Traditionally people write or revise their CVs when they are unhappy in a role or when they are planning a move. I recommend everyone has an up-to-date CV at all times – even if you aren’t thinking of moving on. I think they are best done at other times as well. The time could be right now if you have unexpected free time in lockdown, and this is why.
Keeping a live CV helps us to reflect upon and celebrate our skills and career progress. A CV also supports us to identify our learning achievements and to identify new ones. And a CV can give us confidence to take a promotion and can highlight new directions for our future careers. Finally, opportunity and challenge has a funny habit of knocking on our doors when we least expect it. You need to be ready for if and when that happens. The world after lockdown, and throughout the ebb-and-flow of the COVID-19 pandemic will change everything.
So, that’s the why, but what about the how? Here are my tips for setting out your CV.
It is true what they say about first impressions. I do love receiving CVs, and I see a lot of them. They are so revealing about so many things. Your CV really does have around 30 seconds to motivate the reader to stick with it. It needs to connect with everyone and impress them, without falling into the trap of being too overly confident and self-promoting.
When it comes to size and structure. It should be 1-2 pages maximum, with clear headings, and formatted using a consistent font and size. There should be a short introduction. Followed by your work experience in reverse chronological order (latest first), then your qualifications and training in the same way. And be focused with your qualifications and training, you don’t have to include everything, you can summarise – especially your school qualifications as you get older and more experienced, they become less relevant.
Highlight your specific core skills using bullets or short sentences with proof and examples. A mistake is to be too wordy, and risks hiding your message with unnecessary wordage. Focus on the facts and figures instead. Please avoid those clichés you learned from watching The Apprentice. Support it with detail about your values, people skills, relationships with colleagues, managers and service users or customers.
I like to know about work interests – the things that really excite a candidate – what do you love doing at work? That is much more useful than a list of bland personal interests, such as ‘meeting up with friends’, the cinema or reading, that doesn’t really tell me anything that stands out from anyone else.
My view is that photographs, and too many personal details including your date of birth risk creating bias when a CV is read. Anyway, informed and diversity literate employers should delete this sort of information before they consider a CV. Do include simple contact details though. Please make sure you have a professional email address – I do see a lot of very strange choices when it comes to email addresses. I won’t embarrass you with example, I will leave that to your imagination. This is an important tip!
Finally and hugely importantly, you must get it proof checked by at least 2-3 people in your work arena and ask them to comment on the format, spelling, accuracy and grammar. And make changes that are required. Then check it again. Nothing puts me off more than simple or avoidable errors. And if and when you need to share it, send a nicely printed version on good quality paper. Or in PDF version by email so the formatting does not change on different software or computers. If you’re not moving job, file it and review it again in a few months’ time or when the mood takes you.