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March 6th, 2015

CV’s are an area that people have either read about lots, or don’t know anything about.

The way I see a CV, is as a front door. The CV has to be good enough for a recruiter to want to open it.

There will be a lot of additional blogs about CV’s and this initial blog is designed to cover the whole overview of a CV before I concentrate on each section in a later blog.

Please note that what I am about to cover is solely my opinion on what I specifically look for an am interested in, in a CV. It is not a critique of anything anyone else may do or suggest, merely my preference of what I like to see, and how.

Firstly, if there is anything other than your name on the top line of a CV, you are wasting your time and it is perhaps already ‘too busy’. A recruiter wants to know your name – First.

Following on from that, you need to put your address and any telephone numbers and e mail address on there. I see lots of CV’s with only a name… What’s the point. Please put as much contact information as possible. I prefer to call a mobile phone, as I assume that it is always with you. Some people try a land line first, just preference.

Also, a lot of people don’t put their address on a CV. Why? Most recruiters have pretty good search software these days where they can do a ‘Radial’ search of jobs that are suitable for you, or candidates that live within a certain distance from a job. If you have nothing on there then your details will not come up. It is OK if you will travel the whole of the UK, still just put your address on there.

That brings me straight on to the subject concerning text boxes – The bane of my life. What you need to remember, is that whenever your CV gets sent out to a client, we have to remove your personal details. If we didn’t, then there is nothing stopping the client contacting you direct and cutting us out of the process. If your CV is filled with text boxes, then it can be a monotonous task for us to delete these and then format your CV so that it looks nice and presentable again. What do we do? If we have time, then it will be done correctly, if not, then it may just be put together as neat as possible. There is no real reason to need to use text boxes these days in a CV as most word processing software is simple to use to negate this process.

Pictures on a CV: In my opinion, unless you are going for a modelling job, then I see very little point in adding one. Again, for reasons mentioned about, the client may recognise you and approach you directly, but secondly, most people put pictures that are either too dark, or with a horrible background and they just look silly. In the 10 years that I have been recruiting, I have not come across one good picture and have therefore never sent a CV with a picture to a client. One last point on pictures, they tend to make the CV file quite large, and therefore sometimes don’t get through to inboxes.

What order should you do your CV in: I always say that the CV should read most recent role first and then go backwards. The only reason I say this is because I want to see what you are currently doing first. If you imagine, in a single day, I could receive anything from 30 CV’s upwards, I don’t want to be trawling through a CV trying to see where you are working. The easier you make it for me, the better.

That brings me on to layout. We have already mentioned the inconvenience of text boxes (and I will also talk about pdf files later), but in terms of layout, what I want to see is: Job title, Company, Specific dates (not just June 2012 – July 2013), I like to see 1st June 2012 to 1st July 2013. May sound silly, but I like to see exactly how long you have been out of work (if any). Any gap here isn’t a bad thing (as long as you can explain it). After the date, I then like to see a description of what you do in this role. I am not bothered about reasons for leaving. I will ask you that when I speak to you.

Now, it is really important that you give as much detail into the description as possible. When I was at school, I was always told that a CV needs to be no longer than 2 pages. That was fine when I just graduated and had no work experience (and dare I say it, before the internet, search facilities and Job boards). What you have to bear in mind nowadays is that most recruitment consultants will have a daily search set up on all of the leading job boards, whereby CV’s are e mailed to them daily, of candidates whose CV’s contain certain keywords. Also, the higher the frequency of those keywords, the closer to the top of the list you will appear. Therefore, if your ‘Description’ only has a few lines, then the chances of you not showing up, or showing up towards the bottom of the list is very high. This is not to say that you repeat keywords throughout your CV unnecessarily, it is just to be as accurate and descriptive as possible. Secondly, you don’t want to leave any assumptions in my mind as a recruiter – that is a bad thing to do. As I’m sure you are aware, the same job title for similar companies could actually be very different. If I have a very descriptive CV and one with very little, but assume you do the same tasks, this could be a big mistake – An Electrical Engineer for a Contractor does very different things to an Electrical Engineer for a Consultant. Therefore, give me a ‘Day in the week of…..’ and I will read your CV knowing exactly what you do.

