Getting a Job in the Recession #1: The CV

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Prompted by friends who’ve had to take a paycut or lost their job recently, I thought I’d put all my advice down on paper screen. There are a few issues I’d like to hit (not necessarily in the order below) in this series, Getting a Job in the Recession:

  1. The CV
  2. The Virtual CV
  3. Jobs Boards
  4. The Covering Letter
  5. Online Profiles

This week’s topic: The CV

Occasionally, I ask for CV submissions, when I’m looking to build up our database of potential freelance trainers. And, in previous jobs, I sifted through CVs for potential new recruits. So, I have a fairly rounded idea of what’s going to get you a meeting or interview and what won’t.

What should I include on my CV?

  • Your name. You’d be surprised to see how many CVs are entitled Curriculum Vitae, leaving out that crucial information. This may not prevent you from getting the job, but it is annoying for the potential employer to have to write it at the top of your CV.
  • Your contact details. There is no need to include an address. But, you should have at least a telephone number and email address. Only include a method of contact if you check it regularly and are prepared to receive a contact through that medium. Recently, I’ve seen Skype details, Twitter usernames and Facebook URLs.
  • An objective. Tailor this, according to what type of job you’re applying for. Be specific. For example: ‘To secure several part-time, flexible jobs in the creative industries’.
  • Educational achievements, including any professional development workshops you’ve attended in the last five years. You may wish to separate these into two groups. Generally, employers prefer to see these in reverse chronological order.
  • Career achievements. Again, list in reverse chronological order.
  • Memberships of any (relevant) professional bodies.
  • Whether you have access to transport in order to meet the requirements of the post and/or a full driving license. This is fairly commonly mentioned in job advertisements.
  • Interests. Be careful with this section (and leave out completely, if you’re limited to the single page that many insist on).

I’m under 25, with limited professional experience. I’ve nothing to put on my CV!

You can add the following, in lieu of professional career development:

  • Positions of authority/leadership in church youth-clubs. This is much less likely to be of use to someone reading the CV of an older, more experienced candidate with lots of professional experience, but it may be the only means of a younger person demonstrating their capabilities on paper. It could mean the difference between getting asked for an interview, or not.
  • Other achievements, including any short periods of work experience.
  • Voluntary work.

Is it a bit cheeky to indicate my ‘salary expectations’?

  • I did. But, only after I’d knocked up eight years’ experience at my chosen field. It is likely that this would be consided impudent coming from someone with no experience or only a few years’ experience.
  • This may be more appropriate if you are at managerial level, or at least a level where there is a degress of responsibility for members of a team.

How many pages long should my CV be?

We often get CVs sent to us for sprucing up. Many employers will ask for it to be limited to one page. This saves time when trawling through submitted CVs. I’d suggest it should be no longer than two A4 pages, unless you’ve been asked to make it shorter, or to include additional information.

If you’re limited to one page:

  • Include your name and brief contact details.
  • List Educational Achievements (post-secondary only).
  • Outline substantial Career Achievements/Developments, highlighting where you contributed to organisational change, change in procedures, increase in sales, new product lines and the like. Avoid listing every little duty associated with the post (such as opening the post and answering the phone, unless this is a main duty).

Exaggeration Lies

Even the candidates on The Apprentice did it, allegedly. Do potential new employers check out your references? Yes. Do they contact Universities and Colleges and ask for confirmation of your qualifications and grades? Yes.

Do – not – lie. Do – not – even – exaggerate. It is not worth it. You will waste their time. You will waste your own time.

Formatting, Punctuation and Spelling

Use regular font size and style. Avoid trying to stand out too much. The purpose of the formatting of your CV is readability, nothing more. Do not use incorrect punctuation or spelling. It is incredibly irritating, at best. At worst, it is incredibly stupid when you are applying for a job – for example – as a writer.

Need help?

Feel free to ask anything in the comments. I will do my best to advise appropriately. I’d also appreciate if you’d add your own suggestions in.