Two lawyers talking

CVs

CVs

Preparing and writing your CV

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a summary of your skills, abilities, experience and achievements.

When you apply for a job your aim is to persuade the employer to invite you for an interview. The CV is a marketing tool as it gives employers clear information about your qualifications and work experience at a glance. Your CV is the first impression an employer will get of you.

A CV is a live document that should be continually updated and adapted to be relevant for the position you are applying for at that time.

Before you get down to writing your CV, spend some time thinking about what makes you the right person for the job. Make a note of the key attributes, skills, achievements and abilities you have and what you can bring to a job. Your CV should be tailored to the job you are applying for.

Read the job advert very carefully and bring out the points you think are most relevant to the job, but be brief: Ideally, a CV should not be longer than two pages.

Different types of CV

There is more than one way to write a CV. You need to experiment with which style is most effective at marketing yourself to the employer for the specific job you are applying for.

Below are two contrasting approaches to writing a CV

Chronological CV

This type of CV lists your details under headings, starting with the most recent.  Its structure makes it easy for an employer to read and relatively easy to put together. It can show career progression but may draw attention to gaps or frequent job moves.

Skills based CV

This type of CV emphasises your skills and personal qualities. It demonstrates your ability to apply knowledge and work-skills to different or developing sectors and roles. It is useful for people changing careers or work areas as it shows how your skills could transfer. It enables employers to quickly see how your experience and skills match the needs of the job. Unlike a chronological CV it doesn’t highlight gaps in your employment, but an employer may explore your work history at interview.

For further details on CV writing, examples, and pros and cons of different approaches see the following links:

The Open University www.open.ac.uk/careers/creating-cvs.php

Jobs.ac.uk www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/cv-templates

Guardian Careers careers.guardian.co.uk/cv-templates and for discussion and debate on writing CVs see careers.guardian.co.uk/careers-blog/springclean-your-cv-guide

What should be included in a CV?

There are no strict rules about what should be covered, but, as a general guide, your CV needs to include:

Personal details

Name, address, contact details. It is up to you whether you include more information such as your age, nationality, marital status etc. It is not essential.

Your personal profile

Five to seven high impact statements that describe you. Don't be shy about this. Spark the readers' interest. Be bold, confident and positive about yourself. This is your chance to sell your particular qualities for the job. Include your skills and the qualities that you believe make you right for the job.

Achievements

Use high impact statements about your achievements. These should back up your personal profile. Not all achievements need to be work based: you may have some outside interests or 'life skills' which are impressive and which relate strongly what an employer is looking for. Employers often look for evidence of a rounded person, not just necessarily workplace skills and responsibilities. The following links will give you suggestions and approaches.

www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/cv-templates/1660/how-to-create-a-cv-part-three-responsibilities-and-achievements
www.jobsite.co.uk/worklife/four-questions-when-you-write-cv-9538%20
www.bradleycvs.co.uk/cv-writing-tips/cv-achievements.htm

The following article on Monster may be aimed at sales but it will give you an insight into why listing achievements is important. career-advice.monster.co.uk/searching-for-jobs/job-advice-by-industry/what-achievements-should-i-add-to-my-sales-cv/article.aspx

Skills
By listing the skills you have, an employer can quickly see what you offer to them. List skills appropriate for the role you are applying to. These could include problem-solving or analytical skills, planning and organisational skills and ICT skills. For further explanation of the importance and use of skills in a CV see the article from Monster.co.uk career-advice.monster.co.uk/searching-for-jobs/job-advice-by-industry/what-achievements-should-i-add-to-my-sales-cv/article.aspx

Experience and Education
This part of the CV depends on what job you are applying for and your career stage. If you have been working for a while, employment goes first. If this is the start of your career, educational achievement takes precedence.

Career history
Employers will want to see your past experience. When listing your jobs, start with the present or most recent job and work backwards. Include detail about the current job, but be brief about jobs which are totally different or a long time ago.

Hobbies and interests
Some employers like to hear about hobbies and interests, but they should be relevant to the job you are applying for or add to the general picture of you.

Additional Information
If you need to add anything that may be relevant, such as a career break or a gap in your employment history that is not covered elsewhere, you could include it here.

References
You should state that references are available, with at least one work related, although you don't have to list them on the CV. If you haven't worked for a while use someone responsible who knows you, but whoever you choose, don't forget to ask them first and make sure their contact details are correct.

Be Honest
Sounds obvious, but surveys have shown a high proportion of CV's are embellished or distorted with items or statements which are untrue in an attempt to make the applicant look better than they are. Whilst you are in the job of selling your skills as hard as you can, do not add something which is wrong or you cannot substantiate.Good employers will check your claims.

Presentation

First impressions count
Good presentation is a must if you want to impress.  Use a word processor. Never handwrite a CV. Always check for spelling and grammar. Use spell check or a dictionary when in doubt and always, always get someone else to check it.

Layout
Think about how it will look. Clean and crisp always wins. Use 12 point type and a clear font. Use just one style and one font throughout and keep the layout simple. Don't use bold or highlights everywhere. This may work for headings, but not for the detailed bits.

Print on A4 white or cream paper and use the best quality paper you can. Always send new original copies. Never send photocopies.

Be positive
Use a positive tone and words. Use 'doing' words like 'managed' 'improved' etc when describing yourself.

Photograph
Don't include a photograph of yourself unless specifically asked to do so. If you are asked send a professionally taken one, not one of you on the beach on holiday.

Keep a copy
To be consistent you may need to refer back to it at a later date.

The CV Letter
All CVs should be accompanied by a letter. Its purpose is to make sure the CV arrives on the desk of the right person and they read it. It does not have to be long. Ensure the skills, qualities and attributes that make you right for the job are mentioned briefly. Use good quality paper and draw the attention of the reader to the fact that you fit their requirement exactly.