The Imperfect Guide to writing a CV

The reason this is not a perfect guide is that there is no perfect method of writing or structuring a CV. Everyone has their own style, works in their own market space and has their own unique experience. For example, whereas it might be a good idea to make your CV aesthetically appealing if you work in the creative industry, it becomes less important if you’re a budding Finance Director

We love a unique CV, something that makes you stand out from the crowd, after all we called ourselves Blue Zebra! What we would say however is that once you’ve managed to grab our attention, it’s all about the content and if, after a short scan, it doesn’t do that, we’re unlikely to be calling you up.

It’s important to remind yourself what a CV is. It’s a sales tool. In fact, unless you have a creative portfolio it’s about the only sales tool you have. So why not sell? Don’t just regurgitate the job description you were sent when you first started your role. Make it interesting and attention grabbing as well as relevant to the role you’re applying for.

There are some guidelines you can follow to structure your CV and we’d recommend you consider them.

Personal Details

This one is fairly self-explanatory but also very important. More people are putting hyperlinks to their LinkedIn profile and leaving off their phone numbers and email addresses. We are big fans of seeing the Link but why leave off other ways of contacting you? When we say address, just a vague idea is enough, you don’t have to be specific…but please include a phone number. Most recruiters, in-house or agency. still like to pick up the phone, or at the very least Whatsapp/text. Make life as easy as you can for those looking at your CV’s.

One other thing put your contact details at the bottom of your CV, not the top. That’s wasted space. If a hiring manager likes what they read, rest assured they will find your contact details.

Be aware that in the interests of Diversity and Inclusion, a number of employers ask for your personal details to be taken off. This can include education details as well.

Personal Profile

Or “About Me” or “Executive Summary” or whatever you want to call it, we think it’s important. I always tell people that when you open a CV as a Word Document you only see the top half of the first page. This is your biggest opportunity to stand out so make a statement about yourself that makes them want to read on.

Tailor your personal profile toward the role you’re applying for!!

Be punchy (no more than 5 lines we would say), be bold and be honest. Avoid too much corporate speak, try to connect with the human being who is reading your words. This is more about who you are and what you bring than what you want. It’s ok to put a line in at the end about your aspirations (so long as they match the role requirements) but they are buying what you’ve already done, so make sure you shout about it.

Employment History

Number one rule here – don’t be dull. It’s difficult to write about your experience because to you it might not be all that interesting – hence you’re looking for a new role. It is however imperative that you take you time to remember all the achievements you’ve made and break them down into the most impressive and relevant.

Here are two statements saying the same thing in two different ways.

“Responsible for all direct marketing activity for my client across the whole channel mix”

“Actively increased our client’s ROI on their marketing activity by an average of 8%, introducing new channels to their marketing mix to drive awareness”

Which statement grabs your attention the most?

Personally, we like to see a summary of your role but then major on your achievements and think about how they might be attractive to the company you’ve approached.

Also, give us a clear idea of how long you were with the company and how long you were in that specific role. Sometimes candidates can do themselves a disservice by putting down lots of roles which might make their CV look unstable whereas the reality is they’ve had several roles but with the same organisation. So put a summary timeframe at the top, then break it down per role.

Use power verbs as much as you can without sounding like a thesaurus. Words like, optimised, developed, reduced, improved, resolved. There are plenty more like these, all useful to give your CV more gravitas.

One final tip. Don’t….be….dull. Or did we already mention that?

Education and Qualifications

Unless you’re a recent(ish) graduate we would put this underneath your experience. Potential employers will be interested, but more important is your experience for the role. And don’t be apologetic. If you got a 2:2 degree, firstly, join the club, secondly, don’t say you got a “second class honours”. Come one, we all know that means 2:2, otherwise you would have said you got a 2:1. Are we right?

Purely personally, I tend to look at degree’s, what they are, where you studied. I then look at A levels, what they were in and what grade you got. GCSE’s are less relevant to me, but I might give them a fleeting glance.

However….nothing beats experience. So whether you took the classic further education route or left school at 16 to start work it matters not if you’ve got the right kind of experience for the role. Honestly? More and more clients are impressed with the latter so don’t ever be apologetic.

Interests

I always, always read interests. Apart from the style of your CV it’s the only true insight into the real you I can read. My best advice is don’t hold back. It’s great that you like reading and going to the theatre along with everybody else. But what book did you last read and which show did you last see? Tell us. We’re genuinely more interested than you think, and it tells us more about you.

Our Opinion

There’s so much more to a CV than we’ve touched on here. If we could summarise the important parts, it would be as follows.

Be relevant, be interesting, be honest, be concise.

Keep it professional but give us a window into the real you.

Show off a little, this is your sales tool so sell. Don’t ever say “I have talking about myself”. I’m afraid that when you’re looking for a role, it goes with the territory whether you like it or not. As long as you’re honest and open and you’ve actually done what you say you have, then shout about it.

Finally..

There is another top tip we can share with you, but you have to ask!

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