Creating a killer CV

The thought of having to create a new CV or even revamp an old one is enough to put the very best career plans on ice. So, let’s look at what you should do to fully prepare yourself for your job search.

Was getting a new job one of your New Year’s resolutions? Have you done anything about it yet? If not, why not? If my clients’ experiences are anything to go by, just the thought of having to create a new CV or even revamp an old one is enough to put the very best career plans on ice. So, let’s look at what you should do to fully prepare yourself for your job search. There are a few things you’ll need to do, including putting together a top class CV so let’s start with that.

Creating a Killer CV

The impact of a strong CV cannot be underestimated. Its main function is to convince your potential employer that you’re worth seeing at an interview. Your CV is often the first contact you have with a potential employer and, bearing in mind that your masterpiece might get less than a minute’s attention, it’s worth putting a lot of work into making the right impression. For every application, you must present yourself in a relevant and meaningful way. This means using the key aspects of your current role, and your key successes, to present yourself as an ideal fit for the target job using the CV format. There are different types of CV, so your first job is to decide which format best suits your application.

The chronological CV

This standard CV format presents your work history and qualifications, starting with your current job and working backwards. This type of CV is most suitable when applying for jobs in the same industry you’re currently working in. The format of the chronological CV is as follows;

Section 1
Personal information

Your name, address, mobile phone number and email should sit at the top of the page. Nationality and date of birth are optional.

Section 2
Professional Profile
This gives a brief description of your background, and the key skills you have to offer. It should be a maximum of three sentences long. Here’s an example to get you thinking.

“An enthusiastic and motivated graduate, with six years experience in event management and a proven track record of success, strong organisational capacity, creative flair and attention to detail. Has worked on a number of high profile national events. Currently seeking a challenging event management position within the charity/voluntary sector.”

Section 3
Professional Experience

List your job title, the name and location of your employer, and the length of time you’ve been in the role. This section highlights the position you held, giving a brief description of your main duties and responsibilities in each job. It’s a good idea to use bullet points for this section, as it helps the employers to quickly identify relevant skills and experience. Give concrete examples of achievements and successes in your role. If you worked on a highly-successful advertising campaign, for example, you might write it like this:

  • Member of advertising team responsible for a 40 per cent increase in enquiries after the product’s relaunch

Section 4
Professional Qualifications (if any) and Education
Under ‘professional qualifications’, Include any relevant certificates or diplomas from short courses, and also details of to longer-term professional training such as CIMA. Also mention any affiliation or membership to professional organisations. Education covers your second and third-level studies.

Section 5
Additional Skills/Achievements

Highlight areas such as computer literacy, languages, and any special experiences.

Section 6

This gives you the opportunity to introduce your personality. Here, you can mention any sports or hobbies you are involved in and to what extent. Always mention clubs, organisations or teams you’re involved with.

Section 7

Finally, it is always a good idea to mention that references are available upon request to reassure the employer that they can verify the details of the CV.

The Skills-based CV

Another option is the skills-based CV. This hand presents you to an employer by focusing on your skill-set - therefore, it’s very useful for targeting employers outside of your current industry, and / or to divert attention from a lots of career moves, (which can be a cause for concern for some employers). So, for the career changers and the restless out there, this is a great way of focusing attention on your relevant skills rather than previous employers or sectors in which you have worked.

The format of the skills-based CV follows the exact same format as above, the only difference being that in Section 3, you outline your experience in terms of key skills developed throughout your career, across a number of roles, rather than simply listing previous employers and going through each job in sequence. As per the chronological CV, the skills you list should reflect the skills and competencies of your target job. Typical skill sets that employers are attracted to include the following;

  • Management experience - includes managing people, projects and resources
  • Organisational Skills – how you plan and allocate your time and resources
  • Innovation – new ideas and initiatives you have brought into your workplace
  • Technical skills – outlines your technical ability where relevant Other skills and competencies include:
  • Customer Service
  • Team working and Relationship Management
  • Problem Solving and Analytical thinking
  • Leadership – developing others
  • Strategic thinking and Organisational Awareness

Whichever format you decide to go for, bear in mind that presentation and concise writing is key. A succinct and well-designed one-page CV is far more appealing to an employer or recruiter than a three-page effort going back to the hospital you were born in or listing your Junior Cert subjects!

Remember to choose your words carefully. Some companies use word search software to identify words and phrases which make attractive employer vocabulary. Draw up a list of ‘personal power words’ related to your target job and use language from the job description and recruitment advertisement. And finally: edit, edit and then edit again! Typos or any other errors are a big turn-off for an employer.

Remember, a professionally-written CV can bring you to your next position on the corporate ladder, or a new career in a different field. A clear, error-free presentation combined with strong phrasing and solid facts will encourage an employer to call you in for an interview.

Sophie’s book, ‘Happy at Work – Ten Steps to Ultimate Job Satisfaction’ is published by Pearson (Prentice Hall Life) for €15.95

Sophie Rowan is an occupational psychologist with Pinpoint, a company specialising in Career Management Programmes for companies and individuals. Sophie can be contacted on 01 642 5721 or at [email protected]  


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