Top Tips for CVs
Our founder Sharon Pink talked to London’s LBC Radio 97.3 FM about the top tips for CVs – a main topic of concern for all our school and college-leavers.
What is a CV and why do you need one?
A curriculum vitae or résumé is all about YOU. It’s YOUR sales tool. It showcases your skills, learning and experience, your achievements and accomplishments. The purpose of your CV is to win you an interview. So you want it to be smart, professional, easy to follow and well-written.
Layout and style
No gimmicks unless you are going for a really creative role.
CVs are usually distributed via email these days so make sure yours is easy to view on any PC screen, which means minimise fuss and avoid strange fonts or characters.
Keep your layout simple and uncluttered – make it easy for people to see what you did and when. You don’t have to write a lot – maximum two pages for a first job and probably one is enough for a school student or school-leaver. The key is: don’t cram it all in just to make it fit one page.
CONTENT is the main thing but spelling is really important – and we mean not making basic mistakes. Don’t rely on spell-checkers because they allow lots of different types of spelling that may not be technically wrong but aren’t right in your context. You need a real person to read it and check it for you. Ideally a parent or a teacher or a careers officer or a neighbour – if you know someone who is an employer in a business, show it to them – or ask us to help!
If you’re going for a job in a certain industry or for a particular company, do tailor a CV to that company or enclose a cover letter properly tailored to what they are looking for. If you’re applying to a particular company, read their web site, look at their marketing materials, see how they describe their company and their corporate values and you can follow their example in the style of language they use.
Some businesses are very formal and others are more relaxed and they want to know you can fit in with their style. Reading up about them will help you write your CV to fit with their company style.
Make the most of any work experience
If you’re going for your first job or for work experience, the main mistake is to think that you don’t really have anything to say because you haven’t had a job yet – so school students tend to just put the dates they went to school, the subjects they took and the results they got. How does that make you stand out from the thousands of other CVs all saying the same thing? Think about the following aspects of work that employers really value:
TEAMWORK – What teams have you been in? Sports teams, drama teams, a park football team, anything like that – and show how you contributed – businesses need people who are good at working in teams so they want to hear about this! If you can’t think of that kind of team, did your class ever run an Assembly on a special topic? Did you do a class project that meant working on a team? What was it about? Business is often about project work – that’s teamwork too. Write about it!
LEADERSHIP – Were you a team captain? A form captain? Head Girl or Boy? Head of the Drama Club, chess club, Make-Up club, the Lady Gaga Fan Club, whatever it is, if you led it – talk about it! Any experience of leadership is a good marker for your future career so promote it on your CV.
RESPONSIBILITY – If you aren’t or weren’t a leader as such, what about other forms of RESPONSIBILITY?
Some school students get involved in showing parents around the school when they come to open days, being the lunch monitor, helping with playground duty – it all helps give employers confidence you can be trusted and are ready for roles with responsibility. What about outside school? Baby-sitting involves significant responsibility; looking after brothers and sisters, helping neighbours with shopping or odd things round the house. If you’ve done any work experience in a shop for example, working on a till will show you’ve had experience of managing money and have been trusted in a customer service environment. It’s what employers want to see.
INITIATIVE, ENTERPRISE, CHARITY EVENTS, SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY- Ever do any sponsored or charity events in school or with friends or family outside school? Shows initiative, social responsibility, supporting the community or working with the public – write about it!
RELEVANT ACTIVITIES – Then, whatever job you’re going for, think about what’s relevant to that type of work? If you’re going for creative jobs, what have you made? Costumes for school plays? Bits of scenery? Artwork, paintings? Recorded any music? A video or two on YouTube or something – provided it’s fit to be seen, use those as references. Written any articles or poems for the school newsletter or web site? Enclose examples or pictures.
REFERENCES – Speaking of references, get some – any work you have had, even just a Saturday job, get a reference from the manager or owner. Build your references and build your credibility.
And lastly, we can’t emphasise it enough – if you want to improve your spelling, at any age, just read more. Not social media because that’s not necessarily where to look for great spelling, but books and newspapers and, if you’re looking at joining the world of work, read the business sections, read business magazines, read trade magazines, learn how business people talk and write and that will help you write better.
For any schools who would like targeted sessions for Sixth Formers on CV and interview preparation, you know where we are!
And many thanks to Toby from St Albans, who is the special Guest Artist on our CV tips page