CV See Me - Orchard's CV tips for Candidates

1. Your CV is a functional document

Many people when designing a CV get very excited about how it looks, obvious really I guess given their design backgrounds. However what they fail to do is look at it as a design brief. If you were given the job by a client then you would look at the purpose of a CV and what it needed to achieve before you worked on it.

So before we do anything lets look at that: What is the purpose of a CV? What single task does it need to achieve? To get noticed? To get a job? To get an interview? The answer is simple, to solicit contact. The only function that the document needs to achieve is to get them to contact you. With that in mind you need to focus on what information is needed to gain that contact.

Lets move ourselves over the fence for a minute and look at the role of the resourcer, the employer, the company. Recruiting is painful. No one in their right mind would want to do it unless they had to. You have to dedicate lots of time to a difficult process and make very important decisions with very little information and gut instinct. If they get it wrong, it's going to cost their company a lot of cash, if they get it right then it's great news for everyone.

Following advertising the fact that they would like to take someone on, the next stage for the employer is to sort through the applications. This is very time consuming, requires a very high level of concentration and is very repetitive. So whilst they are keen to find the right person, THEY DO NOT WANT TO READ YOUR CV.

In short you need to get in and get out as fast as you can, deliver enough information to let them make a considered decision as quickly as possible. Information needs to be comprehensive but succinct; too much and the reader will find it hard to find what they need, too little and your work history will lack 'credibility'.

So when designing your CV ensure that you do not sacrifice information for beauty. It might look great but if it can't tell the reader that you have the skills and experience they are looking for you just won't make it through the initial sift. Getting noticed is no good if you don't deliver the information to get the contact.

2. The real meaning of dates on a CV

Dates are really important on a CV. Not just to show how long you have spent with each employer but employers also use them to look for inconsistencies and unusual gaps. If you go travelling for a period, then make sure you put it into your history. When you are initially considered you won't have the opportunity to explain gaps, so if they aren't detailed on your CV then you may not get through. Always do your dates in reverse chronological order ie. newest role first. This will ensure that your most relevant experience is first to hand.

3. Proof check, then proof check again, then send it to someone else to proof check

You are in the communications industry and typos just aren't acceptable. Remember it's quite hard to proof your own work so try and get a friend to check over it for you. Some classic typos include GCSE's (GCSEs NO apostrophe needed), Curriculum Vitae (it's latin spell it correctly), liase (liaise), Quark Express (Quark§XPress), organize, realize, maximize (Use a UK spell checker!)

4. Size matters

Try to keep your CV as short as you can. Unless you are a very senior candidate, most CVs can be condensed down to two pages, three at the absolute most. Long CVs can be very daunting and are usually a result of over exuberance.

5. Education details

Your education needs to be represented (especially with less experienced candidates) but we don't need to know every GCSE grade and subject. Details of your degree and major projects can be useful. Reverse chronological order again and most detail about the most recent qualification.

6. Detailed work history

When presenting your work history, it's important to summarise the work at each employer. If you are working in a design team in say a property developers you will have worked on very different projects than if you had worked in a design team within a recruitment advertising agency. Each role can benefit from bullet points detailing the exact types of projects worked on. Remember to include any successes and particular personal contributions you have made during your time in the role. This is especially useful when applying for different jobs as you can re-organise bullet points to emphasise different skills for individual roles.

7. References

References can take up considerable space on a CV and it's important to note that clients will not check references without prior contact with you. Therefore why have them on there? The only benefit for having a reference on a CV is if your reference opens doors. They would need to be a key player in your industry who is known and respected by their peers. If they aren't then I wouldn't put them down; your employers and other referees can be available on request and this will save valuable CV real estate.

8. Contact details

Email and mobile number are primary contact details, but include a permanent address as employers will need to know where you live to properly consider your application. If you don't have an address you could be removed from the first sort. Remember not to waste the first third of your page with your address though: as long as contact information is on a CV, the user will find it.

9. CV bilge

"I work well on my own projects or in a team." In my time I have never once seen a CV that says "I'm agoraphobic don't leave me in a group of people with a sharp object" or "I work well in a team but please don't leave me alone." This sentence is CV bilge, everyone will ignore it and therefore it is wasting CV real estate. If you have space left over increase information in your work history or your higher education course details. They're the most important parts after all.

If you are a Designer, you might also be interested in this Orchard blog article Does a creative's CV need to be creative?

Mike Carter

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