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Your complete guide on how to write a perfect CV!


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Are you a company Executive or Professional business person looking for a better role? Would you like an unfair advantage over the competition?

Our new eBook will help you; it covers:

 - How to produce an exceptional CV
 - Classic CV pitfalls and how to avoid them
 - How to gain competitive advantage in the job market
 - How to stay out of the ‘rejection pile’ - and secure
an interview

This guide is applicable across all sectors, and has been successfully used by job-seekers ranging from professional to board level. It has been written using the market’s best kept secrets to provide you with the tools you need to write the perfect CV.

Start your job search now by downloading our FREE CV guide book

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Your complete guide on how to write a perfect CV!

  1. 1. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 1 The Complete Guide To Writing Your Perfect CV
  2. 2. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 The Complete Guide To Writing Your Perfect CV Typing and spelling errors Focusing on duties rather than highlighting your achievements Lack of tailoring your CV to a specific role Poor CV formatting - Having a CV that is not easy to read Not knowing how long a standard CV should be The Complete Guide To Writing Your Perfect CV So how do you create a perfect CV? We are about to provide you with, not only how to avoid classic CV pitfalls, but a complete guide for you to follow that will give you your perfect CV AND as a result - a competitive advantage in the marketplace! For more information on writing a winning CV and how YOU can gain a competitive edge in the market, please visit our website: or call us on 01491414010. The importance of your CV Your CV is the crucial element in getting your foot in the door for a potential role. It is your platform for introducing yourself and making an excellent first impression. It is the marketing tool that will make all the difference between getting that face to face interview….. or getting thrown in the rejection pile! Common pitfalls Many people fall into classic „CV pitfalls‟ such as: 1
  3. 3. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 2 A complete guide to writing the perfect CV A complete guide to writing the perfect CV slide 1. Visual CVs 4 2. CV Content – what to include? Crucial Content a) My Next Role b) What I have to Offer c) Most Recent Company d) Dates of Employment e) The Job Title f) Responsibilities g) Achievements h) Previous Company i) Education & Training j) Hobbies & General Interests 6 9 3. What “stays out” of a CV? 13 4. My Responsibilities 14 5. Achievements in more Detail 15 6. Tailoring your CV – The Mirror Technique 21 CONTENTS
  4. 4. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 4 VISUAL CVs Creating Impact The key to success is to use simple English to get your message across. It‟s also important to use words that you would normally use in everyday conversation rather than words given to you by others. Remember also that the objective is to use as few words as possible that have the highest meaning to the reader. How many pages should a CV consist of? Our view is that the CVs length is as long as it needs to be to succinctly get your message across. No longer and no shorter! Experiment with layout and font point-size. We find that an 11 or 12 point font looks professional. The golden rule with layout is consistency and simplicity, so that the reader quickly identifies where information can be found throughout the CV without having to think about it. Visual CVs work best. This is because people don‟t read your CV but instead scan the CV looking for pertinent information. CVs have to pass the „10 second test‟, i.e can the reader absorb all the relevant information they need within 10 seconds? In order to pass this test your CV needs to be as visual as possible allowing the reader to more easily scan the content. Most CVs are not „visual‟ in design and are over-loaded with too many words. Words by themselves are NOT visual and are unlikely to be read. The table on the right shows you options you can use to „de-clutter‟ your CV so that it can be easily scanned and understood. Formatting Options: Bold / Italics / Underline / Colour / Shading Font choice: size Symbols - € Headings CAPITAL LETTERS Indents bullets 1. Numbers Visual Simplicity: Tables Bar charts Lines to split text Combinations, e.g. Shaded Headings Shadow The table on the below shows you options you can use to „de-clutter‟ your CV so that it can be easily scanned and understood
