The Ultimate Guide to Building a CV
By Richard McMunn

Introduction

My name is Richard McMunn and over the years I have helped hundreds of people to find work through my website how2become.com. I have developed a simple to follow, step-by-step process for creating CV’s that really do work! Within this workbook I will share with you my CV creating process, tips and advice and strategies for getting past the initial stage of any job selection process.The workbook, as you will see, is relatively short in length; this is intentional. I see absolutely no reason to create a CV book that is a few hundred pages long; simply because I do not need that much space to teach you something that is relatively straight forward! Once you have read the workbook please take the time to visit my website www.how2become.com where you will find lots of information and advice on how to pass any job/career selection process.I have always been a great believer in preparation. Preparation was my key to success, and it also yours. Without the right level of preparation you will be setting out on the route to failure. Getting past the initial stages of a job selection process is tough, but if you follow the steps that I have compiled within this guide and use them as part of your preparation then you will increase your chances of success dramatically.I want to stress from the offset that the vast majority of people who submit a CV do not get invited to interview and there are a couple of reasons for this failure– the CV they submit is usually out-of-date and it has very little relevance to the job they have applied for. If you want to be successful then your CV needs to be built around the job you are applying for, not built around yourself!
Email addresses and answerphones
In addition to the above reasons for failure many job-seekers fail to think of the finer details when creating or submitting a CV. We now live in a digital world where social media and email are very much the norm; however, with these electronic formats and mediums comes a warning – your email address and Facebook account can tell a lot about you as a person. I have seen some very bizarre email addresses when inviting CV’s to be submitted for a job that I have advertised. Why anyone would want to submit a CV via a personal email address that has some reference to the person’s sexual desires is beyond me! You would be surprised at how often this happens- raunchysarah@.... was just one example. Call me judgemental, but I don’t think it sets a very good impression of the person who has just applied for my office manager’s post!The point I am trying to make here is that you should be aware of things like this. If you leave a mobile telephone number contact on your CV make sure your answerphone message is appropriate and professional.
Social network sites
Social network sites such as Facebook and Myspace can hinder and even stop your application process. Now please don’t panic, I am not for one minute inferring that employers will check your Facebook or social media account before they invite you to interview, but is possible for them to do so.You may or may not be aware but it is possible to search for someone on Facebook by simply typing their email address into the search bar on Facebook. If your account is ‘unlocked’ and set in ‘public’ mode then anyone can view your page. The point I am making here is that you should think carefully about the information that is on your Facebook and social media page(s). Let’s assume that you are looking for a new job because you hate your boss. You have posted many comments on your Facebook profile expressing your disaffection for your job and your boss and your Facebook profile is public! How would it look to a potential employer? My advice is to make sure your social media sites are locked and not accessible to anyone other than your friends.To further assist you in writing an effective CV I have created for you a free online training video and CV templates. You can watch the video and gain access to the CV templates at the following website:

