Work-Tips: Making your CV more effective

First published in February 2010

Did you know that, when a recruiter receives a CV, it is likely that they will spend no more than 30 seconds looking at it before they decide if they will call you for interview? First impressions count.

You will find that different people tell you different things about what makes the ideal CV, but the one thing everyone will agree on is that you should always aim to keep it within two sides of A4. As your career progresses it may seem impossible to keep your work history sufficiently concise, but there are a few things you can do to cut the word count and still make you sound employable!

As a basic guide your CV should include…

• Name, address, email address and phone number.
• Your main academic qualifications with the most recent first, so your degree subject and grade and where you studied followed by your A Level subjects and grades and how many GCSEs you got at each grade (and confirmation you got English and Maths).
• Your work history including both paid and unpaid roles – with the dates you did the work and a short description of what you did and what skills you developed and used.
• If you have worked on the agency side of PR, be sure to include which client accounts you worked on as this helps the recruiter to assess where your experience lies.
• A list of extra-curricular activities and hobbies that demonstrate further skills. If you have been involved in a lot of extra-curricular organisations, be selective, pick the ones that demonstrate specific skills and which are particularly relevant for the job you are applying for.
• A list of an IT and language skills you have.

Proof reading
It may seem obvious, but not only should you spell check your CV but you should proof read it too – or give it to a friend to read over for you. Things like the brand names of your clients won’t be picked up by spell check if they are incorrect. Also, use British English instead of American.

Think about the layout. Don’t fix the problem of an excessively long CV by reducing all the text to a 7 point font. Don’t include lots of pictures or design elements, employers generally respond better to simple text-based CVs.

File Format
When submitting your CV by email, send it as a Word file (rather than a PDF) with no complicated formatting (no columns or tables etc) and in a standard font (eg Times or Arial).

It is worth putting your contact details in the file name too (so joebloggscv.doc) as recruiters receive hundreds of documents just entitled ‘CV’ and it can be tiresome to try and find a specific person’s documentation when you have to hunt through lots of files.

If you are using the latest version of Word (which by default saves files in the ‘docx’ format) try and choose the option which lets you save your work in an earlier version of Word, because many employers still cannot open docx files.

Suggested format and what to leave out
I have put together an example CV to give you an idea of a standard layout and, more importantly, what you can leave out in order to keep it down to two pages. You can check it out here online.