Writing a good CV

First impressions count - and your CV will determine the first impressions that a prospective employer forms of you. It's vital you get it right, because a good CV will ensure you get noticed and ultimately secure you an interview. Read on to enhance your chances of attaining a top job through a quality CV.

There are no definitive rules to writing a good CV, but there are some basic guidelines you can follow to ensure your CV is presented professionally. So here are some general points about writing your CV - followed by a step-by-step guide to how to write each section.

Keep it clear

For maximum impact your CV should follow a logical layout with headings and section breaks.

Keep it uncluttered

Use bold text and bullet points to ensure you highlight specific information.

Keep it focused

Emphasise your relevant skills and experience, tailoring your information to the specific job application.

Keep it concise

A CV should not exceed 2 typed A4 pages.

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

This guide takes you step by step through one of the CV layouts that we recommend to candidates. The first page of many CV's focus on personal details and education - however, it is your employment experience and ability to do the job that is most significant to recruiters and prospective employers. So this layout follows a style you may not be familiar with, but it presents your strengths and key skills in the most relevant and effective way.

CV Heading

This should be simple and contain your full name and the title Curriculum Vitae or CV.

Personal Profile

This is an optional section and can be used to indicate your career aspirations for your specific industry, and to convey in a positive way why you are seeking a career move. Be aware however that a poor personal profile can do more harm than good, so don’t try to be clever. Avoid terminology that has no relevance to your CV, for example, and steer clear of clichés and buzzwords. Use your personal profile to honestly reflect your skills, experience, attitude and behaviour.

Key Achievements

Your key achievements form a key section of your CV. It needs to really engage your prospective employer - so use facts, figures and timescales to demonstrate that you are a competent achiever in your current and previous roles. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, but substantiate your claims with solid evidence. For example:-

  • As Store Manager of Glasgow I successfully lead a team of 50 to increase sales by 10% year on year, an increase which was recognised as the highest on the region.
  • Successfully managed a complex store re fit programme whilst maintaining excellent customer service and sales results through high team motivation and loyalty.
  • Significantly improved absence results and staff turnover, reducing staff turnover from 30% to 3% and absence from 10% to less than 1%. This was achieved through improving staff communication systems, introducing absence procedures and through developing team morale.
  • Achieved consistent high mystery shopper results of 90%+, being rewarded with the responsibility of Regional Customer Service champion.

Using bullet points makes your achievements easier to read - and remember to use strong words that demonstrate what you actually did, words like led, organised, designed, formed, developed, significantly improved/reduced, successfully created and so on.

The achievements you select for this section should reflect a number of different competencies, tailored to the job for which you are applying. Don’t simply focus on the financial and sales element of your position, for example, and completely overlook your achievements relating to people manager or customer service, or it may raise doubts about a lack of people skills. Finally, compare your achievements to the results of your colleagues whenever appropriate to convey the real impact of your contribution - this adds a useful perspective to your achievements and enables the reader to more fully understand what you have to offer.

Career History

Your career history is a compact summary of your employment history and the responsibilities that you held in each post.

Start with the most recent or current employer, detailing the month/year you started and finished, together with the Company name and location as shown below. If you had a number of different roles within the same Company, list the dates and then detail the specific roles and responsibilities below.

For every position held, summarise the key facts and figures below each employment entry - include details about the size of your team, turnover, square footage and the number of units for which you were directly accountable, if relevant. This is critical information and helps an employer or recruiter to correctly assess your level of experience.

For clarity, your key responsibilities should be bullet pointed - and remember to include any extra responsibilities that would make you stand out from your colleagues. Don’t make the mistake of confusing key responsibilities for a full job description. If you are a retail store manager, for example, the very nature of your role will indicate to a prospective employer that you have key holder responsibilities. However, if are a supervisor, the fact that you have key holder responsibilities may not be immediately apparent and can be listed.

Finally, explain any gaps in your employment history by detailing the dates along with a short, concise sentence providing the reason why you were not working - travelling the world, for example, or spending time with family.

So, your career history section should look something like this:

Jan 2002 – Jan 2004
Company Name
Feb 2003 – Jan 2004
Store Manager, Leeds
  Staff:
Sq Ft:
Turnover:
50
3,000
£3.4m
Key Responsibilities:
  • To achieve sales, profit, customer satisfaction and employee commitment targets through the development of a strong store management and colleague team.
  • Full profit and loss accountability.
  • To deliver excellent store operational standards.
  • Ensure the store operates best practice in terms of health and safety, food hygiene safety and security.
  • Coaching and development of all store management team.
  • Regional store card champion.
Jan 2002 – Feb 2003
Assistant Manager, Bradford
  Staff:
Sq Ft:
Turnover:
80
5,000
£5m
Key Responsibilities:
  • Duty Manager deputising in the absence of the Store Manager.
  • Setting Departmental targets for sales and stock loss.
  • To deliver the store audit targets for price control.
  • Training and recruitment.

Education and Qualifications

Present your most recent qualifications first, providing details for your most important and relevant qualifications - reduce this detail for less significant qualifications. Relevant Training Detail all relevant courses or company training your have received by date and course title.

Personal Details

Your personal details comprise your full name and title, your postal address and full contact details including your e-mail address, home, mobile and work telephone numbers. You should also include your marital status and state whether you have a full, clean driving licence.

Proof Reading

It is imperative that you fully proof read your CV to make sure that you have accurate spelling and grammar. If you’re unsure, ask a friend or relative to read your CV for you.

Visual Format

Your CV should look standardised, so avoid using fancy fonts and stick to a standard font size of 10/12. Print it on white paper and use black ink, colour formats rarely impress and can detract from the real message you are trying to convey.

McCarthy CV Template

If you like our suggested layout, you can download a CV template (Word.dot) which you simply fill in and send back to us. We would prefer to receive your CV by email, but if this is not possible, please refer to our full contact details.

References

You need to supply two references - and ideally, one of these should be your current or most recent employer. Rest assured, they will not be contacted without your permission being requested. However it demonstrates that you are comfortable with the referees being contacted at the appropriate time.

 

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