The Ultimate Guide to Building a CV
By Richard McMunn

Expert Tips and Advice

New application = new CV

It is important that every time you apply for a job you re-evaluate the content of your CV so that you can match the skills and qualifications required. As a rule you should complete a new CV for every job application, unless your applications are close together and the job/person specification is relatively the same. Don’t become complacent or allow your CV to get out-of-date. The main reason why most people do not get invited to interview is simply because their CV does not match the skills, qualities and experiences required to perform the advertised role. As mentioned previously, you must get in to the habit of structuring your CV around the person specification for the job you are applying for. If you take the time to follow this advice then I guarantee you will soon see your luck start to change when you apply for jobs.

Don’t pad out your CV

There is a common misconception amongst many job applicants that you need to make your CV scores of pages long for it to get recognised. This simply isn’t true. When creating your CV aim for quality rather than quantity. If I was looking through an applicant’s CV then I would much prefer to see three 5 pages of high quality focused information rather than 30 pages padded out with irrelevance.

Create a positive image

Writing an effective CV involves a number of important aspects. One of those is the manner in which you present your CV. When developing your CV ask yourself the following questions:
- Is my spelling, grammar and punctuation correct?
- Is my CV legible and easy to read?
- Is the style in which I am writing my CV standardised?
- Is my CV neat and does it look presentable?
- Is the CV constructed in a logical manner?
By following the above tips in respect of your CV image you will be on the right track to improving your chances of getting the job you are after. You should spend just as much time on the presentation of your CV as you do on the content. Finally, in relation to CV presentation, do not use overly-stylish fonts that look good, yet can be difficult to read. Think about the person assessing your CV; they do not have a lot of time to spend reading every CV that is presented in front of them so go out of your way to make their life easier.

Do you have the right qualities and attributes for the job you are applying for?

When you are developing your CV have a look at the required personal qualities that are listed within the job/person spec. Try to match these as closely as possible but, again, ensure that you provide examples where appropriate. For example, in the sample job description for a Physical Training Instructor one of the required personal qualities was to:

‘Organise and conduct instructional classes’

Try and provide an example of where you have achieved this in any previous roles. The following is a fictitious example of how this might be achieved:

“I am currently the Captain of my local football team and part of my responsibilities include organising and conducting weekly evening training sessions for the team. For every training session that I run I always try to vary the type of exercises that we perform. This allows me to maintain everyone’s motivation and interest levels. For example, one week I will organise the Multi Stage Fitness Test for them and another week I will arrange practice tackling and dribbling skills.”

Matching your qualities and attributes to the role you are applying for is very important. Don’t forget to also follow the advice I provided earlier in relation to using matching keywords and phrases in your CV from the person specification and job description. The person reading your CV will soon notice these and they are far more likely to offer you an interview if there are similarities between the documents.

Be honest when creating your CV

If you lie on your CV, especially when it comes to academic qualifications or experience, you will almost certainly get caught out at some point in the future. Maybe not straight away, but even a few months or years down the line an employer can still dismiss you for incorrect information that you provide during the selection process. It simply isn’t worth it. Be honest when creating your CV and if you don’t have the right skills for the job you are applying for, then go out there and get them!

Telephone numbers and answerphones

Think carefully about the contact telephone numbers you leave on your CV. The first point I want to make is that any number(s) you leave should be from phones that are with you most of the working day. Ideally, you need to be able to answer any calls from prospective employers immediately. However, if an employer needs to leave a message on your answerphone then make sure your answerphone welcome message sounds polite and professional!

Leaving sufficient space on your CV

I have seen many CV’s which are cluttered. If I’m honest, I don’t usually read them! It is your job to make the employers’ job easy when they are reading through your CV. You can achieve this by only including relevant facts on your CV and using sufficient white space. The sample CV’s that I included in the previous section are perfect in terms of the amount of white space and their presentation.

Use of font styles and the size of fonts

You do not need to make use of the flashiest and most exotic text fonts in your CV! Again, think about the person reading your CV and the type of image you want to portray. I would imagine that you want to come across as professional and organised and this can be achieved by using fonts such as Arial and Times Roman. I personally choose Arial with a font size of 12 when creating my CV. I also make use of bold headings which are usually size 16.

Use of abbreviations

Unless it is absolutely obvious what the abbreviation is I recommend that you do not use them. The only abbreviations that I feel are appropriate are the ones used for educational qualifications.

The use of ‘career breaks’

In an ideal world you will be able to demonstrate a seamless period of employment without career breaks. However, sometimes this is unavoidable, especially if you have taken a career break to raise your family or have been on maternity/paternity leave. I have seen a few CV’s in the past that have given very strange reasons for career breaks, such as: “To find myself” “To explore the world with my university friends” “To take a well-earned break from work” “To travel” Whilst there is nothing wrong with any of the above and they are all valid reasons for taking a career break, they could have been written in a better manner. Here’s some better ways of explaining career breaks and reasons to include on your CV: “Travel the world to experience different cultures and languages” “Time off to study and improve my knowledge and life experiences” “Time off to look after a relative who had been taken ill”

References – available on request

There is nothing wrong with putting ‘References available on request’ on your CV; however, I much prefer to see genuine names and contact details of current or previous employers provided as references. It will give an employer more confidence in your abilities to perform the role so I would strongly advise putting down two references on your CV.

The number of previous employment positions can be detrimental

I have to be truthful here, if I see a CV where the applicant has had many different jobs over a relatively short period of time, I will not invite them to interview, regardless of their skills or qualifications. This is simply because if there has already been a history of that person staying in many jobs for a short period of time it is highly likely that they will not stay with my company for a prolonged period of time either. I remember one particular applicant who submitted her CV and she had been through no fewer than 11 jobs in the past 3 years! Personally, I do not want to spend time training up an individual if they are likely to leave soon after. This is also the exact reason why I try to encourage people to stay in a job for at least 12 months at a time; it looks so much better on their CV.

Reasons for leaving

We have all left jobs because we either disliked our boss, our work colleagues or the company we worked for; however, sticking down on your CV you left a post because you ‘didn’t get on with your boss’ is unwise. My advice is simple: do not put down any reasons for leaving your post on your CV unless they are positive ones. OK, you have now almost reached the end of your guide; I do hope you have found the information helpful. 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:

A Few Final Words

You have now reached the end of the guide and no doubt you will be ready to start writing your own CV. Just before you go off and start on your preparation, consider the following. The majority of candidates who pass any career selection process have a number of common factors. These are as follows:

1. They believe in themselves.

The first factor is self-belief. Regardless of what anyone tells you, you can get to interview and you can pass any career selection process. Just like any job you have to be prepared to work hard in order to be successful. When I left school I achieved very few educational qualifications, but it didn’t stop me from achieving what I wanted in life. Make sure you have the self-belief to pass the selection process and fill your mind with positive thoughts.

2. They prepare fully.

The second factor is preparation. Those people who achieve in life prepare fully for every eventuality and that is what you must do when creating your CV or applying for any job application process. Work very hard and especially concentrate on your weak areas.

3. They persevere.

Perseverance is a fantastic word. Everybody comes across obstacles and setbacks in their life, but it is how you react to them that is important. If you fail at something, then ask yourself ‘why’ have I failed? This will allow you to improve for next time and if you keep improving and trying, success will eventually follow.

4. They are self-motivated.

How much do you want to the particular job you are applying for? Do you want it, or do you really want it? When you apply for a job you should want it more than anything in the world. Your levels of self-motivation will shine through when you walk into the interview and your enthusiasm should come across within your CV. Finally, don’t forget - 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: Work hard, stay focused and be what you want…

Richard McMunn