What does your CV say about you?

First published November 15, 2013

The dictionary definition of CV or Curriculum Vitae is (courtesy of Google): A brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and experience, typically sent with a job application. In other words, a couple of bits of paper on which you summarise your professional working life history, whilst also trying to ‘sell’ yourself to a potential employer. Safe to say it’s important to get it right, but maybe unsurprisingly, quite tricky to get it right!

Dependent on who you speak to you’ll get a different opinion on how it should be laid out, whether or not you should put a personal statement on it, do you need to go in to great depth on each and every job you’ve held and so on.  The commonly supported suggestion that it should be no longer than 2 pages, maybe 3 at a push, is worth sticking to in the main – when your CV lands on the desk in the pile of 20, 30, 40 or more, the person getting the unenviable task of reading through them to make an initial shortlist will not welcome the equivalent of the “This is Your Life” red book to read through.

There are however some important things to bear in mind when preparing your CV. Firstly, make sure that what you are putting on there is accurate and truthful. The number of times candidates ‘exaggerate’ their responsibilities or grades, even their job title is surprising. Perhaps less surprising is that sooner or later, they get caught out – something as simple as a cross check with a LinkedIn profile, or a call to obtain a reference can unravel that story quite quickly. Not only does it make you look like a liar, it instantly rings alarm bells for a future employer – if they can’t trust your written word, why should they take a risk on the person behind them?

Keeping to the point is important. Make sure you’re listing relevant details, achievements and so on. It may be that you need to produce slightly different versions of your CV to suit different applications. For example, you may have a great deal of experience within the various disciplines  under the title of Human Resources Management, but one post you’re applying for is specifically dealing with recruitment, another post looking more at staff development. By tailoring your description of your skills to match more closely those desired by a potential employer can make a big difference in some cases.

As a final thought, whilst you don’t necessarily want your CV to portray all elements of your personality, the style and ‘tone’ of your writing and presentation will be an indication of you as a person. Your CV is your marketing material – it’s telling potential employers what you have done, and giving an indication of what you can do, so let it show you as you are. Yes it should be a professional representation of you, however remember that it is YOU you’re selling so make it personal with a reference to your hobbies or social time activities.

Writing a CV can be daunting, particularly if you’ve not done so for some time. A little bit of time and thought put into producing it and getting it right, can result in you getting through the sifting stage and getting to an interview.  The Recruiter Group provide a Professional CV writing service, with a range of options and prices, and can help you make sure you get your CV right, and have the tools at hand to get to that interview.

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