  5. 5. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 The benefit to the business The main mistake job hunters make is that they construct their CV as if they were looking for a new job. But surely that is what I am trying to do, is what I hear you say! Actually, no! The employer you are targeting is in fact looking for somebody who can take away some of their „pain‟. They want this person to make their life easier delivering them a return on investment. Yes, the employer may be advertising for a role to be filled, but first think like the employer and see what they are trying to achieve. Based on this logic construct your CV so that your future employer can see the value that you can add to THEIR department and to their business, for example: • Connect the relevance of your roles to the one you are targeting • Connect your achievements in the same way demonstrating where you have added value • Demonstrate your deliverables in quantifiable and qualitative terms so that the next employee sees you as a contributor Straightaway this shows the reader that the person in question is: • Loyal (20 years‟ tenure) • Willing to take on increasing responsibilities • Capable, i.e., promotions demonstrates that they have added value to their company • Experienced - in a number of departments – shows versatility • A real contributor Promotion Stacks Promotion stacks are a visual representation of an individual‟s career progress in terms of promotions and increases of responsibilities whilst working for one employer. They are of immense importance on the CV as within seconds it gives the reader a plethora of vital information that demonstrates the value of that individual to their organisation. A good example of a Promotion Stack is shown below: Demand Strategy Manager – 2006 Head of Terminals & Airside Strategy– 2004 Operational Planning Manager – 2001 Terminal 1 Development Manager – 1999 Terminal 5 Operational Planning Manager – 1996 Capacity Manager – 1994 Senior Business Development Analyst – 1991 Business Development Analyst – 1988 IT Support – 1987 + responsibilities + responsibilities promoted to changed role to changed role to promoted to promoted to promoted to joined CAPES as 5
  6. 6. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 CV CONTENT – WHAT TO INCLUDE? The CV has one purpose and one purpose only…. To Get You The Interview!! Remember, that it is a marketing document, not a monologue about everything you have been involved in since you started school. Therefore the CV should focus on including only the necessary information that is of relevance to your future employer. The objective of effective CV formatting is to make sure that it stands out from the crowd, is clear and unambiguous and clearly shows the future employer how your skills, experience and successes can contribute and add value to their organisation. Your front page: Your headlines! The most important page of your CV is your front page. The reason for this is that the average amount of time screening a CV for relevant information is about 10 seconds. If it has not created interest in this timeframe then it‟s highly likely that your CV will be rejected. In 10 seconds the reader will only have time to scan the front page of your CV. Therefore the most vital information that creates maximum impact must go on your front page. Treat it like you were the Editor of a National Newspaper where you have to decide which news item is to make your front page. The same applies to advertisements, which are more expensive if placed on the front and back page, rather than in the middle. As the front page is the most important of all, be very selective as to what appears here. Many CVs make the mistake of listing excessive detail on personal history. The objective of your front page is to inform the reader of the role you are looking for, what makes you different, together with your most recent roles, responsibilities and achievements. Remember your last role is the one that is most likely to get you your next job! In many instances it is possible to ascertain what the employer is looking for, so that you can tailor (customise) your CV to meet their needs. For example, if an employer is advertising for a “Sales Account Manager” and you have performed a similar role but have been called by another job title, it is perfectly acceptable to change your job title to reflect the advert. We will speak more about tailoring your CV later on in this E-Book (slide 21). 6
  7. 7. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 A CV Template to help you! – Have a template on us, to create your perfect CV. Jane Smith E: T: 0123 456 789 M: 0777 666 555 LinkedIn Profile: Smith Lane, Smith, SL1 200, UK EMPLOYMENT HISTORY: Most Recent Company (3) ( Company) is a ………………………………………………………………………………………….................. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… Job Title (5) Dates of Employment (Start Date to End date) (4) Responsibilities (6) • • • • My Next Role: (1) What I have to Offer: (2) 7
  8. 8. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 Achievements (7) Previous Company (8) ( Company) is a ………………………………………………………………………………………............................ Job Title: Start Date to End date: Responsibilities: • • • • And so on……. Hobbies and Interests /Personal Information (10) Education & Training (9) 8
