Your CV (or ‘curriculum vitae’) is usually one of, if not the first impression a potential employer gets of you when you’re looking or applying for a job. So, of course, it’s pretty important for yours to be completely and utterly awesome! Luckily for you, I’ve done a little research and got all your top tips right here in this blog, so you can avoid those silly mistakes and start handing out the best CV the world (or at least your potential employer) has ever seen!
First off – what actually is a CV? Your curriculum vitae is a collection of your successes, essentially. It’s a document that pulls together your positive personality traits, your awards, and arguably most importantly, your previous job experiences. You can send out your CV to companies you’d be interested in working for whilst enquiring if they have any open positions, to show eagerness and preparedness. And, the usual method, you’re commonly asked to attach your CV to most job application forms.
The main thing about writing your CV is ensuring that it stands out from other applicants. This could be what gets you the job. Employers are going to be more inclined to choose the applicants they remember – for whatever reason. Keep that in mind throughout the rest of this blog.
Something that a lot of people overlook when creating CVs and portfolios is the importance of formatting and house style. Now, your CV is a professional document – it needs to look that way. Select a font that is clear and easy to read (although, if you’re brave enough, try something outside of Arial or Times New Roman, as everyone uses these) and stick to it throughout the whole thing! That’s the important bit. Your employer does not want to read a document that jumps madly between fonts and text sizes. Keep it plain and simple. And – I cannot stress enough – do not use colored text. It’s just weird. And we’re all past our hot pink Comic Sans phase, aren’t we?
Although it’s not a total necessity, I recommend adding a letterhead to the very top of your document page (just below your ‘curriculum vitae’ title). If you don’t know what this is, it’s just your address (laid out as you would on a letter) with your e-mail address and mobile/home/fax numbers underneath (if you have those things). It just adds a nice professional touch and keeps all your contact details easily accessible.
Now, I can’t avoid talking about it in this blog… The big CV question… Is it okay to use a template you found online? And the answer is yes. Definitely. But make sure it’s a reputable source! And don’t rely on it too much. Try and find one that’s question-based, and mix those questions up a bit. For all you know, every other applicant for that job could be using that template and you’re all just answering the same questions in the same order. If you shake it up a bit, you’ll stand out!
Okay. Now I know we all hate it. But here comes the bit where you’ve got to talk yourself up. The personality part of CV writing is the most difficult bit for me, personally, but alas, it must be done. Think of what an employer will look for. If you’re applying for a job that involves a lot of customer interaction, think about how well you communicate with people. Do your friends say you’re confident? Do you appear comfortable in social situations? Do you make people feel at ease? Then, think of your actions – are you never late? Perfect! Boast about your ‘great time keeping skills’.
This ‘about me’ section is also a great place to talk briefly about your interests. Though it doesn’t seem important, it can be a great talking point if you’re asked in for an interview! One of my friends once got a job because the interviewer asked him about cosplay (after he put it as one of his interests in his CV), and the casual conversation totally emphasized his people skills. You never know what could set you apart!
Next, you need to talk grades. GSCEs, A Levels, BTECs, Diplomas, Degrees, etc. You can leave a negative grade off your list if you feel like it would reduce your chances, but never lie. There are stories out there of people lying on their CV and getting work because of it, but the majority of the time you will get caught. And it’s just not fair on those who aren’t lying, y’know?
Probably the biggest part of your CV is your employment history. Here is where you put all of your previous jobs (work experience placements can be included) and what they entailed – although, be careful, because I read that fan favourite quote “my responsibilities included” is something that most employers really hate! Although you don’t have to put why your job ended, you need to be ready to explain it in the most positive light possible if it’s questioned in an interview.
I do know quite a few people who panic here because of their lack of previous enjoyment. But fear not! I do have a solution! And that solution is voluntary work. Helping out in a charity shop one afternoon a week takes up very little time but can teach you people skills, help you with time management, and teach you how to use certain common equipment (like electric tills). It’s also super fun and chilled out usually, as there’s less pressure. I’m speaking from experience here. I started volunteering at sixteen just to boost my CV, got a paid job at seventeen, and continued my voluntary work up until I left my hometown at nineteen! It’s a really rewarding experience and I definitely recommend it.
Finally, you’re going to want to add references. These are people the employer can call or email to get their opinion of you.
Apparently, the recommended amount of references is two. I personally, use my most recent employer, and my most recent educational tutor. But do make sure that person is happy to be your reference before you put them down, and be careful about who you pick!
And that’s that! You should now have a full, comprehensive curriculum vitae! Congratulations! Now go out and grab that job! Good luck!