Chapter 1: CV Basics

What is a CV?
The word Curriculum Vitae translated means the ‘course of life’. CV’s are used to demonstrate to an employer that you have the potential, the skills and the experience to carry out the role you are applying for. Your CV is a very important document and you should spend sufficient time designing it so that it matches the job that you are applying as closely as possible.
Why do people fail to get shortlisted?
The submission of a CV is usually the initial stage of any selection process. Most employers will place a job advert either in a newspaper or online with brief details of the job attached inviting people to apply for the post by way of submitting their CV. The vast majority of people will send off their ‘generic’ CV by email and then wonder why they never receive a reply.I have heard many people complain that they never hear back from a potential employer, despite submitting what they believe to be a fantastic CV and covering letter. Whilst I agree it is rude for an employer not to respond to every CV that they receive, I can understand why they don’t. I have been fortunate enough to work in both the public and private sectors. In the public sector we always acknowledged every CV that was submitted and I genuinely believe this was good practice. However, in the public sector most managers do not understand how a business runs, nor do they understand how valuable time is as a resource. When you own a business you have to make sure that every minute of your working day is used to promote growth and profitability for your company; sending out acknowledgment emails and letters to submitted CV’s does not fail into either of these categories!So, as a job applicant you have to understand how your average business owner or head of department operates – in a nutshell, they are very busy people and as such you need to make your CV as appealing and as effective as possible. If you do this, then they will notice your CV and you will get shortlisted; it’s as simple as that!
What makes an effective CV?
In simple terms, an effective CV is one that matches the person specification and the requirements of the job you are applying for. Your CV should be used as a tool to assist you during the selection process and it should be centred on the following areas:
  • Creating the right impression of yourself;
  • Indicating that you possess the right qualities and attributes to perform the role of the job you are applying for;
  • Grabbing the assessor’s attention;
  • Being concise, succinct and clear;
  • Providing evidence of your relevant skills and qualifications.
The most effective CV’s are the ones that make the assessor’s job easy. They are simple to read, to the point, relevant and they also focus on the job/role that you are applying for. CV’s should not be overly long unless an employer specifically asks for this. Effective CV writing is an acquired skill that can be obtained relatively quickly with a little bit of time, effort and focus.Most people are guilty of creating one CV and submitting it for many different jobs; this is a big mistake. Although it involves additional work, your CV should be tweaked, amended and updated for EVERY job you apply for.Before you begin to start work on your CV it is a good idea to have a basic idea of how a job/person specification is constructed. A job description/person specification is basically a blueprint for the role you are applying for; it sets out what the employer expects from potential applicants. One of your main focus points during the construction of your CV will be to match the job/person specification using keywords and phrases. Most job/person specifications will include the following areas:EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: previous jobs, unpaid work experience, life experience, skills, knowledge and abilities: for example, languages, driving, knowledge of specialist fields, ability to use equipment, plus some indication of the level of competence required, and whether the person must have the skills or knowledge beforehand or can learn them on the job.QUALIFICATIONS REQUIRED: exams, certificates, degrees, diplomas (some jobs require specific qualifications, but most do not and it can be fairer to ask for the skills or knowledge represented by the qualification rather than asking for the qualification itself).PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES REQUIRED: such as strength, ability to lift, willingness to work in a hectic busy environment or on one's own.PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES: such as being able to work weekends or evenings or even to travel.Most job/person specifications will be based around a task analysis of the vacancy, so there should be nothing within the job description/person specification that is irrelevant or that does not concern the particular role you are applying for. Whatever requirements you are asked to meet, you should try hard to match them as closely as possible, providing evidence if possible of your previous experience.Matching the job descriptionThis short section is very important, so please read it carefully and try to understand how to match the job description when creating your CV.As already stated a job description is the blueprint for the role you re applying for. Whenever I advertise a job vacancy with my company I will sit down and think about the skills, qualities and attributes that I want the successful candidate to possess. Once I know what these are I will write the job description and person specification.Here is a sample person specification and job description for a retail customer services assistant:

Retail Customer Service Assistant Job Description and Person Specification

We are looking for someone who is:

  • Passionate about retail.
  • Focusing on the customer and striving to understand them better than anyone.
  • Driven to achieve results through determination and commitment.
  • Committed to treating people in a fair and consistent way.
  • Willing to roll their sleeves up to get things done.
  • Determined to respond energetically to customer feedback.
  • Motivated to work in partnership with others to achieve individual and team objectives.
  • Adaptable and flexible to thrive in a 24/7 business.
  • Devoted to seeking feedback on their performance and investing time in their own development.

Within your job you will need to perform the following tasks:

  • Maintain excellent store standards
  • Achieve customer service target levels
  • Deal with customers in a friendly and positive manner
  • Ensure compliance with food safety standards
  • Deal with disputes and customer complaints in a constructive and positive way.
  • Detect and prevent shop lifters
  • Carry out duties of a checkout assistant where applicable
  • Issue exchange and refunds brought to the CS desk.
The first step in creating an effective CV is to obtain a copy of the person specification and the job description. You then need to highlight the key skills, qualities and attributes within the document(s) and write them down on a separate piece of paper or word document. In order to demonstrate how this is achieve I will provide you with the same retail customer service assistant job description/person specification with the keywords/areas highlighted.

Retail Customer Service Assistant Job Description and Person Specification

We are looking for someone who is:

  • Passionate about retail.
  • Focusing on the customer and striving to understand them better than anyone.
  • Driven to achieve results through determination and commitment.
  • Committed to treating people in a fair and consistent way.
  • Willing to roll their sleeves up to get things done.
  • Determined to respond energetically to customer feedback.
  • Motivated to work in partnership with others to achieve individual and team objectives.
  • Adaptable and flexible to thrive in a 24/7 business.
  • Devoted to seeking feedback on their performance and investing time in their own development.

