A professionally written CV will win you an interview because it is …
- well-written, starting with a profile statement that highlights your target job criteria.
- designed so that important facts can be read quickly and easily.
- accompanied by a concise and interesting cover letter.
- presented on the appropriate number of pages for your industry sector and occupation.
- grammatically correct with no spelling errors.
- well-presented as an email or an email attachment.
- colour laser-printed on quality paper if a hard copy is required.
The first impression that your CV makes will be its last if it is …
- poorly written and unorganised.
- missing a profile statement or qualifications / executive summary.
- difficult to read.
- not accompanied by a cover letter.
- longer or shorter than expected by the recruiter or employer.
- grammatically incorrect with spelling errors.
- photocopied or inkjet printed on plain paper.
- folded hard copy.
A well-written, well-designed, and well-presented CV will
maximise your chances of getting to the interview stage!
Take expert advice about presenting your CV
We all face the challenge of seeking a new job at some time in our lives, and as you are probably already aware, there are both pitfalls and triumphs to be encountered. In this section, we will endeavour to guide you on how to get the most rewarding return for your effort. A professionally written CV would increase your chances of reaching interview stage, but there are many ways to approach the search for a job, and the more approaches you can try, the better your chances of success.
There is no one correct way to create a CV, although they do tend to follow a pattern. The best advice is to devise one that shows off your background, your skills and your potential to the full. Do not think of a CV as something you write only once. It is, as the term curriculum vitae suggests, an account of your life, and so it needs to be kept up to date and added to when significant things happen in your life. Some people find it useful to keep a personal file to record details of events in their working and/or personal life. Not only does it make interesting reading from time to time but also it gives you things about which to reflect. When engaged in a job hunting activity, having all the relevant details close to hand for easy reference is a must, both for the creation of a comprehensive CV and for general reference. It can be surprising how easy it is to forget in which month you took an academic examination, dates spent on work experience or the address of a referee.
Do not think of a CV as something you write only once. It is, as the term curriculum vitae suggests, an account of your life, and so it needs to be kept up-to-date and edited when significant things happen. Consider keeping a personal file to record details of events in your working and/or personal life. Not only does it make interesting reading from time to time, but also it gives you things on which to reflect.
When engaged in a job hunting activity, having all the relevant details close to hand for easy reference is a must, both for the creation of a comprehensive CV and for general reference. It is surprising how easy it is to forget in which month you took an academic examination, dates spent on work experience or the address of a referee.
Use these hints and tips to write your CV and cover letter
Writing and Organisation:
Your CV not only presents your qualifications and work history, it also demonstrates the quality of work that you produce. Your CV tells the prospective employer a number of things about your decision-making, organisational, and communication skills. This is an opportunity to impress them with your ability to provide them with a professional document.
You are just a name on a page until you add a personal touch with a lively and captivating summary of your best qualities. Your personality shines through, and the reader wants to learn more about you.
There is no set rule as to what headings should be used. However, they should be instantly recognisable and lead the reader to the information they seek.
If it is not possible to quickly find specific information, the reader may not bother. A CV that is well laid out and presented will enable the reader to retrieve the maximum amount of information in the 20-30 seconds they have allotted for the task.
Business etiquette dictates that a focused cover letter accompanies the CV or application form. It is expected. The job hunter who does not write a cover letter is seen to be a person who either cannot be bothered or does not know any better.
The reader only wants to know specific information. What information is presented and what is left out is the CV writer’s job. Too little information and the reader is left with the impression that the candidate is unqualified. Too much information and the reader could get bored and not even get to the important parts. If all the information you need to convey can be attractively presented on one page, then one page is all you need. A two-page CV allows for more detail. The first page grabs the reader’s attention with crucial information, and the second page enhances and confirms that information. When the number of candidates for a position will be very low, (e.g., upper-level executives in highly specialised fields), more than two pages may be required.
Grammar and Spelling:
Even if perfect grammar and spelling are not necessary for the job, mistakes look sloppy and show that you do not care about details. Careful proofreading will catch these errors. If you are unsure, try WhiteSmoke or Grammarly software.
Photocopies are inferior. Photocopying says, “This document has been sent as a mail shot – the writer is not serious enough about the job to be bothered to put the time and effort into applying specifically for this job.” Also, the original needs to be sharp because your CV may be photocopied and/or scanned for distribution within the company. For clarity and ease of reading, inkjet printing does not compare favourably to laser printing.
Paper Colour and Quality:
100 gsm weight paper, either white or ivory, is appropriate. Strongly coloured paper may stand out from the rest but will not be practical. Some colours do not photocopy, fax, or scan very well. This makes it difficult for your CV to be circulated inside the company. Using inappropriate or poor quality paper will infer that your standard of work is also of poor quality.
