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CV Building

Trends and fashions change from year to year, but some CVs that we and potential employers receive look like remnants from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. If your CV looks dated, it will reach the recycle bin within moments. This simple guide will help you to revitalize your first and biggest selling point.

CVs and their covering letters are the first impression you make on any future employer, particularly if sent directly to the organization, as this will determine whether an interview will be set up.

Both CV and letter must be checked for grammar and spelling. It's best to ask someone else to proof read them. When you've been immersed in text and working closely with the document, it's hard to spot the errors. Don't just rely on the spell checker, design terminology isn't always found We've lost count of how many resumes have their headings misspelled, CIRRICULUM VITAE is popular, so is CURRICULUM VITA.

Covering Letter

  • When writing in response to an advert directly to the company, make sure the advert title, reference number, date and publication is mentioned at the beginning. Then follow with a paragraph highlighting your skills and experience relative to the job on offer. Refrain from overselling and being too confident. They do not want a shortened version of your CV, they just need a short letter telling them why you should be considered for the job.
  • If you are sending a circular, don't make the mistake of making it sound like one. Personalized letters show you are serious about their company. Make sure you are sending it to the right person and adapt each letter so it is relevant to that particular company. This is virtually impossible if you are sending out 100 in one batch. So don't. Send out say, 10 at a time, making sure each letter shows that you know about their company. You can then realistically follow up the letters with a call before sending the next 10.
  • The covering letter to a recruitment consultancy should be brief. Mention any advert you are replying to and if more of an enquiring letter, then in a few lines tell us about the type of job that would interest you. Also let us know your current salary and benefits package (including pension, car, health insurance, bonus etc.), would you prefer to commute or are you willing to relocate? Also let us know what your availability is, i.e., your notice period or whether you're not currently in work. All these particulars should be in the letter, not on your CV.
  • Remember that e-mailed letters are equally important and equally scrutinized. People seem to assume that it doesn't matter if the spelling or grammar is bad if it is sent electronically. A great many covering notes e-mailed to us, are of extremely poor layout and quality. Paragraphs and margins should still be adhered to. Most WP packages have a help facility to assist in letter writing. If you're not sure, use it.

The CV

We prefer a two page rather than a one page CV. The latter tend to be too brief and not informative enough. By all means go onto a third page if necessary, although this is more applicable the more experience you have. Avoid too many gimmicks or trying to be too different. Luminous green paper might stand out but will give the reader a headache and end up in the bin. Avoid designing your CV like a small notebook or a large flip chart, particularly when sending to a recruitment consultant. If they do not fit in the reader's file then they may be put aside. Recruitment consultants generally prefer A4 CVs for ease of use, copying and faxing. An electronic copy is even better. Examples of your work can be included but only if the copy quality is good and is a reflection of your abilities. If unsure, leave out. Here are some further pointers.

  • Use an easy to read font, pleasing to the eye.
  • Leave a border all round for the recipient to make notes.
  • Use capitals and bold text to emphasise headings and different sections of your CV.
  • Don't borrow someone else's style of CV, try to create your own, but keeping it simple and easy to follow.
  • Begin with personal details, qualifications and courses attended. Then outline your work history chronologically with your current employer first. Include the dates, your title, responsibilities and successes, bearing in mind the job you are applying for. Don't just list duties, try and include achievements or promotions. Your most recent experience in your current or last position should be more detailed than experience gained in previous jobs 5 or 6 years ago.
  • Ensure you have no gaps in your work history. Missing years will always be noticed. A month or two out of work is understandable but if you went travelling or took a break include this in the section with dates and a brief outline of what you did during this time.
  • Interests are fine as long as they are interesting and don't take up a whole page. An unusual interest may give a good talking point during the interview. Avoid trying to be witty or listing socialising, pubbing and clubbing, unless you know the employer is going to look favourably at it.
  • A paragraph at the beginning of your CV is often a good idea in particular to highlight any relevant skills such as project management, hand drawing skills, visualisations, IT and CAD. Include a list of packages, e.g., AutoCAD, Vectorworks, 3D Studio Max, SolidWorks etc. and any other software packages such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign that you are familiar with. Also indicate your ability to use Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, Outlook, Publisher etc.).
  • Bullet points are useful and can draw attention to the information, but don't pepper the CV with too many and likewise too many headings and graphics.
  • Finally, don't be afraid to show it to your friends to get their first impression. They might have some constructive criticism or they may surprise you by complimenting you on an excellent CV!

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