Hypocritical as I feel in writing this- seen as I haven’t been able to find any employment at home this summer- today I’m sharing some of my best CV tips. Though nowhere will take me for one month before I head back to Newcastle, I have managed to land myself waitressing jobs in the past. I have also completed work experience with both the PR agency that manages Meridian Foods and other blue chip clients, and last year I spent a week with BBC Good Food Magazine. Which indicates I’ve gone right somewhere. Possibly in attending every single CV and cover letter workshop going at my uni’s careers service. If similar workshops are available to you: take them, I cannot emphasise this enough.
I also have to say: don’t wait for jobs to come to you. Ask around- send out emails, ask friends, family, and other contacts if they have any recommendations. Granted, sometimes there just won’t be employment going: I have applied for 15 jobs and 3 volunteer placements so far since being home, and nothing has come up. Lack of temporary employment can be a massive issue for students- especially if you live somewhere few jobs are available to anyone, let alone someone who isn’t going to be around for too long. If this is the case for you, then know you aren’t alone- but making sure your CV is looking good makes it more likely a job will eventually come your way.
So, without further ado, lets take a look at how to write a “kick-ass CV”…
- Layout- Consider this before you start writing. I find that a clear layout helps me to organise my thoughts, as well as my page. First things first: choose a font that is easy to read, and type in size 12 (size 11 at the very least, if you’re really struggling for space). At the top of the CV have your name, and contact details. I like to centre this, and put it in bold. Underneath this, in regular font (not bold) and to the left hand side, give a few sentences stating what kind of a person you are, what you’re applying for, and why. This is called your ‘profile’. For example: ‘I am a polite, organised, and conscientious individual with well-developed communication skills. I have worked as a waitress for four years and am currently searching for a temporary position in the hospitality industry, during my summer break from university studies.’ After this you can get the nitty gritty stuff in. I divide my CV into: education/qualifications, achievements, work experience/ previous employment, other experience, hobbies (if relevant), and then references. Not all of these sections will be super long, some may only be a few bullet points.
- Contact Details- Okay, before we go any further: be sure to check that these are correct and clear. I include my email address, and my mobile phone number. If you have a landline, then you can include this. You also need to include the contact details of your referees.
- Education/Qualifications- I have this information at the top of my CV. Simply write ‘GCSE Qualifications’ and bullet point them, or ‘A-Level Qualifications’ and bullet them, or even ‘Degree Level Qualifications’ and bullet them. If you have all of these you can include them all. Alternatively, if you want to knock the one from longest ago off then you can: I list my A-Level courses and final grades, then simply summarise my GCSEs in ‘Achievements’ by writing 11 GCSEs at A* and A grades. Employers can then enquire further into this if they want to, but you don’t want to force too much information down their throat to begin with.
- Achievements– Here I include things such as prizes/competitions/extra-curricular work. So, I list that I have worked as a peer mentor during my second year, I have been a runner-up in an enterprise and entrepreneurial challenge, and that I have developed my own blog.
- Work Experience- Simply list your previous employments. For each period of employment write your role and the start/finish dates, and then bullet point (briefly) your responsibilities. E.g. ‘2nd June 2016- 10th December 2016: waitress at ‘X bar and grill’.
- Other experience & relevant hobbies-These show that you’re a well rounded person, but don’t go mad with them. Indicate, through your hobbies, that you have valuable skills. Valuable skills include: writing, team work, perseverance, organisational skills, communication skills, flexible mindset, people skills… Any (relevant) strength you have can be showcased here. For example, I list blogging as a hobby, and learning to set up my own blog. This indicates that I have writing skills, and also a flexible mindset in order to learn new skills. I list rock climbing- though I am unable to do it as often as I would like- because it indicates a kind of perseverance and team work as you often work in pairs to scale a bouldering wall. For each hobby include a few words indicating the skills it allows you to hone.
- References- Whenever you finish working somewhere, ask your employer if they would be willing to be a referee on your CV. These are people that prospective employers can contact, as those who can vouch for your character and previous employment.
Okay, now we’ve looked at how to organise a CV, let’s turn to general tips that people seem to forget when writing it, and mistakes you’ll want to avoid…
- Prioritise- Don’t include things that aren’t relevant. If you volunteer at a cat shelter, and an after-school club, but are applying for a job at Pets at Home, then just include the cat shelter volunteering. You have a lot to cram into a page or so, so don’t waste space.
- Tailor it-This follows on from the above. Make sure that everything you say is relevant to the place that you are applying to. Keep a generic CV on your computer at all times. When applying for multiple jobs you can then go through your CV, and alter it to suit each employer. If I’m applying to a restaurant or café I will emphasise my team work, communication skills, love of food and cooking, and punctuality. If I’m applying for a PR work placement then I will emphasise my creativity, writing skills, desire to work in advertising, and communication skills. However…
- Never ever lie on a CV- ever. Emphasise what is important and tailor it to where you are applying, but never include something that is untrue. If you make it to the interview stage, then you will be caught out.
- Keep it to the point- Don’t waffle when you’re talking about your qualifications or hobbies. Keep the sentences short and punchy. For example, if writing about hobbies I might write ‘I write my own lifestyle blog, *insert link*, which has significantly improved my editing and writing skills’.
- Keep it to one or two pages- You don’t have much space to catch an employer’s attention. Most just glance at your CV. A three page document is much too long to attract their attention. I keep mine to just over a page, with three references on a second page.
- Spelling & punctuation-This is incredibly important. Sit down and go over your CV for a good 30 minutes, and check your spellings and punctuation. These two things make a massive impression on your prospective employers, and indicate an attention to detail.