When you present yourself for an interview, you make sure that you look your best. Your CV presentation should also be at its best. You can achieve this by including a couple of extras. Thermal binding and hard backed envelopes, coupled with your well-written and well-designed CV, demonstrates your enthusiasm and an above-average interest in the position available. Bring a list of your referees presented on a Reference Sheet that matches your CV. Go to the article for Referees for Job Candidates for information about referees.
The covering letter is a companion to your CV, but is written entirely separate from it. Its purpose is to introduce you briefly as a candidate, indicating your career goals and objectives.
It is recommended that your covering letter include the following information:
•The exact position for which you are applying. How you came to apply for the position, as this can be
useful to the organisation in terms of assessment of recruitment procedures.
• Long and short-term job objectives, with brief reference to information contained in the CV.
• Behavioural and other strengths that especially equip you to do the job well.
In the attempt to fit this information in such a small space, we recommend that you adopt the following policies with regard to the writing style of your cover letter:
- Vary your vocabulary to avoid repetitions and overuse of any one word.
- Avoid using over-exaggerated adjectives like ‘impressive report’.
- Use carefully selected strong verbs like ‘managed’, ‘developed’, ‘achieved’, ‘initiated’ and ‘directed’.
- Always write in complete and grammatical sentences e.g. ‘ I look forward to hearing from you’.
- Keep your style simple and your tone business-like and friendly – just as you would if you were speaking to the reader of the letter.
- The interviewer is looking to employ you in the future, not in your past, so orient everything you write with a bias to the future.
- Always end the letter on a positive note.
In addition, there are a number of layout considerations to be carefully thought about when writing your covering letter:
- Use a standard business letter layout for your cover letter.
- Ensure that your letter is perfect in every way i.e., spelling, grammar, and consistency of information with the details contained in your CV.
- Margins must be appropriate in order to frame your letter attractively.
- Only single line spacing should be used and correct line spaces must be left after addresses, between paragraphs, and before and after ‘Yours faithfully’.
- Typically, a block or justified paragraph format is used rather than the outdated indented paragraph format.
- A subject line is used – underlined and/or emboldened.
- Do not forget to sign your letter.
- Detail the number of enclosed documents.
- Use a standard, clean typeface or font – highly stylised text is distracting to the reader and indicates an unprofessional approach.
In addition to the submission of a CV, some employers require that candidates also complete an application form. Application forms should never be completed in a hurry. Speed leads to mistakes and so it is advisable to take your time. Take note of the questions and answer them in your word processing program and not online.
If you are faced with handwriting or typewriting a paper version, scan and print the form and perform a ‘dry run’ before completing the form proper. This will enable you to correct any mistakes and polish your application as it will appear on the real form.
If possible, use a pdf writer program to type the form or a typewriter on the paper version. Hand written submissions never look professional. However, read the instructions carefully in case they do want it completed in handwriting. Typing an application form can be awkward and if you choose this method, we recommend that dry runs be performed on copies first in order to correct mistakes and eliminate any special formatting issues.
If the form is to be hand-written, then use black pen, which reproduces better on photocopies, and make sure your handwriting is neat and legible. Badly written and poorly spelled applications will end up at the bottom of the interviewer’s list of likely candidates.
Whether online, pdf, Word doc, or handwritten, ensure also that you include sufficient information about your past so that an employer is clear as to what your responsibilities and duties were in previous positions. General descriptions such as ‘Clerk’, or ‘Administration’ do not convey a clear picture of a role and do very little to sell you to an employer. Also, take the opportunity to give the employer some general information about yourself through use of the further information section that is located at the end of most application forms.
The way that a person performs in a job does not solely depend upon their ability – personality also plays a very important part. Used in conjunction with other measures and assessments, a personality profile can provide a useful insight into an individual’s style of behaviour and how they interact with other people.
It is worth remembering that there is nothing miraculous about a personality measure- what comes out is determined by what you put in. It is a structured way of getting you to describe yourself. In line with best practice, if you are required to complete a personality assessment, you should be offered feedback as a matter of course.
Points to bear in mind when considering the use of an occupational profile include:
- These tests look at your style and approach to work, not your ability.
- They do not have time limits and there are no right or wrong answers.
- These tests will give you an objective perspective of yourself.
- By presenting and occupational profile along with your professionally made CV, your application will stand out as one of a serious and thoughtful candidate.
- You may not like what you see when you read your completed profile. The same could be true for a prospective employer.
- If you see a weakness in your own profile, don’t take it personally – nobody is perfect, and employers know this.
- Be aware of your limitations as highlighted, work on them and come out in better shape.
- When completing a questionnaire, ensure you are in a positive and work-like frame of mind.
