The dreaded CV. A mundane task for the best of us. How do we convey how amazing we are by not coming across as cocky? Impossible. How do we condense everything that we want to say onto one page or two? More importantly, how can we make a CV stand out amongst our competitors? Well, I have some advice.
A blank screen for a blank mind
The thought of making a new CV would put me to sleep before I even open Microsoft Word. A dismal task, but a necessary one. If you want an interview, you’re going to need an above average CV to get you there.
‘CV’, by the way, stands for Curriculum Vitae – that’s Latin for… I haven’t a clue – which basically means resumé, which also means… a description of you in two pages?
Ok, let’s get down to it. I’m sure you all know what a CV is and what it’s for. When it comes to applying for placements, you will usually only need two things: a CV and a Cover Letter. Your CV is going to be read and scrutinised by a lot of recruiters, so you’re going to need to make it stand out and be the one that they put into the ‘shortlist’ pile instead of the ‘rejection’ pile.
You don’t need to go all Elle Woods and print it on pink paper and spritz it with perfume. Although if you’re applying to a fragrance company (like Coty) that actually might be a clever way to stand out. Just make sure it’s a Coty fragrance though.
Compiling a CV doesn’t have to be the worst thing in the world, nor does it have to take you a full day to complete. Let’s go through step by step what you need to include and how to make it stand out.
First: the basics
When I say step by step, I mean I’m going to hold your hand through this process and go through every piece of information that you will need from start to finish. My CV is two pages exactly in length, although some careers advisors would prefer it to be kept to one page, you’re going to need more room to shout about yourself so give yourself that extra page.
At the top you should put your name and ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ if you want to go fancy. Just make sure you spell it right. Then add in your name, address, mobile number, email address and date of birth. If recruiters like the sound of you, they’re going to want to contact you so make sure all of your details are correct.
Next, I would put down your education history, starting with most recent, like university for example. Add in your result for first year and what you expect to obtain at the end of your second. Add in some of the modules you are taking on your course. You don’t need to list them all, just the most relevant ones.
Then you can add your A Levels or equivalent and the subjects you took. If you’re particularly proud of your GCSEs you can add these too but the main thing employers will be looking at are your degree results and A Level results.
For your education, also give the dates that you were there or expect to be there. For my university section I have ‘Liverpool John Moores University (2015-present).
I then added in a short bio to introduce myself. Briefly explaining that I am originally from Northern Ireland, studying in Liverpool but working and living in London for a year at Coty UK. I also ended it with three phrases to describe myself: ‘A keen Diet Coke consumer, Netflix watcher and all-round One Direction fanatic.’
Just kidding. Wouldn’t want to tell the truth on my CV now, would I?
But really, add in a few adjectives to describe yourself. Drop me a message if you want to know what my three really were. Although, my IM team soon learnt the above three things in the first week that I started my job.
Experience, experience, experience
We have reached the most important part. And no, you should not keep this until the end. I placed my PR experience first, above everything else. It may not be in chronological order, but the recruiter will be most interested in the relevant experience you have for the job that you have applied for. It’s good to make this clear and easy to locate.
I start off with a ‘PR Experience’ header and bullet point my job titles, with a short description beside each, as well as the time that I spent doing it. For example:
- PR Intern at The London Fashion Agency: I spent five days at LFA in Brixton gaining experience in fashion public relations before starting my placement year with Coty. I worked on PR Dispatch, an email subscription service that allows small brands with little budgets to try and carry out their own PR. A great insight into the future of PR, especially for minor brands and small start-ups. I had previously interviewed founder, Rosie Davies for my #GirlBossMonday series on my blog and this is how I made the connection. I am also due to go back in August of 2018 when I finish my placement year to carry out four more weeks of work experience. July 3rd – July 7th 2017.
After your list of experience that you have in that particular field, I would then follow on with the rest of your past work experiences: part-time jobs, volunteering etc. Again, with these, I would outline the role, give a short description and then add in the dates that you worked here.
Hobbies and interests
Show that you’re not just a workaholic. The main thing the people reading your CV want to know is ‘Is this someone we can work with every day for a year?’ What interests you outside of your degree and choice of career? Do you have a blog? Do you religiously read fashion magazines every month? Spend hours on Twitter keeping up with current affairs? Is there something that you do outside of university and work that helps you to improve yourself as a person, gain more skills or learn something new?
Even if you spend most of your time with friends outside of work and university, this is perfectly fine to add in. Socialising shows that you’re someone that can mingle and talk to new people, like the company of others and would perhaps work well in a team, rather than alone.
If you’re married to the gym, you can say that you’re extremely interested in your physical health and treat your body like the temple that it is. If this applies to you, I’m extremely jealous. My relationship only lasted a week with the gym.
