Creating an effective CV
Here are some principles that underpin a professionally designed and well-written CV:
It must be easy to read
Often the person reading your CV can only give ten seconds to glance through it and the first glance is at the front page - your selling page! Putting Curriculum Vitae at the top of the document makes it clear what it is and ensures no doubt in anyone's mind. You also need to put your name and contact details at the top of the first page and as soon as possible draw the attention of the reader to highlighted facts such as your capabilities and achievements.
It must be clear and concise
Words and statements used need to have the same meaning for the reader as for the writer. It reduces the impact you want to make if you use jargon that is unknown outside of your own familiar work environment. Also, make sure lists are defined. List your activities, in particular:
Your responsibilities - what you are/were expected to do
Achievements - what you contributed to the organisation's performance and goals (e.g. profit, quality or service).
It must meet the needs of the reader
He or she has an agenda and needs to know as soon as possible your eligibility (qualifications and experience), your suitability (how you match up with the company or team style and culture) and your ambitions (does your career objective fit with the company's expectations of what they would like you to be doing over time). This can be covered in an opening profile.
Headings need to be relevant and attract attention
e.g. "Career Record" suggests a record of roles and achievements that you are carrying with you in terms of competencies, whereas 'Career History' suggests something that is in the past.
The front page should be consistent and convincing from top to bottom
Each paragraph or section should be reinforced by the next paragraph or section, e.g. the front page might read: Profile - A sales manager, Strengths - able to build ongoing customer relationships; Achievements - won £2m sales contract with ongoing support over 3-year period.
Tailor it to your situation
If, for example, you are used to working abroad and want to continue to do so, state in the profile that you enjoy operating in an international market.
It must be a suitable length
The current average length of a CV is two pages. A school leaver will usually have less to offer; therefore, one page may suffice and include academic record, part-time work experience and any life achievements. However, a senior manager with a vast amount of experience, many achievements in each position and a great deal of training, may need three or even four pages (four pages can appear rather long by current standards, but the fourth page might be an addendum of professional development or training events).
It must be presentable
Headings should stand out, but underlining and bold print can be overkill - a title with bold capitals and space around it stands out sufficiently. Other less important headings can be bold lower case, bold italic, plain underlined and underlined italic according to their relative importance.
Coloured ink, use of pictures (not a photograph) and other embellishments should be used with caution. In an entertainment or artistic environment, creativity may be a requirement and can be shown in the design and layout of the CV. However, for a legal position and most corporate positions, black print on white paper is most appropriate. Sometimes the main headings in blue can be attractive.
Must be accessible when submitted electronically
The majority of organisations now ask for CV’s to be submitted electronically via e-mail or online. Therefore, you should ensure that any CV you send electronically is saved in a format that is accessible for the reader, otherwise they will not be able to view the CV.
Must remain presentable after printing
You should take the time to ensure that your CV remains presentable after printing otherwise the reader will find it very frustrating if words are missing or paragraphs are misplaced etc.