The Good Schools Guide Blog
Top CV tips
Having spoken to numerous employers about how they filter through the mountain of CVs they receive we have come up with some useful tips that are worth bearing in mind when creating this important document.
You will not be surprised to hear that in this technological world there are now machines that read CVs, scanning for selected keywords and rejecting the CVs that do not fit. You might be the best candidate in the world but the computer says no..... No doubt there are still a variety of other systems still in use, such as eliminating anyone whose name has a Y in it or throwing the CVs down the stairs and only reading the ones that reach the bottom step! There is no way of knowing why your CV did not make it to the top of the pile but there are plenty of things that you can do to give it the best chance in the world.
- Create your CV expecting it to be rigorously picked over. Your only aim is to have a CV that is still standing at the end of the process and that you are invited to interview and will have the opportunity to shine.
- Keep it short and sweet- Kiss. One to two pages.
- Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes. Use a spellchecker. Ask more than one trusted person to check and show you any errors, especially those made by the spellchecker. In many cases, employees are handling a very large number of applications and they will use mistakes in a CV, however trivial, to rule the candidate out reasoning that if you don't care enough for your own reputation to be accurate, what chance you will care for theirs?
- Don't use clever fonts, colours or distracting layouts. Rather than highlighting you as a good candidate, these offer the employer an excuse to bin your CV instead of admiring it. Do make the layout tidy and easy to navigate.
- Do put your name and CV in the name of the document, makes it easy to pick out of an electronic pile but there is no need to make the title at the head of the document CV or, worse, Curriculum vitae. Recruiters know what it is, the title should just be your name, after all, that is what you want them to remember.
Lay out your CV in a logical fashion:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Postal address (if necessary, home and term time)
- Driving licence, if full
- Name of the country who issued your passport and confirmation of your right to work in the UK if not a British citizen (beware Brexit).
- If your email address is not straightforward change it now. Princess, Baby Cheeks, The Stud, Bob the Builder etc. are not professional and once again only offer the employer a good reason to throw your CV onto the reject pile. Your name @ server.com is all you need. Keep the pseudonyms for personal emails.
- Do NOT include your age or DOB, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age.
- Include and put first current work experience or education and results, whichever are most recent.
- Skills or Key attributes - explain in short sentences. Try to illustrate some of these skills further on when you describe your experience eg. 'as a strong communicator I .........'.
- When you describe your experience, make sure you cover what you were responsible for and what you achieved. Give evidence. Do not say I worked for xxx (company name) & unless it is genuinely a household name (eg. Google) or I was a trainee saggar-makers bottom knocker because nobody will know what that is. Instead, write I worked for a commercial pottery where I was responsible for producing the bases of the supports used when firing pots. Then add I increased productivity by x%, reduced waste by y%; or whatever. If you don't have quantitative measures then give qualitative examples: I was rated as an outstanding employee by my supervisor etc.
- Be sparing in your use of technical terms. If you worked in IT I was responsible for building the user interface for a new parts management system for the warehouse is perfect (i.e HR-friendly) with your technical skills listed in the skills section. Don't say I worked on NPMS v2.0 using JS, Node.JS and Grunt; because HR won't know what it means. The recruiting manager will but your CV is not likely to get that far.
- Particularly when describing university projects it is very usual to describe a team activity and quite natural to say We did xxx. The potential employer is not hiring the team, they are hiring you. Of course say, In a team project... but then go on to say ...I was responsible for xxx and achieved yyy.
- Use phrases such as I did... or I achieved..., not... was done or ...was achieved - the active voice is better than the passive.
- Add any volunteering roles and your other interests or interesting information about you but don't write an essay.
- Tailor your CV to the specific job you are applying for. If the role demands creativity then make sure you draw relevant examples out of your experience. If it requires attention to detail, draw different examples. It may be the same role but you will have exhibited different skills and aptitudes in what you have done, so make sure you highlight those that are relevant.
- Don't embellish, exaggerate, misrepresent or lie; you will most likely be found out and if you're not then you will have set expectations you cannot live up to. This is not The Apprentice! (N.B. if you are applying to The Apprentice then none of these points apply; simply say that you are the best thing ever to happen and you will be fine).