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What is a CV and why is it important?

What is a CV and why is it important?

As you leave school or college and go about looking for a job and building a career, you’ll hear the term CV thrown around quite a lot. Sadly, some schools and colleges are so focused on your academic performance, or teaching you your particular skills, that they forget to prepare you for the big wide world of work and many students are unaware of even how to write a good CV. The fact is that no-matter what you want to do or what you’ve trained as or even how good you are – your CV will be, without doubt, the single most important part of getting a job.

Where to start?

Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. The C.V stands for Curriculum Vitae (which is Latin and just means your story) In America they call a CV a Resume – but it’s just the same thing. The CV is a list of your qualifications, work experience, achievements and progress during your ‘working career’. It does allow you to talk a little bit about your personal hobbies and interests, but this is only a very small part of a CV. It shows your name and contact details at the top and then lists all your work experiences in date order starting with your most recent at the top. But we’ll talk about structure a bit later on.

Layout and Length

So as a school or college leaver, you need to have a CV that you can send prospective employers. Let’s talk about the layout and length. Remember that some employers will want you to send them a hard-copy CV, one that is laid out in paper. Some jobs ask you to send your CV online, so you’ll need to have a CV that you can send as an attachment. Both will need to follow the same layout and length. So here we go.

Presentation goes a long way to impressing the reader. And for good reasons, because if you’ve taken care on the look and layout of your CV, then it shows you care. If it looks sloppy and has spelling mistakes, then why should an employer take you seriously?  So, even if you don’t have lots of experience, there’s no reason why your CV can’t look smart.

Your CV should be about a page long (definitely no more than two pages) start with your name, address, phone numbers and mobile phone number if you have one.

After this you should start with your most recent work experience. So if you are currently doing a job or even a part-time job, start with this and date it from when you started. Then list any previous jobs or work experiences working backwards in date order. If you only have part-time jobs then put them down too. Try to bring out anything of interest that you have done in these jobs, or any skills you learnt. Try to show that you weren’t just ‘going through the motions’ at these jobs. If you don’t have very much work experience, show some events or experiences that you have taken part in; such as a sponsored run, or any courses you have been on.

Use a smart typeface such as Times New Roman, Arial or Verdana. These look good and are clear to read. 12 point is fine.
NB: if you are studying for a creative job, such as design or art direction, you can impress with your CV layout but you should make it smart and easy to read!

Your CV should be laid out under the following headings and sub-headings:

Name and contacts details
Put your name, e-mail, address and telephone contacts numbers

Work experience
List any work you have done from the present to your first job. Remember, it doesn’t have to have been paid work

Education and Qualifications
List your qualification and the schools or colleges you attained them. You can do this in date order for simplicity

Key skills
List any skills you have apart from you qualifications, i.e. – you are good with people or you have IT or nursing skills etc etc.

Personal interests
Take a few lines to show any hobbies or pastimes you have (if they relate to the job you are applying for, so much the better)

Name two people and their address (not relatives), who may be contacted by the employer for a reference.
Try to keep your CV interesting to read and informative. Not too long, but not too short either. And remember; remember to do a spell check. Bad spelling is a complete ‘no-no’ and it’s avoidable. Finally, get someone to read it over, preferably a course tutor or teacher, who can check the grammar and give you some feedback.

Once it’s ready, you can always amend it or add to it as your experience grows. Good luck.

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