  9. 9. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 CRUCIAL CONTENT A. My Next Role (1) This is your opportunity to tell your future employer the type of role you are seeking. You can amend the role title to more closely match the role title that may be advertised. You can also describe the industry you are targeting which naturally will match that of the employer you are targeting. Finally, you will describe the ideal culture where you would like to work. The Role I am Looking for: A front-line KEY ACCOUNT / SALES MANAGER role in the Aviation industry, where I can use my talents for customer relationship management and business development. I want to work for a professional organisation which has core values of customer care and employee recognition. B. What I have to Offer (2) The objective in this section of the CV is to outline the key skills and qualities (USPs) that you have that are most likely to be sought after by your next employer. USPs are qualities/experience that you possess that the majority of people who are applying for the same role as you do not have. For example, a Human Resources Manager who is applying for a European role and who can speak fluent German and French has a very clear USP that will make her stand out from the crowd. Avoid using the commonly used statements such as „I work equally well as an individual or as part of a team‟ or „I communicate effectively at all levels of the organisation. These are not „U‟SPs but are general subjective statements. You have two types of USPs. Those relating to your experience: In 2009 I won the first European deal worth $500k with France Telecom selling at Board level. and those relating to your qualities or personality. Unusual for a HR professional, I am regularly invited to Sales Departmental Meetings as they value my contribution to sales. Try to select the USPs that have most relevance to you and to your next employer 9
  10. 10. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 C. Most Recent Company (3) It is important that you include circa 2 lines describing the company that you have most recently worked for. Unless you have worked for a FTSE100 company it is unlikely that the reader of your CV will know exactly what your current/previous employer does or how many employees it has. This helps the reader of your CV to put your position into context. For example: CSBR Inc, is a supply chain software company headquartered in San Francisco, with 1,400 employees worldwide and 400 employees in EMEA. It delivers annual revenues of $300m through a two-tier channel distribution network. D. Dates of Employment (4) People who are in the process of leaving or have left an organisation have two options on how to present their dates of employment. a) 2006 – Present, or b) 2006 – May 2010 Most people go for option a). However, from an employer perspective option b) is more attractive as you are immediately available. When employers are looking to fill a role, in most instances, the sooner the role is filled the better. They are loathed to wait a month, especially three months, for someone to start. People who opt for option a) point to the fact that they are hiding the fact that they have left their last company and may feel defensive about this fact. The reality is that you don‟t need to! Remember, there is no stigma from an employer perspective on being made redundant as it is a common, everyday experience. E. The Job Title (5) Make sure that the job title on your CV is clearly understood by the recruitment market and is not specific to your organisation. For example, if the role you have been performing is in essence the same job title as on the advert you are responding to, but is called something different in your previous organisation, then don‟t hesitate to change the job title on your CV. The employer will look at the job title on your CV and think to themselves, „That‟s exactly what we are looking for‟. 10
  11. 11. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 F. Responsibilities (6) This is the section where you give the reader an insight into the scope and make-up of your role. The objective is to use as few words as possible to describe the key activities that you carried out. Examples of Responsibilities: e.g. Legal Secretary I report to the Head of Legal and am one of 15 Legal Secretaries providing support to 200 Lawyers at our London office.  My role is 60% secretarial and 40% Administrative  Key duties include organising diaries, arranging meetings, dealing with all travel arrangements in the UK and world-wide  I also liaise with key UK Clients on all administration arrangements  I provide full secretarial support for 10 Lawyers  Additionally, I carry out market research and undertake searches on companies Typically, you write most words about the responsibilities of your current role and reduce the number of words for each role moving back in time. At some point in your past you would merely list your job title with no words or responsibilities. recognition. G. Achievements (7) This is arguably the most important section in your CV as it gives the reader evidence that you have delivered clearly defined outputs in your roles. Describing your responsibilities is important as it tells the reader WHAT you have done but the achievements are the real differentiator as they demonstrate how SUCCESSFUL you have been in your roles and defines the contribution you have made to the companies you have worked for. There is a whole section on achievements later on in this e-book (slide 15) that will show you how to uncover your „Star‟ Achievements and what they should look like in your CV. Benefits of including Achievements:  What YOU bring to the table: Provides evidence of achievements proving you have performed your job effectively.  