How to write a brinking great CV

06/04/2017

You’ve put it off endlessly. Frankly you’d rather pull out your own nails. 

How to write a brinking great CV

You’ve put it off endlessly. Frankly you’d rather pull out your own nails.

But it can be avoided no longer.

If you’re coming up to the stage of applying for work experience, internships or graduate roles, you are now going to have to create a CV. You may be in the fortunate position of having already started one, but you know it needs updating, tailoring and polishing.

Are you finding the prospect of doing your CV a bit like this;

  • tedious having to remember the dates of every little bit of work experience
  • embarrassing and difficult trying to make yourself sound great
  • confusing with all the different advice out there
  • stressful knowing how much might hinge on this document being perfect and professional?

Well honestly you are not alone. Senior level professionals often seek help from professional writers as even with many years’ experience they find CV writing a challenge and a chore. And you, as a student or recent graduate, are completely new to this game. You also have the additional challenge of not yet having a professional background to call on to demonstrate your skills and attributes so you are relying on possibly some work experience, your academic credentials and extra-curricular activities to make you stand out.

But stand out you can. And if you follow our advice, getting that CV written and into shape won’t be as difficult as you think.

Mindset

The first and most important thing for you to remember is that a CV is a marketing document. It is not just a list of data and facts (or shouldn’t be anyway). It is marketing, even selling, you, your skills, your attributes and your potential in terms of what you may bring to an employer. As soon as you think of it as a marketing document, you know that it therefore needs to be engaging, interesting, tailored to the job role and persuasive. Not boring, not full of clichés everyone uses, not rehashed from your last application. Yes, this makes the job even harder. But this mindset will make your CV better.

Preparation

Let’s assume that you wouldn’t just launch into an essay or dissertation without a decent amount of preparation. Well your CV is no different. You need to plan the structure, research the content and establish the focus. So, what preparation do you need exactly?

  1. Ensure you have to hand details of schools, dates of exam qualifications, dates of any work experience, names of companies you’ve worked for at weekends or on holidays. If you are listing grades, for heaven’s sakes do not lie.
  2. Make a list of all and any badges, achievements, accolades. This may include Duke of Edinburgh, School Prizes, Sports or Dance Trophies, feedback from jobs or work experience, voluntary work.
  3. Think about the industry/company/job role/graduate scheme to which you are likely to be interested in applying. How much do you know about it? Not a huge amount? That needs to change. It’s time to do some serious research;

a.       What sort of qualifications, skills and characters are needed for the role? Look for graduate scheme info or job descriptions and person specifications or speak to any contacts in that field or your Careers Service.

b.     How big is the company and where do they sit in the market? Number one recognised brand? Middle ranking? Relatively new to the sector?

c.       What is the culture of the company or industry and what about it appeals to you?

d.     What are the objectives or any challenges facing industry and/or specific company and how is this aligned with your personal ambitions? Do you want to apply for a role in a government graduate scheme because you are passionate about public service and improving lives for people? Are you looking at an advertising company because their objective is to become the number one agency and you are competitive and creative and relish a fast-paced commercial environment?

Working out what makes you great!

This is the bit that people find hard. But if you can’t work out what makes you a potentially fantastic candidate it’s going to be very difficult to persuade an employer reading your CV of how awesome you are!

Write down what you think are your strongest attributes; skills, knowledge, personality traits and experience/achievements. If you need to, think about what your friends would say about you and what your schools/colleges/employers have ever said about you. Extend this exercise further by adding two things after each attribute.

  1. ‘Which means that’. This will help ensure you come up with real, useful, measurable attributes and put them in context of how an employer may benefit.

e.g. I am creative. Okay, so what? I am creative, which means that I can offer solutions and bring new and innovative ideas to the table.

      2. ‘And I demonstrated this when’. This will help you ensure you can back up everything you claim with evidence. This               exercise will help with interview preparation too.

e.g. I am creative, which I demonstrated when working on my student newspaper. I suggested different ways to improve readership by running a survey and more competitions. When we did this, readership increased by 30%.

 Structure

Start with a summary. This will give you an opportunity to write something personal and individual as well as tailor it to the specific role if you are applying for several different ones.

This should be a well-written, punchy, engaging paragraph highlighting your strongest achievements and attributes. Don’t say ‘I’m hard working and enthusiastic’ in this crucial section. It’s your first impression, the window onto the rest of your CV. So use it. Use words like ‘award winning’ and ‘proven’. Back up everything with strong, exciting examples drawn from your university life, work experience or extra-curricular activities. ‘Strong leader as demonstrated in my leadership of the university hockey team where I improved our success rate’. Bold, interesting statements.

Then, any work experience starting from the present and working back, followed by your University, schools and academic qualifications. Finish with any awards/prizes. And if it’s relevant and demonstrates valuable skills and attributes, include interests.

Style

You may be wondering why style is last on our list. Why we haven’t talked at length about, well, length, fonts and layouts.

That’s because it’s the content that will sell you. The content that will make you stand out. The content that will engage, interest and persuade an employer to bring you in for interview.

So if it goes slightly over two pages, don’t panic as long as it’s all relevant.

Use your common sense in picking a plain professional, logical layout and a sensible professional legible sized font.

Keep it black and white and include some white space so it’s easy to digest.

So in summary;

  • Let what you say make the impact, not how you present it
  • Prepare and do your research before putting fingers to keyboard
  • Remember that this is a record of achievement; a personal marketing document
  • Check it all thoroughly

From the mybrink team, good luck!