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Writing your CV

Your CV is the first impression you make. Make it a good one. 


The first thing a recruitment consultant will see is the layout, spelling and grammar, and key words that match the job description. As recruiters, we know what we want to see, so use the guidelines below to ensure your CV is put to the top of the pile. 

An image of a CV

CV layout

As a general rule, use the following layout for your CV:

  • Personal details
  • Personal statement
  • Work history
  • Education
  • Interests/hobbies
  • References

Personal details

Use a professional email address, not the one you’ve had since you were 15 (bad_boy4life@hotmail.com might not convey that you’re a professional individual). Make sure you put a phone number that you use most often; in most cases this will be a mobile number.

Personal statement

This reads better written in 3rd person: “A highly motivated and results driven salesman” rather than “I am a highly motivated and results driven salesman.” Keep it between 500 – 200 words maximum, using sharp, concise sentences and highlighting your key skills.

Work history

Remember to tailor your CV to the role. Start in reverse order, with your most recent job at the top. Get in the recruiter’s mind – they are looking for proof that you are right candidate for the job, so make sure that your experience matches those listed in the job description. If there is a person specification then use some of their words to highlight your strengths, for example if it says “Ideal person will be able to demonstrate a passion for sales” you can evidence this by saying “Over a 6-month period I successfully brought XYZ amount of money back in to the business by implementing a new project management strategy.”

Use positive language to convey confidence: ‘organised’ and ‘achieved’ show a pro-active approach. Lose the irrelevant jobs; if you worked in catering for 3 weeks but you’re applying for a Senior Administration Assistant then serving hors d’oeuvres during the summer isn’t as important as other office based roles that highlight your administration skills.

Education

If you have professional qualifications, attended courses and training seminars that will aid your application then include these as part of your education, followed by university, college and school qualifications (where applicable).

Interests/hobbies

Don’t be a sheep! Show your personality and make yourself sound interesting. Don’t say ‘watching TV’ which comes across as bland and anti-social. Does the company have a football team, and you like playing football? Then include this as one of your hobbies. If your job involves IT then demonstrating an interest in technology shows passion for your vocation.

References

It is acceptable to say ‘references available on request’, so don’t worry about adding these to your CV. If you do wish to add these, we recommend 2 professional referees such as your last 2 employers.

Style and final checks

Once you’ve written all of the crucial information, you need to look at the presentation. It is generally preferred by recruiters if the CV is no more than 2 pages single-sided or 1 page double-sided. Think about the style:

  • Font – Calibri, Arial or Times New Roman are the most universally used
  • Size - Size 11 is probably the best for the body of the content; your name can be a larger font
  • Readability - Use bullet points to list the different responsibilities within your jobs
  • Presentation - Make sure it’s clear by using line breaks between each section
  • Check your spelling, grammar and typos
  • Keep it up to date

Next morning, it is worth reading your CV out loud to hear how well it reads. It may well be that the recruiter does actually read it out to a colleague, so it will be good to hear how you sound to a potential employer.

Cover letter

A cover letter is a great way of introducing yourself, surmising your CV and going that extra mile to make a good impression. If you don’t know the name of the person handling job applications then ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ will do, however, to go a step further and show some initiative then call the company to get a name.

Take this opportunity and use it:

  • A cover letter shows commitment; you put extra time aside to write one
  • Explain why you want to apply and why you have the right qualities required for the role
  • Express your personality and flair via accomplishments, professional or otherwise
  • Be enthusiastic about how much you want it

If you have a clear, well written cover letter and a strong CV full of relevant experience, skills and personality then you are half way there, and the rest is out of your hands. For further advice or even just a second pair of eyes then feel free to get in touch with your Astute recruitment consultant.

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