Why you? It makes it a lot easier for third parties such as recruitment agencies or your network to sell you and your strengths.  Effective Interviews: It makes your interview easier to predict, prepare for and control, as it gives the interviewer prompts and cues to probe further into your achievements. i.e., rather than asking, „Tell me about your time at….‟ The interviewer can ask, „I see while you were at X you did Y, tell me more about that‟. For your current role you would typically write down the largest number of achievements and reduce the number of achievements for each role moving back in time. Eventually, at some stage in your past career no achievements are necessary as it is too long ago and therefore not relevant to the reader. 11
  12. 12. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 H. Previous Company (8) Keep the format and layout of your previous role in exactly the same format as your most recent employment, but merely reduce the amount of words. I. Education & Training (9) Education Only include the educational details that are of relevance to the future employer. Once you get past a certain age you do not need to detail every GCSE and every grade but merely state, “7 GCSEs including Mathematics and English”. Special prominence should be given to professional qualifications and membership of professional bodies that are of relevance to the vacant position. Training Once again only list the training you have received which is more recent and most relevant to the reader. Detail your training in reverse order with the key focus on the training that is of greatest relevance to the job that you are applying for. If you are pursuing a specialist technical career then it is vital to list your specialist and technical skills describing the modules and your expertise level. J. Hobbies & General Interest (10) Place your hobbies and interests at the very end of the CV and try not to take up more than 2 lines. The key value of these hobbies is as an “icebreaker” at the beginning of the interview. The exception to this rule is for people who are recently out of college, or who have little work experience, who can show through their hobbies and interests, that they have the right qualities and personality for the company to develop their potential. Try to make the hobbies and interests memorable, “I particularly like Thai Cuisine and I have received rave feedback on my chicken yellow pepper curry”. 12
  13. 13. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 WHAT ‘STAYS OUT’ OF A CV’ Listed below are a number of details that should not be included in a CV:  Reasons for leaving jobs - The decision to move is complex and can be easily misinterpreted. It is best to keep the CV positive and factual and leave this topic for discussion in the interview.  Salary - No reference to salary should be listed on the CV, as this could be used for screening you out of the running. If you have flexible salary requirements discuss these at the interview, where you can better state your case. Even better ask the question first about what salary they are advertising this role at.  References - References are normally taken up at the Offer stage and therefore there is little point in cluttering the CV with references.  Excessive personal details – e.g, marital status, religion, extra-curricular activities etc. Please note that you are not obligated to detail your date of birth. 13
  14. 14. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 MY RESPONSIBILITIES Many people make the mistake of writing, in excess detail, about the responsibilities of the job. This is often not necessary, particularly for “benchmark” positions, which are widely recognised such as, Secretary, Credit Controller or Human Resources Officer. It is important to ask the following questions when describing your responsibilities:- • Remit of the job, i.e., why does my job exist? • Scope of responsibilities • Whom did I report to? • Who were my peers? • Who reported to me • Who were my customers? • What service did I provide them? • What territory did I work in? • What was my budgetary control? Have you noticed that all the bullet headings above are all SCOPING words, i.e., they demonstrate the scope and scale of the role. For example: I reported to the European Technology Director and worked with the Sales team to cover the UK, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain and Portugal regions. I was one of two project managers providing support to 8 sales staff across multiple regions. My remit was to conduct 25% pre-sales tasks and 75% project management tasks. My responsibilities included: • Conducting sales presentations to major European telecommunication companies • Liaison between the European and US office • Proposal creation, defining scope and detailed specifications • Acting as a single point of contact between clients and ConnectOne for all technical matters • Creating Gantt charts, risk and issue registers • Progress reporting to Project Board 14
