Tell Me About Curriculum Vitae/CV's

A ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or CV for short is a Latin phrase loosely translated as ‘course of life’. It is a summary of a job applicant’s work experience, qualifications and education and is designed to be a record of their work history and provide an overview of what skills and experience they have to offer a new employer.

Within the UK (some other countries differ) it is usually a short document of two pages and is often used to sift applicants for a job or role. CVs can be submitted to a company or organisation speculatively (i.e. without a particular role being advertised) or in response to a specific job advertisement.

Many recruitment companies now offer the ability to post your CV online where they can be searched for and found by employers looking for staff with specific skills or qualifications. They may use special software to do this which searches for particular words or phrases. This has led to the growth of optimisation techniques similar to search engine optimisation for websites.

‘How do I create a great CV?’

It’s a good question and one to which there are not too many straightforward answers. You see whether a CV is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is subjective. It depends on the experience of the person reviewing it (or the search algorithms programmed into the software being used), the skills and experience of the writer and the context in which the CV is submitted. However, there are some similarities between great CVs and that is what we discuss here.

Easy to Read

The first common feature between great CVs is that they are easy to read. It is obvious on a quick scan where key information can be found. The font used provides clarity and the document is broken into distinct sections for ease of review. Many CVs will only get between a 6 to 10 second scan so your CV needs to be easy to read and the key points should jump off the page. The recruiter is simply identifying which CVs from the pile beside them (or on their computer) will progress to the next stage in the recruitment process.

Relevant Achievements

A lot of CVs simply contain a list of places where people have worked, the roles they undertook and the responsibilities they carried. While this can be useful information for the recruiter it doesn’t always present the candidate in the best possible light. It can also be hard for the person reading it to sift through the information to find what they are looking for; in essence, whether this person will be a good fit for the job. It’s far better to have a brief list of relevant achievements – in short bullet point sentences – on the first page. This summarises the key projects or tasks that an applicant has successfully delivered and helps the recruiter to make a judgement about whether they would be able to deliver similar projects or tasks in this new position too. Due to its position on the page, it ‘hits the reader right between the eyes’, cannot be ignored and should be designed to present you in a very good light.

Impactive Personal Statement

In recent years, a personal statement – also known as a personal profile – has become an established part of a CV. Usually one of the first sections to be read, it describes the applicant’s attributes, interests and (hopefully) how the role applied for fits into their overall career plan. Because it is usually placed towards the top of the first page, it is extremely important to make a positive first impression and encourages the reader to continue reading, rather than putting the CV on the rejected pile. This is why its construction needs to be considered very carefully and, along with the achievements section, tweaked or amended for every separate application. It can be useful, rather than re-writing your CV on every submission, to have a base from which to compile these vitally important key words and phrases. Our CV Evidence Builder fulfils that role and details can be found below.

It sounds obvious but so many people don’t seem to be able to understand what’s required to be successful, send in a generic CV, get rejected (or more likely hear nothing) get disheartened and give up. At least give yourself the chance of being selected for the right role by taking these steps. Sure, there’s plenty more to it than just this, but this is the starting point. Build on solid foundations and you will be giving yourself the very best chance of success.

Helpful Resources