Get Your CV In Shape With Tips From Experts
Nowadays, so many dos and don’ts surround successful CV writing, and candidates really need to build up a clean online profile to complement this
Back in the Seventies, when he applied for his first job at energy giant Shell, communications executive Mike Love’s CV was state-of-the-art – professionally printed rather than hand-written.
“Even as recently as 20 years ago, CVs were still submitted by post, often bound in a cover, and sometimes with a photograph glued on,” he says.
Love’s CV did the job and he went on to forge a successful career in communications with McDonald’s and Microsoft, and worked for Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher before becoming UK chairman at Burson-Marsteller.
Of course, CVs are now more likely to be delivered digitally – some employers use software to sift through applications – but presentation and delivery aren’t the only aspects that have changed, comments Love.
A CV should be checked, checked and checked again
Advice he will give his own grandchildren in the future is specific – a CV should no longer be a dry list of professional experience.
“Today there’s more narrative; CVs are more personal. They should read like a story and not a set of ingredients – the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’ and the ‘when’,” says Love.
“Things were much simpler then,” remembers Anne Marchant, 80, a grandmother of four.
“When I was applying for a junior position in a City of London bank in 1951, I wrote in simply listing my name, date of birth and education on a sheet of paper. Punctuality, personal presentation and politeness were very important.”
So many dos and don’ts now surround successful CV writing; employers demand that job applicants tailor their CV to the job in question rather than submit blanket applications. They don’t want fancy fonts, unnecessary detail, wordy waffle, quirky comments or candidates trying to be funny. Any silly, funny or rude email addresses are out. And, of course, a CV should be checked, checked and checked again.
“On more than one occasion, I’ve binned a CV without even opening it,” says Telegraph reader Paul Williams. “I’ve seen coffee stains on the envelope, handwriting to put a mad spider to shame and incorrect postage.”
Often the first thing a potential employer does is check a candidate’s online presence but – selfies aside – that needn’t spell trouble.
Lyn Owen-Davies, operations manager at employment agency Adecco, says: “You can maximise the opportunity that the digital world offers by building up your online profile.”
A CV could include links to a website, blog or Twitter handle. “You can give an employer the option to get a much fuller picture of your experience and skills,” says Owen-Davies.
While there’s endless advice available online and from older relatives, young people embarking upon their career can benefit from practical help, according to Barclays.
LifeSkills created with Barclays – a collaboration involving educators, businesses and young people – helps jobseekers refine and build successful CVs as part of its offering.
TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
“Use professional language, sign off any correspondence formally and make sure there are no typos! This is my — and most likely lots of other employers’ — number one pet peeve, so ask a friend or family member to help proofread your CV for you before you hit send.”
managing director, Red Mist Leisure
“The first thing we’ll do is Google a candidate. You get an honest picture on social media — any outrageous behaviour might make you think twice about hiring. We’ve never had more candidates applying than now, so we are pickier than ever. Don’t pad it out with irrelevant information. Anything you can do to make your CV readable — and yourself seem amenable to employers — helps.”
managing director, The Market Creative
“We look for concise articulation of what candidates have done brilliantly and what their skills are, as opposed to just what work they’ve been involved in. Highlighting relevant information at the top of a CV will help, rather than burying it on the second page. Some CVs stand out because they might be visually engaging. And the writing has to be brilliant.”
CEO corporate and personal banking
“Your CV is your first and golden opportunity to highlight your key strengths, skills and experience to a potential employer. Employers receive hundreds of CVs a day, so make their lives easier by making yours stand out. Use clear, concise and confident language. Don’t forget that employers can also sometimes check your social footprint, so present your best self on Twitter and LinkedIn, and use these channels to your advantage — they are an extension of you so make sure they truly reflect that.”
Get the job: make your CV stand out by using clear and concise language and present your best self on Twitter and LinkedIn
Karen Levi Borley,
“We used to list what we had done; now we talk more about what we’re good at and like doing. I think LinkedIn has changed that.”
“I spent most of my degree years sailing, so that’s what I put on my CV – I did captain the British university sailing team. That got me a job as a graduate trainee with a blue-chip employer back in the 1980s. Not sure it would cut it today though.”
By Helena Pozniak