Creating a basic CV

When a potential employer requests to see your curriculum vitae, CV or resume, they are in essence all the same thing. It is a document that outlines why you’re potentially the ideal candidate to invest their time and money in. Essentially, it’s a sales brochure, highlighting the interesting / relevant points that make you stand out from the crowd.

There are plenty of acceptable formats, however, your CV should cover these elements:

Your details
Include your name, address, phone numbers and email address so any interested employers can contact you easily. Information such as nationality, age and driving licence status are optional.

Personal statement
One paragraph that immediately captures the attention of your reader and entices them to find out more about you. Be careful not to waffle too much and don`t try and cram too much in. Instead take your main skill or area of experience and relate it to the job you’re applying for. This will show employers why you meet their needs and will help them recognise the benefits of taking your application further.

Work experience
List your most recent position first, continuing in reverse chronological order, including the name, location, and dates of your employment for each company you have worked for. Aim to use bullet points together with clear, concise paragraphs to highlight your responsibilities and achievements in each role so the person scanning your CV can quickly match up your experience with their job description.

Education
Again, in reverse chronological order, give brief details of your academic and professional qualifications along with the grades you achieved. If you’re looking for your first job since leaving education, include this information above any work experience.

Skills
Whether you realise it or not, you will have picked up many skills over the years, some tangible, some less so. Include every IT package or programme you have used, so long as you feel it is relevant, as well as any foreign language skills you have gained, and state whether you’re at a basic, intermediate or advanced level. Skills such as communication and project management are harder to substantiate and should be backed up with examples.

Hobbies & Interests
Including these is optional and often used to fill up space at the end of the document. The idea is to give the interviewer a different view of you, and, perhaps, something more personal to discuss at an interview. This should be kept short and give plenty of consideration to what you include.

References
It’s not necessary to list referees on your CV, but you should state that details are available on request. If this is your first job, it’s a good idea to nominate tutors or mentors. You’ll obviously need to choose references that you’re confident will give positive remarks, but you should also make sure they would be easily contactable by potential employers when the time comes.

A clear and simple layout
Endeavour to keep your CV to between two and four pages of A4. It should be clear to anyone reading your CV where to find the information they’re looking for, with enough ‘white space’ to ensure they’re not overawed at first glance.

The purpose of this document is to gain enough interest from a prospective employer to hopefully invite you for an interview. Always remember you’re not writing a CV for yourself, you are writing it for your reader. As you write your CV, put yourself in their shoes. Keep it short, to the point and, above all else, interesting.

Due to the high volume of applications they receive, a recruiter will generally spend at most, 20 seconds initially reviewing each CV, so it’s important to get it right and capture their attention quickly. If you follow the structure outlined above, you’re on the right track to presenting the information in a clear, concise and persuasive way.

Things to watch out for
Time spent making sure your CV is crisp and relevant is always time well spent. There are plenty of simple mistakes that are often overlooked that will turn your potential employers off before they’ve gone much further than your name and address.

• Resist the urge to jazz up your CV with images or colour
• Steer clear of long paragraphs
• Careful use of bold type can be effective, but don’t overdo it
• Underlining should be reserved for website links only
• Use typefaces like ‘Times New Roman’ or ‘Arial’ - they’re easier to read
• Avoid using font sizes smaller than 11pt, employers won’t strain their eyes to read it
• Don’t use text speak and only use abbreviations if they’re universally known

And finally…
Check for spelling or typographical errors. Any errors are your responsibility and are one of the first things employers use to weed out the weaker candidates. Even if the role you’re after doesn’t require a high level of literacy, spelling errors scream lack of care, which is an undesirable quality for any recruiter. Don’t put all your faith in a spell checker as many are set to American settings as a default. If you’re not sure about a word, look it up in a dictionary.

Before you distribute your finished document or upload it to the Internet, get someone to look over it.