  15. 15. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 ACHIEVEMENTS IN MORE DETAIL As we have discussed earlier the most powerful CVs are the ones that contain evidence of your success in your roles as this helps demonstrate your potential value to the next employer. Most CVs that we see contain achievements that are heavily action orientated, e.g., “I implemented a new order processing system”. This is a start but is not compelling. Achievements need to be specific to the type of role you are applying for; for example, if you are applying for a Marketing Communications role, whose duties involve organising trade seminars, then it would certainly help if you have written on your CV an achievement that relates to a recent time where you successfully organised a trade seminar, that resulted in significant new business for your employer. Many people say that they don‟t have any achievements to place on their CV as they often comment, “I was only doing my job.” Earlier in this E-book we made a start in explaining the importance of uncovering your achievements - The next stage is to identify and formulate your achievements ready for your CV, using the STAR methodology. What is the STAR methodology? The STAR technique is a simple way to help you identify and formulate your achievements:- S = S ITUATION T = T ASK A = A CTION R = R ESULT 15
  16. 16. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 Another way of thinking about STARs is: S = S ITUATION (The „Why‟) Gives the business context and provides meaning T = T ASK (The „What‟) Explains specifically what is the task in hand A = A CTION (The „How‟) What did you do? R = R ESULT (The „So what‟) What is the objective evidence of success? An example of this could be: Example A). SITUATION: Revenues were falling and all departments, including Human Resources, were asked to reduce costs. TASK: To increase the number of „free‟ hires and reduce the number of candidates hired through recruitment agencies. ACTION: Through extensive research I identified the appropriate on-line job sites for each key role that I could advertise directly through. I negotiated preferential rates. I ran eight advertising campaigns in a 6 month period. RESULT: Comparing the recent six month period with the same period last year I reduced agency fees from £8,500 per new hire to £5,000 resulting in an overall saving of £27,000 16
  17. 17. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 Remember the most important element of STAR is the „R‟ (i.e. the R of star). Listed below are some reminders: 1) How have you made the company money? 2) How have you saved the company money? 3) How have you improved productivity? 4) How have you increased customer satisfaction or resolved a customer issue? 5) How have you decreased time to market? 6) How have you improved motivation and morale? 7) How have you improved a process or a procedure? Other areas that you might wish to include in this section are: 1) How have you performed against targets set? 2) Any key projects you have delivered against 3) Any changes in working practices as a result of an idea you have implemented? 4) Promotions 5) Recognition Awards 6) Complimentary e-mails from customers, suppliers, your boss etc How should this look on your CV? - Teaser STARs „Teaser‟ STARs are abbreviated examples of your Achievements missing out the „Action‟ element: S = S ITUATION T = T ASK R = R ESULT 17
  18. 18. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 For example, by leaving out the „Action‟ element in the above STAR example the reader will ask themselves the question, “How did they do that?” Therefore they will need to invite you to the interview to find out. Teaser STARs also have the advantage of being shorter and punchier. Our suggestion is that you write down all your STARs and then take out the „Action‟ element and see for yourself whether the gravitas of the STAR improves or diminishes. Some STARs read better as STRs whereas others do not. Try to make approximately 50% of your achievements full STARs with the remaining 50% being Teaser STRs. An example of what this could look like on your CV Example A). (above) is quite long – we can condense this down into a tick or a bullet point to go on your CV like so:  I was tasked with reducing the company‟s recruitment costs and through extensive research into online advertising and appropriate on-line job sites, I was able to save the business £27,000 in Recruitment Agency fees. Don‟t forget that your STARs on your CV are not only useful in their own right, but also form the foundation of what you can talk about at the interview itself. Why not try using our STAR template for each of your potential roles? STAR Label: Situation Task Action Result 18
  19. 19. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 Making your STARs count… and saving you time in your CV, job application and interview preparation As mentioned above, the Achievement STARs on your CV form the foundation of what you can talk about at the interview. At the Interview you are highly likely to be asked Competency based questions that ask you for specific examples of where you have achieved something in a particular field. You will notice these questions as they are typically prefaced as follows: • “Can you give me an example …?” • “Can you describe a time ….?” Interviewers will have a list of competency categories that they will ask questions from, for example: • Adaptability • Customer Sensitivity • Driving for Results • Initiative • New business orientation • Planning & Organising • Tolerance for Stress • Etc The likely competency categories can often be gleaned from the Candidate Profile for the job that describes the ideal candidate that the employer is looking for. 19
