Keeping your CV up to date is one of those tasks that probably rank alongside doing your annual tax return. Rather than wait to the eleventh hour when you really need it to apply for that new job or internal promotion, taking time to craft a compelling CV is time well spent. Research suggests that employers spend as little as 45 seconds skimming a CV before deciding whether you make the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ pile.
Whether you’re going back to work after an extended period of leave, returning from maternity or looking to advance your career we’ve compiled some tips to help take the pain out of writing your CV. The hardest part is getting started – but once you get going you’ll find with each edit your CV will improve. It’s also a good confidence boost when you reflect on what you’ve achieved and what you’re capable of.
These tips come from reading hundreds of CVs during our time in the corporate world and helping women prepare for the next stage in their career:
1) Size matters – the industry standard is that your CV should be no more than 2 pages. Be prepared to edit ruthlessly and think carefully about the information you include. As Ernest Hemmingway once said ‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter so I wrote a long one’.
2) Clear and crisp – use a font that is easy to read, with adequate spacing and margins. Less can be more – reducing the size of your font and margins so you can cram in more information isn’t a good idea.
3) Layout – the standard format is:
Name and contact details. Most CVs will be sent electronically now so you may want to include a link to your LinkedIn profile (we’ll cover LinkedIn profiles in another article). There is no need to put your date of birth as most employers don’t want to discriminate based on age.
Personal Profile – see point 4
Work Experience – starting with most recent and working backwards. Specify the date you worked there and your job title. For the most recent role(s) you can split it into ‘key responsibilities’ and ‘achievements’.
Interests (space permitting)
References – most employers don’t expect you to list Referees on your CV – it is enough to say ‘References available on request’.
4) Personal Profile – this is a summary that highlights your experience, key strengths and what you’re looking for in a new role. If the role requires specific qualifications then you can list these here. If you’ve been out of the workplace for an extended time we’d suggest you are upfront about this and include it in your profile e.g.
I’m an experienced administrator with 8 years industry experience. I have an excellent working knowledge of all Microsoft Office programs. I’m approachable and hard-working with proven ability to communicate well at all levels in an organization. My last role was within the financial services industry before taking 3 years out to spend time raising my children. I’m currently seeking an executive assistant role with opportunities to learn and develop further.
5) Tailor it – having one standard CV that you use for every job just won’t work. Take some time to tailor it to the role you’re applying for. Make sure that key words that have been used in the job profile are reflected throughout the CV. The advice we always give people is ‘don’t make me work hard when reading your CV – give me what I’m looking for’.
6) Quantify your achievements – This isn’t ‘tooting your own trumpet’ it’s about stating objectively and clearly what you’ve achieved and helps give the reader some context regarding your responsibilities e.g. ‘increased sales by 7%’ ; ‘manage a budget of €x’ or ‘lead a team of four direct reports’. If you’ve been out of the workplace for an extended time, think about the other activities you may have been involved in e.g. organizing parent & toddler groups, volunteering at school. Many people find this quite a challenging exercise to do – if you’re struggling, enlist the help of a friend or colleague who can help you identify what you’ve done.
7) Use active statements to show what you’ve done e.g. ‘delivered, designed, managed, implemented’.
8) Proof read and then proof read some more. Get a friend to read it to spot typos or grammatical errors. When you’ve looked at something for so long you can miss obvious mistakes. Poor grammar and typos are the biggest turn-offs when it comes to CVs.
9) Education and Qualifications – include relevant qualifications to the role, and list your education achievements. If you have a 3rd level qualification there is no need to list Junior Cert results as well.
10) Hobbies and interests – and now the interesting part. What is it about a CV that makes us want to sound exciting and daring – cue lists of horse-riding, or in one of the Mumager teams case a claim to have a keen interest in pottery that resulted in a rather red face and a summer spent frantically trying to operate a kiln so eager American children could make things to take home at the end of summer camp! You may decide not to include them at all, but if you do, be honest and avoid over-elaborating.
So – dig out your CV, dust it off and make sure you’re ready to go when that opportunity comes up. In future articles we’ll look at how to prepare for an interview and how to make sure you’re socially attractive via your online profiles.