Preparing your CV

March 12, 2009 | Filed under: Looking for a new job

Curriculum vitae (CV),  resume,  personal profile
These terms are all used to describe the document you prepare that tells prospective employers about you and your previous experiences.

We will call it a CV here.
Why do you need a CV?
When you are looking for a job, your CV provides employers with a summary of what you have achieved, an idea of your aspirations and a glimpse into your personality.

Your CV is your marketing tool. You use your CV to promote yourself. In the job hunting process, this is your first opportunity to market yourself so that you get an interview for that new job.

Imagine your CV is a brochure or a web page that lists the benefits of a particular service.  The service in this case is you and your skills and experience.

When writing your CV think about what will make you stand out against the competition (the other candidates) so that the prospective employer will want to interview YOU for a job.

How do you write your CV?

There are several ways to present the information about you in your CV.

Headings help to structure your CV into the categories.  Remember the person reading your CV will have at least several and possibly hundreds of CVs for any one position.  You want that person to notice yours amongst all the others. So the important information must be easy to find.

You can present your work experience in a traditional style in chronological order (from the most recent, then working backwards) or you can sort your experience by function where you highlight your major skills and expertise.

Chronological works best if you are applying for a job in the same area as you have been working in.

Functional works well when you have had a range of different experiences.  A combination of both chronological and functional will also work well if used appropriately.
Key points for writing a CV

  • Use headings to arrange the information
  • Use bullet points and white space so that each page is eye-catching and easy to read
  • Use clear, correct language and check your spelling and punctuation
  • Avoid jargon and abbreviations
  • Type your CV unless the employer specifically asks for it to be handwritten
  • Use a clean smart layout
  • Be concise and target the information to the requirements of the position you are applying for
  • Be honest and accurate about your experience and abilities.

Layout and Content of your CV
Your CV should contain the following information:

Personal Details: set out your name, address, contact details

Summary: write a concise outline of your experience, personal strengths and what you can do for an organisation.  This section needs to be upfront in your CV and is your best chance to promote yourself and make you stand out from other candidates.

Educational qualifications: list details of all relevant education and training; the most recent should be at the top of the list.  Include any prizes or awards if they are relevant. For example:

2005 Bachelor Design Hons, Massey University

2001 NCEA (or equivalent) Level 3

Work Experience: outline all paid work including part-time and temporary jobs. Organise the list in reverse chronological order; that is, list the most recent first.

Skills: skills are things you have learnt to do, like tying your shoelaces.  List your skills and strengths that are relevant to the position you are applying for.  Think about what you have done at work, study, in the community, sporting or social activities to demonstrate transferable skills.

Transferable skills are those that you have learnt in one situation and that can be applied in another.  These skills are really important.

For example, you may have worked in a supermarket and been responsible for deciding how to organise foodstuffs on the shelves so the same sort of foods are grouped together so that customers can find them easily.

The transferable skill is ‘organising ability’.  You can transfer that skill to say organizing library resources, or grouping together people with similar interests.

Interests: you may want to include some information about your interests.  This sort of information helps employers to work out how you will work with the rest of the team and generally fit into the work situation. So its worth listing a few activities that will show up relevant personal qualities and abilities.

Try to avoid the ‘Enjoys fine dining and good wines” type of statement.  While that gives some insight into your lifestyle, that is something your prospective employer can easily find out in an informal conversation at a later date.  It is unlikely to impact on your ability to do a job, unless of course you frequently over-indulge during the week!

Referees: Most employers want to talk to someone who knows you and who speck positively about you. Choose two or three people such as a tutor/lecturer, a previous workplace manager or senior colleague, someone from a club, team, or other situation in your life.

Check first that they are happy to be listed as your referee and let them know about the position each time you apply. If you have written references attach them or state that these are available on request.

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