Your CV is an invaluable mechanism for creating a positive impression to organisations that you are interested in working for: it is the foundation on which their perceptions will be based, so it is important to take the time to make sure your CV contains everything that is needed in order for the recipient to decide that they would like to invite you for an interview.
Your CV serves as a special kind of autobiography, offering a short written account of your achievements and experience. To make your CV as effective as possible, imagine yourself in your potential manager’s place and think about the skills and qualities they may wish to invest in and why. You can then organise and present the information in your CV in a way that is most likely to interest potential employers.
When you begin, the first step in your CV writing process should be to assess yourself against the criteria of the role. If you are applying for a particular position, you should have been provided with a detailed job specification – either upon request from the company or through your recruitment consultant. This offers you insight into the requirements of the employer and will enable you to provide evidence of your suitability for the post.
By working through a job specification and noting examples of when and how you displayed particular skills, you will create a structured application that highlights all the key points an employer is looking for.
The way in which you present your CV requires careful consideration. In a survey by technical and engineering recruitment firm, NES Overseas, 100% of the recruitment consultants questioned cited a poor layout as one of the most commonly occurring errors made by candidates when composing their CVs.
Uniformity, clarity and flow of information are particularly important when you bear in mind that an employer only needs to look at a CV for a few seconds before deciding whether or not to continue reading it.
Information should be presented under clearly labelled sections, with education and employment history documented in reverse chronological order – with the most recent position first. Contact details should always be clearly visible at the top of the CV. The most effective way to present your CV is with bullet points, bold headings and underlining. These simple methods can achieve a clear and structured style.
According to the same survey by NES Overseas, large gaps in work history were also cited as frequently encountered among expatriate CVs, particularly due to international travel. Over three quarters of NES Overseas recruitment consultants said that this acted as a deterrent to hiring managers.
People who leave gaps in their work history leave employers with no alternative but to question why they have done so. By explaining that you spent time travelling or had a career break, you will eliminate the need for this: seemingly fragmented careers are unlikely to create a positive impression; although with contract roles, greater potential for career gaps means that it is only necessary to explain significant breaks in continuity.
Tailoring your CV to a particular role will also generate a much more positive response from employers than mass-mailing a standard CV to a large volume of recipients. While this might appear to be more time-consuming (especially for contract positions) CVs can still be tailored according to the specialist area of various organisations, rather than every individual role.
The importance of checking over your CV for spelling and grammatical errors cannot be stressed enough. Despite wide agreement that spelling, punctuation and grammar must be perfect when writing a CV, over 60% of the recruitment consultants surveyed regularly encounter this type of error.
This suggests that applicants are either over-familiar with their own CVs having spent a lot of time compiling them, or are over-reliant on spell-checkers. The simplest way to avoid submitting a CV containing these types of mistakes is to ask someone else to read over it.
Make sure you include all your software skills (applications, packages, operating systems and databases) as well as any languages; and specify your skill level i.e. conversational through to fluent. Include any extra training undertaken that is relevant to the post.
The right balance
It is important that expatriates achieve the right balance between providing enough information in a CV and overloading the recipient with too many irrelevant details. If necessary, extend the length of your CV: being too concise was an error cited by more than half of all respondents to the survey of NES Overseas recruitment consultants. This can be attributed to a deep-rooted general misconception that CVs must take up no more than two sides of A4.
When applied by an expatriate worker who has held a number of contract positions over a long period of time, this ‘rule’ can prove detrimental to the impact of a CV. If you are unable to document the qualifications, skills and experience that make you suitable for a role without going onto a third or fourth side, then you must extend your CV to avoid being too concise.
Conversely, providing extensive details of personal interests and activities is unlikely to enhance an application. While at junior level, personal interests might help to demonstrate evidence of team working and perhaps interpersonal skills, as you progress through your career, examples of such skills should be taken from your professional achievements.
However, with expatriate work it can be beneficial to demonstrate experience of multicultural and multinational working, either within project-specific teams, or within broader site arrangements; and this can extend somewhat to include out-of-hours activities (for example, football leagues) if necessary.
Spend a sufficient amount of time writing the cover letter that will accompany your CV. This enables you to highlight aspects of your CV that make you most suitable for the role and should entice potential employers to read on. Your cover letter should answer the question, “What can this person do for us?”
State who you are and why you are writing in your first sentence and, if you are applying for a specific job posting, cite the title of the vacancy plus the any reference number provided by the company. If someone else has referred you to the organisation, include this in your cover letter too.
Following on from your introduction, take up to three points of particular relevance from your CV and expand upon them. Do not simply copy what you have already written in your CV - pick out the main highlights and re-phrase them, expanding where necessary, but try to keep this section to just one or two paragraphs.
In your closing paragraph, reiterate your enthusiasm for discussing how you meet the requirements of the role during an interview and thank the recipient for their time. As with your CV, check (and double check) for spelling and grammatical errors. Your cover letter should be as flawless as your CV.
This article was written by Michael Wallace, Recruitment Manager, NES Overseas www.nesoverseas.com