Within your job you will need to perform the following tasks:

  • Maintain excellent store standards
  • Achieve customer service target levels
  • Deal with customers in a friendly and positive manner
  • Ensure compliance with food safety standards
  • Deal with disputes and customer complaints in a constructive and positive way.
  • Detect and prevent shop lifters
  • Carry out duties of a checkout assistant where applicable
  • Issue exchange and refunds brought to the CS desk.
Once we have worked through the document and highlighted the key areas, skills and requirements we now have something to work with. Here’s the list of key requirements for the post:
- Passionate;
- Customer focused;
- An ability to achieve;
- Treating others fairly;
- Being motivated to get things done;
- Determined;
- Being able to listen to customers feedback;
- An ability to work with others as part of a team both internally and externally;
- A flexible approach to work;
- An ability to continually improve;
- Continuous professional development;
- Excellent standards;
- Able to achieve target levels and goals;
- Able to follow rules and apply set standards.
- Deal with customer complaints;
- Awareness;
- An ability to work on a checkout;
- Able to issue exchanges and refunds.
Once you have created your list detailing the requirements, skills and attributes for the job you are now able to start creating you CV and building it around the list you have compiled. By following the above process for every job you apply for you will be greatly increasing your chances of success.Every great CV will contain a personal statement which describes your own personal qualities and the reasons why you have applied for the job. It doesn’t have to be a long statement, but sufficient enough to tell the reader that you are the person they need to interview. If I was applying for the above retail customer services assistant job then my personal statement would look like this:
Sample personal statement

“I am a highly passionate and determined person who can be totally relied upon to carry out a competent and professional job. I have extensive experience of working in a customer-focused environment and always put the customer first. I understand that the customer is crucial to an organisations success and can be relied upon to deal with customer complaints effectively whilst listening to their concerns and feedback. I am an excellent team player who genuinely believes in the importance of treating others fairly and diligently. I maintain excellent standards and always look for ways to improve my personal and professional development by seeking feedback from my managers. Finally, I am a dedicated and flexible person who I believe would be a valuable asset to your team and organisation.”

You will see that the above statement is both powerful, hard-hitting and focused on matching the requirements of the role. Once again, I will highlight the keywords and phrases that are relevant to the key requirements of the post:
How the personal statement matches the requirements of the job
“I am a highly passionate and determined person who can be totally relied upon to carry out a competent and professional job. I have extensive experience of working in a customer-focused environment and always put the customer first. I understand that the customer is crucial to an organisations success and can be relied upon to deal with customer complaints effectively whilst listening to their concerns and feedback. I am an excellent team player who genuinely believes in the importance of treating others fairly and diligently. I maintain excellent standards and always look for ways to improve my personal and professional development by seeking feedback from my managers. Finally, I am a dedicated and flexible person who I believe would be a valuable asset to your team and organisation.”
I fully appreciate that following the above method and practices takes time; however, I hope you can see how effective it is at helping you to create a CV that matches the requirements of the job. I can guarantee that the highlighted keywords and phrases will catch the attention of the person reading/assessing your CV and your chances of being shortlisted will increase greatly.Of course, the personal statement is only a small element of your CV and you will have further opportunities to demonstrate your worth within the other areas of the CV. Before I go in to more detail about how you can create an awesome CV, let us first of all take a look at what the person assessing your CV is looking for.
What is the person assessing your CV looking for?
As previously stated you should ensure that you make the assessor’s job as simple as possible. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the assessor. How would you want an applicant’s CV to look? You would want it to be relevant to role they are applying for and you would want it to be neat, concise and well organised.For the majority of jobs out there, there will be a job specification and/or person specification. You need to spend some time thinking about the type of person they are looking for and how you can match the specification that is relevant to the job you want as already covered. Most job specifications will list the essential/desirable requirements in terms of education, qualifications, training, experience, skills, personality and any other special requirements.Let’s now take a look at another job description and person specification for an entirely different job. The job description and person specification that follows is for the role of a Physical Training Instructor with a local gymnasium.
Qualifications required
You will need 2 GCSEs/SCEs or equivalent, in the subjects of English language at Grade C/3 minimum and in Mathematics at Grade G/6 minimum.You will need to have a good standard of fitness in a number of sports and have the ability to swim.You will be assessed via a specialist interview and be required to undertake additional tests.
About the Job
Physical Training Instructors are responsible for organising and arranging physical fitness training programmes for all members of our gymnasium. Therefore, a good standard of physical fitness and organisational skills are required. In addition to being physically fit you must also possess good motivational skills and be capable of:
- Managing and arranging adventure activities;
- Managing sporting facilities;
- Organising and conducting instructional classes;
- Performing fitness tests;
- Arranging and holding sports counselling sessions.
You will see from the above details that some of the key elements of the role include suitable levels of physical fitness, good organisational skills, motivational skills and the ability to manage people and resources. Once you have the above information then you will be able to mold your CV around the key aspects of the job.Before I provide you with a sample CV that is based on matching the above role, let’s first of all take a look at some of the key elements of a CV.