  20. 20. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 Therefore you will then be able to file all your STARs and STRs under the competency categories ready and waiting to be pulled out when needed at the interview! These can be collated in two ways: 1. „Competencies‟ or qualities for the role you are searching for i.e., Clear communication, planning & organisational skills, adaptability etc 2. Specific outcomes/objectives typical for your role or against a job description i.e. that winning £1m+ sales deals is important to the company. (Could be put under „revenue achieved/targets met). Therefore if the Candidate Profile states, “the job holder must be adaptable in approach” then you are likely to be asked a competency based question about your adaptability at the Interview. You therefore need to prepare an achievement STAR on your adaptability, i.e. a time when you achieved a result when there was a lot of change and conflicting demands. How you use these: The CV: You match the STARs to the Candidate Profile and place on your CV. If you are applying for a specific role then first read the Job Description and the Candidate Profile to identify the qualities they are looking for. Go to your list and access those STARS that most closely match what the Company is looking for. These STARS then go into your CV. The Interview: At the interview you are asked the question, “Give me an example of when you won a large sales order that you felt proud of”. You then go to your STARS list under “New Business Wins” and articulate the STAR to the Interviewer. Thinking of your STARs in this way saves you a lot of time and stress….and focuses on why your future employer should hire you! 20
  21. 21. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 TAILORING CVS – THE MIRROR TECHNIQUE Earlier, in the Crucial Content section, we spoke about the importance of tailoring your CV to reflect what the employer is looking for - It is not sufficient to write just the one CV to send to prospective employers in mass, if you are pursuing a number of career options. For example, a Sales person may be pursuing possible career paths as a:- • New Business Sales Executive • Sales Account Manager • Sales Manager • Key Account Manager If a general CV is sent for these four positions it is unlikely that the individual will be invited for interview, particularly if there is competition for the post. It is necessary to customise your CV so that you have 4 versions to suit each of the job profiles. It does not necessarily take long to accomplish this, e.g., in the “Responsibilities” section the focus shifts to those responsibilities that best fit the job that you are applying for. In the “Achievements” section, if you are applying for the post of Sales Manager, you would focus your Achievements on those areas of Sales Management. Personalised CVs „mirror back‟ the skills and experience that the Company is looking for. The golden rule of the Mirror Technique is to try and identify what skills and experience the Company is looking for in their role to be filled and “mirror” back your own skills and experience that matches what they are looking for. Therefore if you have identified key skills that they need, then incorporate in your CV under „experience‟ and „achievements,‟ evidence that you have these skills and that you have applied them successfully in the workplace. Building up your Bank of Stars (above) will help with this! By using this technique to focus on the role at hand, rather than have a 6 page CV encompassing all the candidates‟ experience, it now makes sense to compose, a number of 2 to 3 page CVs, that focus on the different type of roles you may be looking for. 21
  22. 22. Web: | Email: | Tel: 01491 414 010 LOOK OUT FOR MORE FROM CONNOR! Founded in 1992 Connor has gained an enviable reputation thanks to its two decades of experience in delivering personal, results driven outplacement support. What our clients say about Connor:  That we are PASSIONATE about making a difference;  That we are highly personable and accessible;  That we are able to really connect with individuals at all levels;  That we offer practical job hunting tips that work in the “real world”;  That we focus on the proactive methods of generating job opportunities rather than merely writing a CV!  That we are often able to directly place people into their next role through using our network of industry contacts. We are not just an outplacement provider…… We also supply our clients with: • Strategic HR Projects • Performance Management • Organisational change • Career Coaching & Development • Executive Coaching • Bespoke training & development To find out more please contact Sam Eaton Call Sam: 01491 414 010 Email: Twitter: Website: 22