A CV plays an important role in getting you an interview. At Youthforce we believe in the huge potential young people can bring to the workplace but frequently see CVs that block people going forwards. Our guide below brings together our experience of where it can go wrong for people. This could help you whether you’re working to create your first CV or tidying up an old one that has been filed away on your hard-drive.
First impressions count
Don’t let the small mistakes give someone the chance to overlook your application. Before you even consider what to write in you CV, think about these tiny details that are easy to change:
- Is your email appropriate?
If your personal email is too informal, employers could look throw your application out even before opening your CV. If your email is ‘lilybabeoxo@******.com’ or even less obvious, ‘footballstar66@*******.***’ you need to create a new email address for your applications that is more formal.
- File name – Naming your file ‘mycv’ or ‘richs cv’ says something about you. It sounds fussy but full name & date is recommended. This makes you look professional and organised.
- Attachment – again, very common mistake. Try your very best to save and send your CV as a Word file not as an obscure file that no-one can open. You need to create the least fuss for any recruiter. Also, NEVER just copy and paste your CV text into an email – you’d be surprised how often this happens!
Presentation and overall look
Once your CV has been opened the first thing we’re look at is the layout. Is everything lined up neatly? Is it all in the same format? Does it look smart and presentable? Is this person showing us they have a high standard of presentation? Make sure you think about the following:
- Use a standard type font – Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman are standard fonts to use.
- Neat presentation – make sure everything is lined up and all text is the same size.
- Keep it short – don’t make it longer than 2 pages. We want to see your headlines, not the full story.
- Spelling & Grammar – make sure this is perfect. Mistakes show a lack of care and attention to detail – no excuses for this!
And now for the don’t do’s…
- Don’t use fancy graphics – keep it simple. Text only.
- Don’t add a photo of yourself – it’s not the place for it. Keep that for Facebook.
- Don’t write ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae at the top – we know what it is.
- Don’t forget to get someone to check it over!
Structure – get it right
Get things in the right order. There are variations, however I would suggest the following format:
- Personal information – name, address, email, phone, mobile – don’t add date of birth, gender – this isn’t relevant and can sway people from making a fair decision about you.
- Personal statement – 3 or 4 sentences that introduces yourself. Make it punchy, genuine and interesting to read. Avoid using words for the sake of it like “pro-active” or “hard-working” – show you’re these things by putting effort into the CV rather than just stating it.
- Experience – listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first) Include dates, job title and a brief explanation of your role.
- Education – Again, most recent first. Include predicted grades if you are awaiting results – this helps form a picture of you. Don’t list all your GCSE’s (unless this is all you have) ‘9 GCSE’s Grades A-C’ is fine.
- Achievements – think carefully about the positions you’re going for. What achievements are you proud of that would sell you as an asset for that company. Are you a leader? Did you captain sports teams? Have you won a prize related to creativity – writing award for example. The list is endless – tailor your achievements to the position and this is your chance to brag. Don’t hold back!
- Interests – this is optional, but I like to know the person behind the experience and education. Think about what interests you. Music, art, sports etc. but make it interesting. This section adds a bit of ‘flavour’ to your application. ‘Socialising’ isn’t an interest in my book. Don’t joke around here either.
- References –DON’T list references – you just need these words ‘References Available on Request’
Other final reminders
Your CV should be something that you’re never quite happy with. You should be looking to improve it with every version. Think of it like a software on your phone that always needs updating.
- Always ask for feedback from employers. Ask them how your CV could be improved.
- Be yourself – be clear about who you are. Don’t try and sell yourself as something you’re not.
- Find someone you trust to check it over before you send it. My Dad still helps me and I’m 38!
- Pay the same attention to online applications as you would if you were sending a CV via email. Make sure that the person who sees your application is going to be impressed.
- Don’t lie.
- Don’t write too much. Make things clear and concise.
- Avoid buzz words.
- Don’t joke – whilst you might think it a shame people can’t have a laugh, your CV isn’t the place to test people’s sense of humour.
Remember, people are looking for reasons not to put you forward. Remember these simple rules and your chances of getting to an interview will raise considerably.
Good luck and happy job hunting!