I said I will mention the subject of pdf files (briefly). PDF’s, for reasons mentioned earlier, can be a nuisance too. Again, we need to remove all of your personal details and then format them correctly. The simplest way to do this is to copy and paste it into a word processing program. Try doing it if your CV is in a pdf format and you will see very quickly that it is a nightmare. Also, some earlier versions of pdf files do not allow a search function, and so when searching for keywords in a CV, your CV may be missed as it cannot find any (even if they are there)

Spelling. OK, so you have been told and you know that spelling is really important on a CV, and even more frustrating, is that when you make a spelling mistake, there is a red line under the word telling you that the dictionary doesn’t recognise that word. Simple, change it. I do know that there are specialist words, or types of software that your computer won’t recognise, but really, there is no need at all for a CV to be sent out with any mistakes on it. The fact that you are e mailing it to me, tells me that you know how to use a computer and are therefore too lazy to change it.

Hobbies. ‘Oh no, my CV is over 4 pages and I still haven’t put my hobbies on there… should I?’ ‘YES’ is the answer. I once had a candidate who was a very high level line dancer. He put this on his CV. The client was also a very high level line dancer. Turns out they knew each other, but each party didn’t know what the other did for work. Quickest placement ever – YES. I set up the interview, and within a week, an offer had been made. The interview was even more of a formality. I would always tell people to put hobbies on their CV. It gives people a sense of who you are and what you do out of work. Also, if the interview gets tricky, or you are nervous, it gives the client something to ask you about to help settle you. ‘What if I don’t have any hobbies?’ – everyone does something. OK, so saying I like to ‘socialise with my friends’ may sound like you are a big drinker, or ‘TV’ makes you sound like a couch potato, but, if you were to be more specific such as ‘Socialising with my friends and going to local restaurants and trying different foods’ or ‘watching history or nature programmes on TV’ instantly gives your hobby more depth.

Referees: I wouldn’t advise putting referee details on a CV. You have to think that by putting them on there, you are giving someone permission to contact them. What if the client really doesn’t get on with one of the people you have put down? Or even worse, what if the client calls one of your referees for an ‘informal chat’ only for that person to be rude or not be expecting the call and tell them to call later – it might not be the best first impression of you. Therefore, I would leave them off. In a lot of cases, the details may have changed since the CV was written too.

Name: What file name should I call my CV?. Sound like a really silly thing to mention, but if I see someone with a CV titles: ‘John Doe CV June 2012’ against ‘John Doe CV’, I would think to myself, how many other CV’s has John Doe written in 2012 – is Gavin Dilkes always looking for a new job, is he a job hopper?

Number of CV’s: I spoke to a candidate a few weeks ago who told me that he had 2 different CV’s… Why? One was for when he used to be a teacher and the other for when he was an engineer. As far as I am concerned, you should only ever have one CV. A CV is a chronological list of work, experience and academic qualifications that you have achieved throughout your working life and so you should only ever have the one.

Cover letter: If I am honest, 90% of the cover letters I receive are general. I get the same one week in week out from one candidate, and so needless to say, I never read it anymore. Only ever do a cover letter if it is specific and relevant to the job, and please never just re-list your career history. Address the cover letter to the person you want it to be addressed to. Phrases like ‘ Esteemed recruiter’ and ‘Hiring manager’ really annoy me and just feel non specific.

Short CV: as mentioned above, there is no need to have a short CV. I would put as much detail in a CV as possible. When people ask me if I want them to send me the short version or the long one, I always ask for the long one.

E mail address and display name: Only a very simple thing, but I always think it is funny when people have e mail addresses like: bigdave27, or fairyprincess9. It just looks a little unprofessional. Just keep it nice and simple by having your name as your e mail address and display name.


Hope this helps