What is a CV, when do you use it and why is a CV is important?

We look at the importance of your CV and resume, how it can help you and when it becomes irrelevant too!

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The CV is often considered to be an essential tool for anyone job hunting. And once you’re in work the chances are you will still need one for stepping into new roles, climbing the career ladder and progressing. But what exactly does it do, how should it be structured and how essential is it really? These might seem like pretty basic questions – and to some people they are – but when you’re taking your first steps into the working world from school, college or university and for a lot of people further down their career path too, it can seem daunting, confusing and unclear. So, we’ve put together this guide to help you to understand what to include in your CV, how it should be used, when a CV is important (and when it’s not).

What is a CV for?
A CV is traditionally used to summarise an individual’s career and educational experience. When employers are looking to hire additional team members and workers, there will almost always be a requirement for a CV. It should be no more than two pages in length, but ideally one page long. The only real requirement of a CV or resume is that it shows an employer or recruiter whether you have (or are capable of learning) the right skills, experience and insight for a job. We said capable of learning because we know that for a lot of people, particularly recent graduates from schools, colleges or universities are unlikely to have experience and will be learning on the job – and that’s fine too. For younger and less experienced candidates’, employers will know this and are often looking to see that you are capable of being taught and would be a good fit for the job.

What should you include in your CV?
The age-old question of details on a CV is one that continues to go under debate. Some people would recommend keeping it solely for past roles and education, others prefer a more personal insight into an individual. We would personally recommend a good balance between the two. Introduce yourself honestly, boldly, ambitiously and excitedly, without using too many clichés, eg. ‘I’m passionate about working’ – ugh, don’t say that! Try opening with three to four sentences about your experience, your ambitions, your drivers, your experience and perhaps use one sentence to talk about your out-of-work interests and hobbies. These may seem irrelevant but if they are interesting then they may well get you through to the interview stages. We hopefully shouldn’t have to mention this either, but we will, never lie. Just don’t go there. Trust us on this one. Next, layout your work experience. This should include previous roles, length of time at each role and a summary paragraph (3-4 sentences) about each role and the responsibilities that went with it. Here is your chance to shine. Make sure it stands out. We said don’t lie and we meant it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rephrase sentences to make your role sound more engaging, exciting, high-powered or important. Finally, make sure you reference your qualifications, be they from school, college or university. Only include the latest set (eg. if you have A Levels, then you can leave out GCSEs). If you have a college or university degree, you can leave out GCSEs or A Levels. There are some cases and certain roles where GCSE or A Level results will still be relevant though, such as a requirement to have a B+ grade in Maths or English. In these cases, tailor your CV to the role or recruiter and make sure to include them. Finally, include your name and contact details. We’ve left these until last because they are often forgotten – but make sure you include them on the header at the top of the page. A full name, telephone number and email address are essential. And make sure you proof read them all!

When does a CV become irrelevant?
This is an interesting one and often not covered. However, like most things in life and especially in the professional world, there is a time and a place for everything. While a CV is almost always recommended for job applicants, there are occasions when it is better to hold off sending one, if you can. If you can get your foot in the door with a company through personal contacts, networking and alternative methods then we would always advise you do this! In today’s society, it’s becoming increasingly tricky to stand out from the crowd with your CV or resume. Recruiters and HR managers often hold thousands of CVs on individuals and unless yours is at the top of the pile then it probably won’t get a look in. That’s primarily why we would recommend you always take a different route to a role if you can. But, we understand that that’s not often possible – particularly with larger companies that operate like great machines. But, for smaller companies, it’s never been easier to engage on a more personal level. And in these instances, it’s far better to go for the personal contact, hold off on sending a CV through and try instead to go for an interview. By the time you have an interview, your CV is often tossed in the bin! Your interview then becomes your CV and that is your chance to shine. Click here to read our article covering off the tips and tricks on getting an interview without a CV.

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