Some of my greatest achievements to date have been making it out of bed before mid-day on a Sunday and making it to work on time once when I woke up at 8.30am and started at 9am (back when I came in from my bar shift at 1am and had my office job the next morning). Somehow I don’t think these would be great ones to add to the ol’ CV though.
Your mind may go blank when you first write the word ‘achievements’ and you may mull over the fact that you have no achievements, but I’m sure if you ask a family member, a close friend or a tutor, they will be able to remind you of things that you have achieved that you may have forgotten about. A subject award? A music grade? A trophy at a school fair? Performing on stage? Passing your driving test? Raising money for charity? Some of these may seem like quite small feats, but they are things to be proud of and to list as achievements.
Don’t sell yourself short. Try and list around five things (I listed six). Don’t over-do it though. No one likes a show off. Also, keep it realistic. You may get asked about one of your achievements in an interview, and you want to know what on earth you added to your list.
Skills and qualities
For this, I would avoid bullet points and more lists. You’ve already listed your experiences and achievements. Show that you can write small paragraphs and aren’t just an avid list-maker.
Also for this one, I would try and be a little crafty and adapt your skills and qualities to the person and job specifications that they give.
In the job description, if they are asking for someone that is organised, has good Microsoft Office skills and an eye for detail, make sure all of these are evident in your skills and qualities paragraph. Go one further (like I did) and highlight the key words in bold. Try not to start every sentence with ‘I’ or it will just get repetitive and you may appear less of a team-player. Yes, really.
I separated mine into two paragraphs. One for skills and one for qualities.
Skills example: From my job as a waitress and barmaid I have improved upon my teamwork skills, my flexibility as we worked on a rota basis each week and built up a lot of confidence with my communication skills when speaking to customers and would say that I’m a very bubbly and talkative person and as I worked in a hotel, I was interacting with a lot of different nationalities when conversing with residents.
Qualities example: I’m a very positive and level-headed individual and pride myself on how independent I am for my age. I enjoy my time in education and am always looking at ways to further myself in knowledge and skills.
I finished my CV off with ‘References available on request’ – mainly because I didn’t have any room to list any. If you do have room however, add in at least two, one being your most recent employer/manager. Include names, job titles and contact phone numbers.
Don’t forget to also tell your manager that you’ve listed them as a referee (and also ask them if this is ok) so that they answer their phone when it rings.
Now to make it stand out
What I’ve went through above is a basic structure to a basic CV. It’s what my current CV looks like. However, you don’t want your CV to be basic and fade in amongst the rest of the pile, so you need to find a way to make it stand out.
Here are some tips to help make your CV be noticed and taken for consideration every time:
- Add a photo of yourself: Adding in a small photo of yourself will put a face to the name and also make the CV more personal and let the employer feel that they already know you, instead of trying to conjure up an image of you in their head.
- Add in social links: Yes I’m serious. We are in the digital age people. If you think employers aren’t going to Google search you or look for you on most social networks then you are greatly mistaken. Make sure you have professional accounts on Twitter and Instagram. If you prefer not to, just make sure everything’s locked up and super private. If you provide the recruiter with your social media links, this will create a level of transparency to show that you have nothing to hide and you are using social media to its advantage and for professional purposes. Links I’d recommend: Professional Twitter (where you chat to other students and professionals and join in conversations related to your career path), Instagram (to show that you are a real person with real friends and like to have a good time – just clear out the really embarrassing photos), and LinkedIn (if you don’t have one, you should have one).
- Have a side bar: Make your CV look like an opening page of a blog. On the left or right, have a coloured side bar which features a picture of you, a short description of yourself, some social links and your university degree. This will add some extra professionalism to your CV. You’re not just adding a boring border like 98% of the other applicants.
- Choose a nice font: Don’t use Comic Sans. Whatever you do, don’t use Comic Sans. Keep it professional and clean. You need it to be eligible. You could maybe change the font of your name to try and find one that you feel represents your personality. But for the main body of text, keep it formal and clean.
- Add some colour: How pretty does the one above look? Adding colour will definitely make your CV stand out, but I would be mindful of the job you are applying for when it comes to adding colour. If it is a creative industry, like Graphic Design or Fashion, then adding a bit of colour or imagery would work really well. However, if you’re applying to work in a hospital or law office then I would maybe avoid. Although it did work for Elle Woods!
There you go, you now have everything you need to make a super fancy or super basic CV. You can no longer complain about the task or moan that it will take you five hours to complete.
Just follow these steps and you’ll be finished in an hour. As long as you don’t over-think about your achievements. Making a CV is an achievement in itself.
If you would like to see a copy of my CV just let me know and I’d be more than happy to share. *I am in no way saying that my CV is AH-MAZING and that it is the template that you all should follow, but it’s a standard one and it’s got me to where I am today and I’m just trying to help y’all out.
Happy CV making! I’m off to try and make mine look just like the one above.
Check back here next Friday for the third instalment in the Placement Series – How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter