Your CV has to impress, as you only get one shot at making an employer notice you amongst the dozens (sometimes hundreds) of other CVs, all competing for the same position.
There have been many debates about the length a CV should be and although there are no hard and fast rules, general consensus is that a CV should be no more than two pages in length. The only exception to this is perhaps for more scientific based posts, where the employer will want to see more detail of any papers published, relevant experience in the field and any research posts that the candidate may have occupied. However, for the general jobs market, a two page CV is the optimum.
The actual layout of the CV is down to the individual, but they basically fall into two categories - chronological and skills based. A chronological CV will list your work experience in order of time and under general headings, with the most recent first. However, employers are now looking more at skills based CVs, where the candidate lists the necessary skills that are required for a specific position. This means that each CV you send out may be different, according to the position you are applying for. It is known as 'targeting your CV' and is becoming more common, particularly in the UK.
It can be a good idea to start a CV with a 'Personal Profile' or 'Objectives' statement. This is usually a short paragraph giving an overview of your skills, personal qualities, plans and objectives. It gives the reader a general idea of you as a person and hopefully will encourage them to read the rest of your CV. This is a technique that has been borrowed from newspaper style reporting, where the first paragraph is designed to grab the attention of the reader. In this way you can present your CV as 'breaking news', with you as the point of interest. It is recommended that you do not write it in the third person, as this can sometimes come across as pretentious and may actually discourage the employer to investigate the rest of your CV, no matter how well qualified you are for the job.
A recent addition to CVs has been the inclusion of a photograph of the candidate. The jury is still out on whether this influences the decision of the potential employer in any way, so the recommendation here is as long as you can produce a good quality photograph that will not detract from the rest of the content, it can be included.
However, one thing that will influence the decision of the reader is if the CV is peppered with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. As the title of this piece suggests - a CV is your personal shop window to recruitment agencies. It has to be perfect to encourage people to look inside the store, rather than just walking past. If you know that spelling is your weakness, contact a professional proof reader or CV specialist who will be able to look over your CV and correct any mistakes before the wrong eyes see them.
Finally, never lie on a CV. As tempting as it may be to embellish your qualifications; employers can and do check the accuracy of candidate's applications. If your CV is found to contain even the smallest inconsistency it will mark you as untrustworthy and promptly scupper any chance you may have of ever working for that particular employer. If you feel that your particular 'shop window' needs some dressing up, speak to an experienced CV advisor who will be able to show you how to make the very best of that all-important first impression.
9th February 2009
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Image: Jeweller's Shop Window by erix!