Write the Right CV! Some friendly tips.

We at RIMS pride ourselves of being a helpful organisation and sometimes this is misconstrued as being critical and insensitive. However, it is all well meant and will help you get better traction in your job search. We receive many CVs every day, some good and some not so good. Many of the CVs show case that candidates typically think of ‘what have I done?’ as opposed to ‘ what have I contributed?’ Also keep in mind that you have to adapt your CV to the country ‘standard’ for where the job/organisation is based. This article will primarily focus on UK based jobs and organisations.

Employers are naturally interested in that candidates have the skill set to perform the job. However, the key for them is to see that you can do it well. The only way for employers to see this is for you to give examples of how you have been useful to others. For example, instead of stating ‘I used C# code to write a new simulation script’ you should write (if it is true!) ‘The script I wrote in C# for the simulator provided more accurate data that allowed us to shave off 0.02 seconds per lap at Suzuka’. Companies and Teams are results driven and you are a part in achieving those results, thus you need to focus on what you can contribute. As JFK once said ‘…ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ In our context you need to ask yourself how you can have an impact on an organisation’s ultimate goal, whatever that might be.

This brings us to a second important aspect; know your audience! If you are serious about applying for a job with an organisation, show that you are! Tailor your CV to sell yourself. Here are a few tips:

  • Read the job advert carefully and decipher what key skills they look for in a candidate, this might not always be clear; e.g. the emphasis might be on academia or experiences.
  • Trawl on the organisation’s website to understand what they do, how they operate and what they are passionate about; does it match your credentials and experience?
  • Find out what personality characteristics the hiring manager goes for and highlight those in your CV.
  • Talk to your recruiter about what key aspects should be highlighted. We are actually, believe it or no, a helpful resource that wants you to succeed.

It is hard work selling yourself and tailoring your CV for each job you are applying for, but if you want to improve your ‘hit’ ratio and get more invitations to interview you have to show that you care. If you don’t, the employer is going to see that and not short list you. The points raised above apply to all aspects of your CV, not only your professional work experience.

We also get many CVs compiled and written by professional CV writing services, and I use that term lightly. Unless the service knows the employer you are going for and are able to tailor each CV to that end, I wouldn’t rely wholly on their skills for every job you are applying for. They will give you a nice layout and give you some good wording to use, but you need to use that as a template, not your standard.

Below are some general key suggestions for structuring a good CV:

  • Use bullet points when you elaborate and highlight key words (don’t go too crazy)!
  • Start your CV with 3 -5 bullet points with your key strengths that will benefit the employer.
  • Put sections in the order of importance to the job you are applying for; e.g. if your academic credentials are more important than work experience, put them first.
  • In each section, list your achievements/experiences in chronological order starting with the most recent.
  • Always give the name of the organisation you attended/worked with, state the from and to dates, if it is not obvious, give the location.
  • In the section about your education always also provide the degrees and grades achieved. Don’t forget your A-levels equivalent, if applicable!
  • If you have a number of publications under your belt, just state how many and give the titles of the ones most appropriate to the job you are applying for.
  • For some jobs you will have a portfolio of projects that you have done, don’t attach them to the CV. Provide the titles of the key ones and perhaps give a link to your drop box where they can be viewed.

Finally, make your CV stand out! Always have a basic Word format of your CV available, but there are some great publishing tools out there that are easy to use to add a professional flair to your CV and make it memorable. If you don’t want to buy one I can recommend Scribus as a good open source alternative to a commercial one (www.scribus.net). I once received a CV from a composite laminator who had a carbon fibre pattern running down the left third side of the entire CV. It might seem silly, but guess which CV I will go to first when I have an opening for a composite laminator? We at RIMS have a layout for our CVs that stands out and as employers flick through a stack of CVs they cannot miss ours. In many countries it is customary to attach a head shot on the CV, but it is not common in the UK. However, I would suggest that you attach one to the CV you bring to the interview so the hiring manager can visualise the conversation that you had when they are reviewing their candidates.

I am sure that not everybody is going to agree with all points given in this article, but I can only convey what we have seen being successful, so take from this what you think would work for you. Happy job hunting!