This post is part of the Noon Masterclass: Reignite Your Career by Noon’s Career Expert, Lisa Unwin.
How to write a back-to-work CV
Whatever else has changed about the job market, some things remain a constant. You’re probably going to need a CV that stands out. Many recruiters and executive search firms have examples and templates for creating CVs on their sites. Whatever template you choose, here are some broad guidelines to help get your CV through to that all-important interview.
No more than two pages. No arguments here, no one is going to read more than two pages. And making the font really tiny is not an option.
Write it in the third person and avoid all pronouns. Firstly, it avoids you using the word ‘I’ every other line and it’s easier to boast about yourself when it reads as though someone else is saying it. Women are notoriously bad at boasting about themselves
Name, contact details, phone, address, email address. You would be amazed at the number of CVs that don’t have details of how to contact the candidate. Do NOT include your date of birth or a photo or your marital status. They are not relevant to modern CVs. Include a hyperlink (rather than a long list of words and numbers) to your website if you have one – and LinkedIn profile.
Executive summary/personal statement
A concise, memorable synopsis of you, summarising why you should be hired. It should be tailored for each job you apply for. It will take time to write, needs to sum up who you are, what you’re offering and what you’re looking for. Unless it’s wildly inaccurate, think about giving yourself the title of the job you’re applying for.
Before you describe your detailed work experience, provide a summary of your key skills. The question is, which ones and how many? In terms of how many, obviously it’s a judgement call, but if you’re listing more than 25 then it’s hard to claim they are all ‘key’ skills. What sort of skills will they be looking for? Be specific and don’t waste space with skills that are too basic or generic.
Do not simply list your responsibilities. It’s boring and being responsible for something doesn’t necessarily mean you made anything happen. List your experience chronologically but be aware of the need to showcase the most relevant to the vacancy. Bring your experience to life. Make it interesting. For each role, tell the story of what you were hired to do and how you added value. Focus on achievements and outcomes. Include innovations or new ideas that you introduced and the impact they had.
Education and qualifications
You’ll also need to include details of your education, qualifications, language skills and any other information that’s relevant to the role.
Adding a section on ‘hobbies and interests’ makes it a bit more personal and gives you character but do take a little care with this. Apparently ‘socialising with friends’ is a pet hate for a third of recruiters.
How to write a covering letter
The covering letter, or cover letter, is about your MOTIVATION for doing that job. Do not repeat all the information in your CV. Open with an introduction explaining the job you’re applying for and attaching your CV.
There then needs to be three paragraphs.
- Why you are the perfect candidate.
- A summary of the unique skills and experience you offer.
- Why you’re excited about working for the company.
If there is one thing that can clinch the deal (above all else), it’s passion – employers hire individuals that love their job. So don’t be afraid of showing your enthusiasm.
— Lisa Unwin
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