Constructing a CV
An important part of your career planning is to put together your own personal information record. This is often referred to by the Latin term curriculum vitae (CV for short), although some people prefer the American/French résumé.
Here are five good reasons why you should write your own CV:
- It will help you to reflect on what you have achieved so far in your life, focus on where you want to go in the future and organise all that information in a logical way
- Some employers may ask you to submit a CV when you apply for a job
- You can send it out, with a covering letter, to organisations you would really like to work for
- You can use it as a prompt when asked to talk about yourself in a job interview (but don’t just sit there and read it out!)
- You can leave a copy with any potential employers you meet
So, your CV is a vitally important document. We’ll give you some tips in a minute about what to include but we’ll start with some general pointers:
- Remember that this is your personal sales literature! Your CV doesn’t have to be bright and flashy but it should be neat and legible. You really must do it on a computer…and make sure you have the spellchecker on!
- By storing your CV on computer, you can update it as often as you like, you can tailor it to meet the needs of specific employers and you can attach it to any number of speculative emails.
- You will also need some paper copies. It’s probably best to run off a small supply from time to time.
- Don’t get carried away. Keep your CV factual and brief. If you have more than two sides of A4 paper, you have written too much and will have to take something out.
- Try to include something relevant and positive under all the headings we suggest below but don’t invent things. CV cheats get the sack when they are found out!
- Think about the underlying message of each of the sections of your CV. To help you understand what we mean, we’ve included a paragraph in italics at the end of each set of notes below.
- Draft a selection of letters to accompany your CV – one to use, for example, when replying to a specific job vacancy and another for speculative enquiries.
What to include in your CV
Always start with your name. It may be useful to distinguish between your first name and your family name by putting the second one in block capitals (e.g. John SMITH). This can help avoid confusion and embarrassment, especially if the names are unusual.
Follow this with your postal address, including the postcode, telephone number (including your mobile if you use it a lot) and your email address.
Finish this section with your date of birth and your current age. Make sure that you don’t put in today’s date instead of your date of birth – lots of people do!
This section says to the employer: I’m being totally open and honest about myself and I’m giving you every possible opportunity to get back in touch with me.
Education and qualifications
Give details of your most recent school or college and list the exams you are taking or have already passed. There is no need to include information about the primary school you attended ten years or more ago!
Underlying message: What a clever person I am!
Work and vocational experience
List any paid or unpaid jobs you have had, giving details of dates and responsibilities. Always start with the most recent.
Message to employer: I may still be young but I’ve already built up some impressive experience.
Give details both of specific work skills and of broader transferable skills. In the first group, you might include that you are fluent in French and that your computer skills mean that you can use Word, Excel and Internet Explorer. In the second group, try to demonstrate how you can manage your own time and that of other people, how you solve problems, tackle several tasks at once and use your powers of persuasion. (Remember that all examples must be true!)
Underlying message: I’m good at all the things employers say they need!
Interests and other activities
You don’t have to detail every single aspect of your private life here. Indeed, you could argue that what you do outside work hours has nothing to do with your employer. That’s a valid point…but you are trying to create the right impression with your CV, so it could well be worth including details of any hobbies or other interests that might provide supporting evidence for the skills we have identified above.
What this says about you: I’m a nice, normal person with no weird, secret pastimes.
Employers do not always demand references but you should have at least two referees lined up and ready to help fight your corner. It is vital that you obtain their permission before you include their details on your CV. If you are about to leave school or college, one referee should be your Head Teacher, Principal or a senior member of staff. The other could usefully be an employer or training provider.
Message to employer: These good people will confirm how lucky you would be to have me on your payroll!
Work out your own order of sections
Some people argue that a CV looks far more exciting if you put your skills and work experience before education and qualifications. This can be true…if you have plenty of skills and experience to offer.
The best solution, as we have suggested already, is to construct your CV on computer. You can then rearrange the sections in whatever order you like!
Here is an alphabetical list of favourite positive words to include in your CV. How many of them can you include on your two sides of A4?
Think about what employers want
When listing your skills and abilities, consider how they relate to our top 20:
- Willing to learn
- Good team worker
- Excellent communicator
- Well organised
- Highly motivated
- Good problem-solving skills
- Good analysis skills
- Display initiative
- Able to summarise issues
- Good reasoning skills
- Good number skills
- Able to work under pressure
- Able to prioritise
- Capable of researching information
|As we have said before, don’t lie on your CV. However, it is normal practice to highlight the areas in which you believe you can excel!