We’ve all been there, the dreaded task of writing your CV. The same question surfaces again and again, ‘but how will I make mine stand out?’. Fear not, I am going to offer you some advice on how to make sure your CV is the best of the bunch.
What do I include?
So, the most important thing to include is your most ‘relevant experience’. I can’t stress this enough when I say that this is the first thing employers will look at. Because of this, its important to include a few good points of relevant experience. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in an office it would be relevant to include a time when you perhaps worked in an office or had contact with that kind of environment.
Although relevant experience is essential, it is also essential to include the ‘other experience’ you have that might not be so relevant. This shows that you are a well rounded person and have other commitments. This could be the time you played hockey for University or any other interesting extra-curricular activities you take part in.
Finally, including details about your ‘education’ is essential. This should start with your GCSEs, or equivalent. Even though we were always told that GCSEs aren’t looked at, sorry guys, it’s probably a good idea to include them. Then, move onto you A Level grades and, finally, your University degree. Also include start and finish dates, or expected finish dates if you’re still in education, so the employer can be sure when you completed all your qualifications.
How do I structure it?
To start with, your name, telephone number, email address and home address should go at the top, all underlined. Here is rule number one: it’s absolutely fine to use sub-headings in a CV. So, start a new section titled ‘education’, making sure it is bold and underlined. Write all the details down, going into as much detail as you possibly can. Here, you can also include details about specific modules that may be relevant to the position you’re applying for. This shows that you have thought about the relevance of your degree, not just your experience.
Details about your relevant experience should be in the next section, titled, in case you can’t guess, ‘relevant experience’. This should start with your most recent experience first. Each point of experience should have a couple of bullet points underneath it to describe your responsibility and what it was you did. It’s also a good idea to include time brackets. For instance, if you were a receptionist at a doctors surgery, you would write ‘September 2016 – August 2018, receptionist, Nottingham Medical Practise’. A general rule of thumb is ‘date, job/experience, place of employment’.
Next, include a section titled ‘other experience’. Your experience should, again, go from the most recent to the least recent. Much like the ‘relevant experience’ bullet points, try and give some details about what it was you did, using verbs to explain your responsibility. For instance, if you play a sport for University, you might say ‘Played tennis in a competitive University league always attending weekly matches and training sessions’. Often, simpler is better. It means you can fit in more points of experience to showcase as much as possible, go you !!
Finally, your references should be at the end of your CV. If you’re struggling for space, it is absolutely okay to put ‘available on request’ rather than the full details of two referees. Now, pick your referees carefully as it cannot just be an old family friend who can vouch that you’re friendly. It is best to look for one academic referee, perhaps a tutor, and one more personal one, for instance your boss at work. However, here comes rule number two: always ask permission. Trust me, you don’t want to be in that embarrassing situation where your future employer rings your referee and they have absolutely zero clue what’s going on…
How do I actually make my CV stand out?
Sorry for the information overload. In this last section I’m going to give you some quick tips to make sure your CV is definitely the best.
- Try not to be too wordy; the maximum length of your CV is two sides. Being wordy and going into lots of detail is what the interview is for…
- Make sure your personal details at the top are in a large, bold font and underlined.
- Separate your CV with sub-headings. In bold and underlined, of course.
- Make use of verbs when describing experiences. They’re your best friend, trust me…
- Tailor your CV to the position you’re applying for.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from reading this it’s rule number three: never submit the same CV more than once! Do your research on the role and organisation and think carefully about which experience may, or may not be, so relevant.
Finally, best of luck!
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Harriet studies English Literature at the University of Nottingham and writes a weekly column focusing on graduate employment.