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Curriculum Vitae Guidelines

Your Curriculum Vitae is not only a tool to gain an interview; it should also work for you in interviews, help identify skill gaps and potential career paths. It can also be useful in preparing for reviews. Though not an exhaustive list, we have tried to address some of the most common queries and provide some practical guidelines for producing an effective  CV.

  • The Definitive CV. There is no “one” way to produce a CV. There are different styles to be adopted depending on the purpose of the CV. If there is a “Golden” rule, it is to tailor the CV according to what you need it to do.
  • CV Style. CVs can be produced in many forms from one page to four, from “Chronological” to a “Functional style” of skills and achievements, or projects listing. The “Chronological” is the most frequently used and is well understood. This can run from two to four pages. The “Functional” can be used by Interim managers wanting to showcase their particular skills, followed by a brief chronology of employers. This can be a one to two page CV. The Functional style is useful in situations when specific skills or “added value” achievements required for an advertised position were acquired by you in a previous role. In a “Chronological” style CV it is difficult to bring the relevant items to the fore. In a “Functional” style, with judicious cutting and pasting you can achieve this easily. So tailor the CV according to what you need it to do. The golden rule, if there is one, is TAILOR the CV to it’s most effective form to increase the likelihood of success.
  • The Length of a CV.  The often quoted “no more than two pages” in some instances is correct. However up to four sheets of A4 is acceptable provided it is not waffle or too detailed.
  • Chronology. Start with your most recent role and work backwards so that the recruiter sees the most relevant role first. This applies to a chronological CV as well as the listed skills and achievements style of CV where the chronology is situated at the bottom of the page.
  • Bulletin Points. The recipient of a CV should be able to glean information quickly. Too much narrative doesn’t help achieve this, bulletin points do. Also bear in mind size and style of font that is easy on the eye.
  • Running Order. When responding to an advertisement “cut and paste” the information on your CV to correspond with that required in the advertisement. It shows you have read it carefully, understood the requirements and made it easy for the recipient to see you are appropriate for the role.
  • Contact Details. Make them easy to find on the CV and make sure they are up to date, including Home and Mobile telephone numbers, home address and personal email address.
  • Professional and Educational Qualifications. State the years each were gained, especially noting first time passes, first class honours and prize awards.  Also note, where appropriate, degree and classification, together with the number of A levels and GCSE or equivalents. Where to place these details on the CV is a matter of preference. Professional qualification almost certainly should head up the CV.
  • Main CV. This is your main database of experience and not the one you will send out. It should be detailed and contain everything you have been responsible for and achieved. Use this to “cut and paste” to produce the CV that will go out. It is a quick way to produce a bespoke CV for each application.
  • Update.  Make a record of your experience quarterly and consolidate it at the end of each year. You will never have to struggle to remember what you did several years ago. It will also enable you to respond to the “perfect” job with a considered CV rather than producing a rushed affair. This may also be used to indicate how your career is progressing.
  • Responsibilities and Achievements. If you are a senior finance manager a few lines will suffice to outline your responsibilities and reporting lines. Our clients understand that you have the basics of accounting and are more interested in the impact you have had on your company. If not quite so senior, then you need to show you possess the basic skills set together with some achievements.
  • Achievements.  State the “what” of your achievements and not the “how”. If you can, quantify them. This demonstrates the return you have given on your company’s investment in you. Your achievements may also provide the interviewer with part of the agenda for the meeting. Stating the “what”  will naturally lead an interviewer to ask “how” you achieved your results. Recounting a success story will relax you and allow the interviewer to see you the person, rather than just an interviewee. When retelling the “success” story make it brief. If the interviewer wants to know more, they will drill down for more information.
  • Long History. As a senior manager you may have a lengthy history and are tempted to include all your experience from the first role. Your interviewers are likely to judge you on the last two senior roles you have held for a reasonable time. Your formative experience is not so relevant and so can be reduced to a few lines. These will only include the Company, the title of the role you held and the dates for that position.
  • Personal Profile. This is a matter of personal preference but worth comment. Most include it because someone somewhere has decreed it should head the CV. In truth most candidates struggle with it and are relieved when told it isn’t necessary. It generally states a personal opinion of skill and personal qualities. If a trusted third party makes a recommendation, you will take note. If a stranger makes assertions about themselves, you would more than likely take a cynical view. This generally reflects the conservative culture of the UK. So don’t include a profile if you feel awkward about it. The factual content of your CV is a better indicator of your strengths.
  • Position Held. It is useful to a recruiter to place you in context of the business you work in and the scope of your role. Include titles of who you report to and how many reports you have. The nature and size of the business and a brief description of the overall responsibilities.
  • Systems and Packages. Often forgotten off the CV and yet of significance in some instances. The level at which you operate in the various packages and their systems. Include implementations that you have played significant part in.
  • Languages. Only include languages if you are reasonably fluent. How do you know you are fluent? Ask yourself if; “after a short refresher course, could I conduct the interview in the stated language for the next hour?
  • Visual Presentation. On producing your CV you will want to show career progression. This usually means that the current role is larger than the previous. This can be presented visually by the amount of space each role takes on the page of your CV. Try to make your current role take more space on the page than your previous position and carry this idea back through the CV.
  • Salary Package.  Break your package down into base salary, bonus, car allowance, pension, life cover and be specific about each constituent element. This is relevant if you are sending your CV to a recruitment consultancy. If you are sending directly to a company that has advertised, it may be better to omit it if they have stated the salary for the position. If the salary hasn’t been stated, then include your package.

Hopefully these suggestions will help create a useful CV that works for you and that contributes to confidence in your interview performance.

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(Chronological Style)
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(Functional Style)

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