individuality

* forget to explore the possibilities of posting your CV on the Internet

* neglect your CV and fail to keep it updated.

Additional resources


How to write a great CV : discover what interviewers are looking for, focus

on your strengths and perfect your presentation, Paul McGee

Oxford: How To Books, 2006

Landing your dream job, J Michael Farr

Clifton Park NY: Thomson Delmar Learning, 2006

Its your career : take control, Catherine B Beck

Palo Alto, Calif.: Davies Black, 2004

The career adventurers fieldbook : your guide to career success, Stephen

Coomber, Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove

Oxford: Capstone, 2002

Resume kit, 4th ed, Richard H Beatty

New York: John Wiley, 2000

The ultimate CV for managers and professionals : win senior managerial

positions with an outstanding CV, Rachel Bishop-Firth

Oxford: How to Books, 2000

Readymade CVs : sample CVs for every type of job, 2nd ed, Lynn Williams

London: Kogan Page, 2000

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Related checklist

Working out a Career Plan (061)

Internet resources

Business Balls Section on CV writing which includes templates, tips and advice.

Reed An online CV builder.

Monster Online Career Centre including information on CV preparation, career development, changing career, salaries and benefits, and employment issues including redundancy, discrimination and unfair dismissal.
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Title Annotation:curricula vitae
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Report writing.
Next Article:Working out a career plan.

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