A good CV is a powerful tool. In less than 30 seconds it should be able to truthfully sell your achievements and secure you an interview. A CV is your first point of contact with a recruitment agency or employer for a specific type of role. From our (the recruitment agency) perspective, it's the only information we have to decide whether you are suitable for a position. Based on our expert knowledge of CVs these are our tips. We also provide industry specific CV and interview advice should you require it.
There are two main types of CV formats.
This traditional format is best suited to professionals with a formal history of work experience. It should list previous employers and job roles in detail and in chronological (date) order.
Functional or skill CV:
This format is better suited to individuals who've recently started working. These types of CVs are more descriptive and focus on transferable skills. Whichever one you choose the following rules apply:
- a maximum of two pages - unless you're very senior.
- perfect grammar and spelling. It's one of the easiest mistakes to make and looks really unprofessional. At Randstad, we realise this all too well as we often receive CVs from candidates who address their emails to just 'Randstad'.
- a clear font with a minimum size of 11 points.
- concise information presented in bullet points.
- no false claims in terms of your work history.
Both types of CV should include:
- personal details - name, address, contact numbers, e-mail, languages plus visa details if applicable.
- professional qualifications and systems if applicable.
- educational qualifications - include both university and school qualifications in chronological order.
- a line stating references are available on request. Ensure that you know who your referees are, and have confirmed with them that they are happy to be contacted.
Chronological CVs should include employment history.
Start with your current/last employer and work backwards. You should provide the following information:
- name of employer, nature of the business and turnover
- job title and accurate dates of employment
- responsibilities and duties
- reason for leaving in one line
- if you have extensive experience, your early career can be described in less detail
- if you have any gaps because of travelling or a career break - it's best to explain them.
Functional or skills CVs should include key skills:
- these should be listed as four or five bullet points with a paragraph of supporting evidence underneath. Make sure you quantify your results at all times. For example: "Financially Aware - Increased Law society ball turnover by 40 per cent by reducing outgoings and increasing profit margins"
- Recent job experience: include your job title, the name of the company and date of commencement.
- Any other skills that really make your CV stand out from the rest.
There are many standard CV formats that you can download online, most of which cover basic information requirements, but in order to stand out, your CV needs to really promote you as the applicant. Many people just list their responsibilities in the previous roles. But you really need to show what you've accomplished in your past work. In a way this is very similar to listing skills, but it also means showing what you've done with those skills. For example, instead of:
“I was responsible for the oversight and review of FSA client money reporting and daily reconciliations”
“Preparing briefs for marketing activities and securing sign off from relevant stakeholders for new initiatives”
“I was successful in suggesting and implementing new controls to help improve the accuracy and efficiency of FSA client money reporting and daily reconciliations.”
“After working with line managers, sales teams other relevant stakeholders, I was able to originate ideas and implement new marketing initiatives that utilised the full marketing mix, and increased the ROI.”
Everyone can jot down a list of responsibilities or skills that they had in a previous role, but what's important is to be able to quantify those things as achievements. Your recruitment consultant/future employer needs to see tangible results which relate to previous job/responsibilities.
Remember, your CV is being matched to a specific type of role, you need to show a potential employer that your previous work has been both productive and impressive.
The main aim is to make your CV an interesting document to read. It needs to give clear indications of what you've done, how you did it, and these are tangible proof of your skills. Without these identifying characteristics, your application may get lost in the crowd easily (and quite understandably).
Things to remember to include in your CV
- Personal information (name, email address, postal address & contact telephone numbers)
- A short introductory overview highlighting your skills, exceptional qualities & future career plans. This will entice the employer/consultant read on.
- Educational qualifications (in reverse chronological order) and skills acquired, giving the name (and dates attended) for each educational institution
- Additional training/skills (always list the databases/systems/programmes that you are experienced in using)
- Professional Experience and achievements, split by role, giving jobs title, company, dates and length of time in each position.
- The details of at least 2 referees.
Things you should never include in your CV
- Do not use slang or colloquial language. The content should also be grammatically correct.
- Do not use block paragraphs; as much as possible use bullet points that are easily scannable.
- Do not attach a photograph, unless specifically requested.
- Do not exaggerate or falsify your achievements, qualifications or skills. Recruiters will run a background check up before finalizing your placement, so you will be caught out.
- Do not format your CV using tables or borders, and use an easily readable font, i.e. Tahoma, Arial, Calibri, Century Gothic etc.
- Your CV should never by much longer than 2 A4 sides. You do not want a potential employer to discard your CV as they are too bored to read any further.
Don't leave gaps
Gaps make recruiters and employers suspicious. If you were travelling, studying, on maternity leave etc, be transparent and state this in your CV.