How to structure your curriculum vitae
- CVs should be no more than two pages, on good (e.g. 90-100gsm) white paper, typed or word-processed, and preferably in a font no smaller than 12 point.
- The purpose of a CV is to get the door open to interviews. You should see the document in the context of being supported by an introductory letter.
Your contact details (telephone, mobile, fax, email, address)
A profile statement - this is the first important sales pitch summarising the kind of candidate which the CV describes.
The statement should be no more than 2-3 lines in length and it should be filled with the kind of “attribute” words which will help the reader identify you as a potential candidate for the kind of role that you want to get. To take a couple of examples:
- A highly organized and experienced Payroll/Human Resources Administrator, with excellent communication and IT skills
- Self-motivated, committed software development team leader with over ten years experience developing large scale, robust systems to high quality standards using multiple platforms and languages
You may want to make this statement bold, to stand out. Remember, the reader may have hundreds of CVs to sift through for a post, so well-chosen (honest) words, which allow them to picture you as a fit to their requirements, are going to help them as much as yourself.
This is the part of your CV which you may decide to tailor for a specific job opportunity. Be sure that you describe the skills and personal qualities that they say they are looking for in the advert.
A bulleted list of your key achievements and skills so far, trying to keep each one to no more than a single line, and using “action” words which reinforce the positive role which you had. For example:
- Gained MCS qualification through night study
- Led and mentored a team of two junior programmers to develop a new suite of Outlook scripts
- Specified the requirements to select a new accounting package
and so on …
The point of this is that you are helping the reader to obtain a very quick portrait of what you can do, and how you work and influence things, which they can match against the picture of the ideal candidate that they have in their mind’s eye.
Simply as a matter of good aesthetics, try to keep the bulleted lines about the same length because the overall look of the whole document contributes to the way that the reader feels about the content.
Next, list your actual professional experience. The list of actual roles you’ve undertaken, which provides evidence of your skills. List jobs in reverse order and try to ensure that your most recent and relevant roles fit onto the first page.
- Name the company you were working for (with dates)
- Have 2-3 lines summarising the main parameters of that job.
- If you had multiple roles in the same company, have an entry for each.
- For the most recent role you may also like to list 4-5 points summarising your role and achievements. Try to use action words.
- Ensure that you can account for any gaps in the dates. In interviews, this is always one of the first things checked. Prospective employers use this history to try and build a picture of how the candidate’s career has developed.
After your job/role history, list your qualifications (highest first and work-based qualifications before academic ones). Add any courses which are relevant to the job role you are seeking too, and if these led to formal qualifications or not. For example, if you have attended a presentation skills course, this could be relevant for a lot of IT roles.
Then list professional memberships.
Lastly comes the remainder of your personal information e.g. Full clean driving license, date of birth. Opinions seem to vary on whether you should mention your existing salary or package.
Agencies will almost certainly ask this straight away if you do not volunteer this information. However, you can distinguish clearly between “package”(performance bonus, car, BUPA, pension, creche etc..) and basic salary; and it is perhaps better to say what you are looking for, rather than what you had before.
M.Sc., C.Eng., M.B.C.S.
Plain Sense Limited