Whether looking for that first job, promotion or a career change, most people today are likely to have to face a personality profile or psychometric test to evaluate their aptitude and attitude for a job. The results of these assessments are rarely revealed to the candidate by the potential employer but are often used in guiding the interview and in the final decision making process.
While there are many books to help you through aptitude tests on literacy, numeracy, problem solving, etc, there was, until now, very little information available to help guide people through personality profiling assessments.
MyDISC profile can provide that extra bit of help with a service specially designed to help job seekers to preview what these tests will say about them, and how to counter the questions that these profiles will raise in an interview situation. For more information, visit mydiscprofile.com to learn more.
Free Career Test – Personality traits, career choice, work habits – what if all of these were connected, and that a magic formula existed that would let you skilfully combine them to put you on the road to success?
This is an innovative offering from Pro-CV’s partner, Career-and-people.com, with its Free Career Test (a 10-minute online questionnaire).
You will get a report with an in-depth analysis of your personality – possibly the most fascinating one you’ve ever read about yourself. You will discover key points for success specific to your personality, and advice on finding the career that suits you best.
One thing is certain: this test isn’t like any other, and you will find it makes for compelling reading. Take the test and see for yourself.
* Acceptance * Written offer * Pressure to commit
* Respect wishes current employer * Respect wishes prospective employer
* Obtain a contract of employment * Negotiate * Consider options carefully
* Wisdom of changing jobs * Negotiated terms to contract
Once you have dazzled a prospective employer with your CV and convinced them during interview that you are the person that they are looking for, then they will make a job offer. This is, however, not the end of the process as there are several considerations that you must bear in mind when you have received a job offer:
Despite the initial euphoria resulting from a job offer, we recommend that you take at least 48 hours to consider it properly. You may have other offers in the meantime and you may want to consider negotiating certain terms. It’s very difficult to backtrack after agreeing on the spot.
Ask to see any job offer in writing, faxed or emailed through to you. Once the job is yours, you need to have clear confirmation of salary, joining date, job description and any bonuses or perks you have negotiated in advance. A written offer is more easily referenced than a verbal agreement.
Pressure to commit
You should expect to be given at least 24 hours to make up your mind. Any less and could indicate that the company is hiring – and firing – without careful consideration. If a company insists that you give them an answer that very day, it’s worth asking yourself why they would have cause to rush. This may reflect how they treat employees on a day-to-day basis.
Respect wishes current employer
Serve out your notice period in full. A prospective employer may question your future loyalty to them if you renege on the terms of your notice, as well as the possibility that you may lose money owing to you and risk court action. Make sure you allow enough time before the commencement of your new employment to complete your notice period. If there is no notice agreement in force with your present employer, offer at least 2 weeks to allow them the chance to begin selection of your replacement
Respect wishes prospective employer
Pay careful attention also to what you have agreed with your prospective employers. If you agree to a certain start date, and are for some reason unable to join the new company on a certain date despite a previous commitment, you may be in breach of contract.
Obtain a contract of employment
As soon as is feasible, ask your prospective employer for a copy of your contract of employment. The small print should be examined closely, especially such clauses relating to holidays, bonuses (whether they are performance related, for example), what any sick pay or maternity pay beyond statutory provision may be. It is advisable to clarify these issues before you agree to the job, as it is practically impossible to renegotiate terms if you don’t like them once you’ve joined.
If there are any aspects to the job and its conditions of employment, now is your chance to negotiate. If they really want you, the new company will be prepared at this point to offer concessions, such as flexible working hours or company funded-transport. You are advised to be very careful, however, as excessive and unreasonable demands made after an offer can result in the offer being withdrawn.
Consider options carefully
If you are in the enviable position of having other job offers, you can afford to let each company know that they have competition and that you are available to the highest bidder. It is quite acceptable to say you are unable to accept an offer because another company has offered a greater salary, but you would reconsider if they matched this. If the company you prefer genuinely can’t afford to match this, you can ask for a pay appraisal in 3 or 6 months’ time, or negotiate other, less costly perks instead.
Wisdom of changing jobs
Consider whether this new job offer has made your current job more attractive. Having handed in your notice, you may find that your present employers are anxious to keep you, with the offer of a pay rise or more flexible work hours as temptation. This is one reason why we advise that you wait before accepting an offer, as the time to take to accept will give you the opportunity to explore such options.
Negotiated terms to contract
The final terms of any negotiation that you undertake should be added to your contract, rather than simply agreed verbally. As an example, one job candidate argued for – and got – 28 days’ holiday, which she thought standard, and then realised after joining the company and seeing other contracts, that she had meant 4 weeks; the rest of the staff only got 20 days. Considerable benefits can be gained, sometimes inadvertently from last-minute negotiations.