Drafting your Curriculum Vitae
Excellence at every interaction.
There are many different opinions on how a CV should be constructed. Issues arise around the topics of length, structure and content with “experts” divided on all three.
What we advise below is based on our experiences with employers, the feedback we have received over the years and a compilation of concepts that impressed us on previous applications.
Let us start with the 2 page myth. A CV does not need to be any specific length and if you have more than two pages worth of relevant experience then a two page CV will not suffice. Similarly, if you have said everything you need to say in less than two pages, don’t feel the need to fill the space.
What is much more important, and where you should focus your time is how quickly your CV get’s to the point and at what stage the reader is going to give up and lose interest.
Many times we review CV’s containing exactly the experience we are looking for, however the experience is hidden away in a single paragraph at the bottom of page three. Whilst we will spend the time searching for this, a hiring manager, internal recruiter or HR professional may not have the time.
Your CV should be no longer than it needs to be to explain why you are suitable for a role and to support this statement with a concise breakdown of your previous experience. Don’t worry if this is more or less than two pages, focus on the relevancy of each paragraph and length will not be an issue. Remember, think of relevancy from the employers perspective, not your own.
How to structure or order your CV tends to vary dramatically from application to the next and this is not something we see as a problem.
Look at the job specification and treat each responsibility as a question. Make sure your CV answers these questions as quickly as possible and include the rest of your previous experience as argumentative in your favour and supporting the overall application.
In terms of where you should put academics, work history and achievements – let the job specification decide for you. If there is a focus on a specific academic requirement then have your academics top of page 1. If there are no specific academic requirements then your qualifications can be included elsewhere in the document.
If the role seeks a particular set of skills, make sure to address these early and succinctly. There are two ways to get your CV across:
Chronological CV is where you list your previous roles in order of first to last and each role will contain the related experience gained.
Functional CV is where you summarise your employment history and focus the content on the list of functions you have performed over the years.
If you have a lot of relevant experience spanning several roles then consider a function CV as this may allow a more concise review. Don’t be afraid to include interests, unless extremely bizarre or extreme you will never be ruled out of a process as a result and sometimes they can be good ice breakers.
Build a message with your content that clearly defines why you are suitable for the job you are applying for, that you are achievement focused and that you have the specific competencies which the role is looking for. How do you do this?
As above, mirror the job specification whilst discussing your experience and answer the questions it has raised. I encourage anyone considering a move to highlight achievements from their most recent role or the role that gave them the most relevant experience. Achievements are a good way to demonstrate you have initiative and often they become good discussion points during an interview.
If the job specification requires specific competencies (team work, ability to work to deadlines, leadership etc..,) ensure that you provide some related experience on your CV that demonstrates you have developed the competencies sought. This is a useful exercise regardless as it prepares you for the interview should you go into that stage of the process.
Every time you send your CV for a specific role, you need to open it up and move things around to ensure that whoever reads your CV can clearly see that you are suitable. Does this mean it is all your best experience? perhaps not and this is fine if it is your most relevant experience. You will have plenty of opportunity to expand on things if selected for interview which is the primary function of your CV.