This blog post is part 1 of a series of 6 articles written by Silvia on the topic of writing a CV and a motivation letter.
When writing your Curriculum Vitae, it is essential that you follow these pointers:
LENGTH: A CV should ideally be 2 (A4) pages long.
If you wrote more than that, you probably included too many details or information that is irrelevant. You may have had a hundred jobs, but there are only a few that will interest your prospective employer, and in most cases it is sufficient for them to know where you worked last and what you did there. So be concise.
If you wrote less than that you may have left out some information that could be useful for the employer to know why you would be valuable for the job. Even if it is the first time you are looking for a job there is information about courses you took or even skills or hobbies that could be relevant. Notwithstanding the above, do not include unrelated data that will not be of interest to your employer.
LAYOUT: Keep it simple, clear and professional.
Of course a nice layout will cause a good impression, but it must serve the purpose of a CV. It should not be distractive. Employers browse hundreds of CVs and they want to spot the desired information quickly. Too many colours or different types of font may seem childish and unprofessional.
Clearly discriminate the different contents by dividing your CV in sections. The heading of each section (Work Experience, Qualifications, Interests, etc) may be highlighted by the use of bold (better than underlining).
CONTENTS: Contact information, Qualifications, Experience.
You may want to include many different things in your CV that will depict your personality and skills, but employers will read only certain information that is key. If at a first glance they see you count with the desirable qualities they will contact you to arrange an interview to get to know you better.
The essential information you have to include is: your contact details (which should be at the top of the front page), your work experience and your qualifications.
Contact information: Include your Full Name (if not clear which is your surname use upper case), address, telephone (including area code) and mobile number.
Qualifications: Include the relevant information for the job. What school you attended may not be important in most of the cases, but stating the name of the University is. If you are looking for a job in a foreign country, where the name of the University is not familiar, a good idea is to include the web page. Include dates, degree and grades if applicable. Do not include unfinished courses from which you dropped out. However it may be relevant to mention courses which you are taking at the moment of sending your CV.
Experience: Include only the relevant information. If you are applying for a job as a receptionist they will probably not care about the fact that you worked as a babysitter ten years ago, even though you believe it is a good personal reference. Nevertheless, do not leave gaps as they may find this strange and suspicious.
Optional contents: Photo*, marital status, Children. In many countries it is forbidden to request this information due to the possibility of discrimination. They may ask you in an interview if you will be willing to travel often, but they cannot ask about your marital status or whether you have children. If you are working in a foreign country you have to include the type of visa you have. And in some types of jobs (for example Nannies) it is better that you state if you have a driving license.
*This is a strong regional variant. For example, you will almost never see a candidate include his or her picture in a CV targeting the Quebec market, but a photo is often present in a CV targeting the France job market.
ORDER OF CONTENTS: Customized.
Once you have decided what information to include in your CV you must plan the order in which it will appear.
Your contact information should always be at the top of the first page, so it is easy for the employer to contact you and also because your name will be more memorable if it stands out at the top.
Qualifications and Experience should follow your contact information, but which to include first will depend on the job you are applying for and on your experience. The order should follow the principle of “the most important first”. If you have just finished your studies it is preferable that you list your qualifications first and in more detail. If you have worked in the same field of the job you are applying for, it is best to list your working experience, always starting by the most recent position.
All the rest of the information, if any, should be at the end. For example Interests and Achievements, which may be relevant in some cases but most of the time will only give “extra” information.
LANGUAGE: Should be formal, succinct, effective.
You are not writing a letter to a friend. The register of your CV must be formal.
Write in third person instead of using “I”, or explain your experience from an objective point of view. Instead of “I was in charge of training the new staff so I learnt to be more proactive and responsible” explain it as “The position involved training the new employees, which demanded excellent managerial skills and responsibility”
Try to use action verbs which will attract the attention of the reader.
EDIT, EDIT, EDIT: Grammar and Spelling must be flawless.
A grammatical or spelling mistake in your CV can be disastrous. You will be immediately considered sloppy, which will have detrimental effects on your chances of getting an interview no matter the field. So, once it is finished, even when you were very careful while writing it, do take some time to read it with the only purpose of spotting mistakes.
If you have the chance, ask another person to read it, specially if you are writing your CV in a foreign language.
The opinion of a native will also be useful regarding the format of the CV. Even thought the pointers mentioned in this article are universal, there may be slight differences depending on the culture.
All the effort will have a reward. Remember that your CV is your first contact with the person in charge of appointing someone for your dream job, and as someone said, “you never have a second chance to make a first impression”.
In the second part, we talk about adapting your CV. according to the job you’re applying for.