If you were creating an online dating profile, you wouldn’t upload every detail about yourself, would you? That annoying habit, those bits unlikely to be attractive, the dull-sounding part-time job? You’d leave off some of those insights and instead focus on those things that a future partner might be interested in: the successes, the exciting bits, the one-off achievements.
The same will apply to your CV. It’s not that you’re not admitting to all the bad stuff, just that instead, you’re showcasing the areas of your past that are relevant, interesting and match in with what the future employer is looking for.
Find out what the future employer really is after. Research their organisation – its philosophy , culture, language and attitudes – by looking at its website, the websites of its competitors for comparisons, and its professional body. Make sure you’ve understood the job or post you’re going for inside and out.
When you’re writing up your CV, use strong, active language. Use the skills (competencies) that the employer is looking for as side-headings and provide evidence from your past that match their requests. If you can include feedback or numbers as part of the evidence, so much the better.
Keep the CV neat and tidy: don’t be too fussy with boxes, underscore or fancy fonts. Using bullet points rather than relying on paragraphs usually helps with the speed of reading.
Use headings to help separate out your experiences (eg ‘Relevant’, ‘Industry’, ‘Teaching’, ‘Committee’ or ‘Other Experience’) so that you can group sections together and something you’ve done in the past can be brought higher up the CV, where it won’t be lost.
See ‘Your CV Format’ here for samples of good CVs.
CVs that are just a long list of past roles and achievements are not interesting to read. They don’t lead the employer to think that you have bothered to really look at their job and understand it. They want to know that you have researched their role and are presenting your past to them in a way that is helpful for them.
If you are going for a role where your PhD subject is less relevant, you need to present the time you have spent working for the PhD in such a way that it can be understood it. Do you need to devote a lot of space to your research topic? Or are the research, project management or other skills you have developed more relevant for the role?
CVs that are too long will not be read: the standard UK format is 2 sides of A4. Of course, if you are going for an academic role, you’ll be able to put your conferences and publications onto an Appendix that will take it over the two pages. For banking and management consultancy, you may just be required to submit one page.
Please don’t put a photo of yourself, however beautiful you are, on your CV! (Unless you’re going for modelling or acting). It is standard to do this in mainland Europe, but not something that UK employers ask for.
I run workshops on CV writing as part of the RDP programme: the next one coming up is in February. By all means book through Skills Forge. If you’d like help in the meantime, find some resources here or watch the video you’ll find on this page. Otherwise, please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.