What goes wrong with CVs?

How difficult can it be to do a CV? After all it’s just a brief history of your life. Sadly putting one together isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. I see quite a few drafts and here are my tips on how to avoid some of the more obvious mistakes.

Don’t go for colours and “effects”

Explosion of colored powder, isolated on white backgroundIf you’re planning to start a creative career you’ll be wanting a CV which stands out. You might want to think about a video or even a 3D CV, If, however you’re looking for a career in an area generally considered to be more “conservative” (and law is an obvious example) then it would be better to go for a more traditional style. Using a plain font, something like Arial or Calibri and in black is ideal. There is no need for borders. It’s a good idea not to add in too many bold, italic sections or underlining. Decide on one way of making headings stand out and stick to it throughout. Keep the size of the font easily legible. Remember that the person reading the CV might have had to look through hundreds, he or she will not want to have to find a magnifying glass to look at yours; it would be quicker and more convenient to put it into the reject pile!

Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes

Do make sure that you proof read your CV properly. Even one mistake can be fatal to your chances. As ever, if you find proof reading difficult, get someone else to look at your final draft. Make sure that you’re consistent throughout the document too, if you’ve worked from an earlier draft it’s easy to get a mix of fonts. If you decide to go with bullet points then keep them throughout and don’t switch to paragraphs.

Evidence your skills

magnifying glass focus on evidence bag andMake sure that you don’t end up listing tasks. Nobody is going to give you a graduate job because you’re good at cleaning or serving cups of tea! Think about the skills you need for your chosen job and work out how to showcase them through the jobs you have had. Did you work in a café? Then try talking about your understanding of customer service and your communication skills. Weave the skills and the tasks together to make a compelling story and demonstrate that you have the experience an employer is looking for.

Give appropriate weight and space to each section

weights300I often see CVs which run to a number of lines about very short term experience. If you’ve done several one or two day visits to law firms then you’ve demonstrated a clear interest in becoming a lawyer. Fantastic! Those experiences, where you probably did a series of prescribed activities or observed others at work, did not teach you skills in the same way as, for example, long term volunteering or participation in the running of a student society. Don’t exaggerate what you did or go into immense detail about open days or vacation schemes. It’s much better to use the space to showcase times where you had to take personal responsibility to make things happen. If you make it sound as though you single-handedly managed the completion of a complex financial transaction during a law firm vacation scheme, a legal employer is going to know that you’ve exaggerated. He or she is going to wonder whether other sections of your CV are more honest.

Don’t delve too far into the past

If you’re in your first year at uni then of course you’re going to write about things you did at school. If however you’re in the final year of a four year degree those school days are beginning to be ancient history. Recognise that things will need to fall off your CV and be replaced by more up to date activities. As a student or new graduate your CV should not exceed two pages. If you’re someone who gets stuck in to everything then you’re going to have some decisions about what deserves a place. I’m still proud of my involvement in student politics, it’s a very long time since I put that on my CV!

Update your CV for each new job application

It’s always worth considering whether your CV can be “tweaked” to better reflect the requirements of an employer. Look carefully to see whether you have adequately evidenced what an employer is looking for and be prepared to take the time to change it.

Make use of the resources available

There are Youtube resources here. Why not use them to help you make a start on your CV?

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