I’ve worked in recruitment for many years and I have never met anyone who had nothing to offer to a potential employer, but I have met plenty of people who need help expressing their qualities and skills.
This post will be of most value to those of you putting together your first CV, perhaps a CV for a change of career or indeed those of you with little confidence in their existing CV.. I know it can be scary putting your first CV together because you’re probably thinking to yourself “gosh, I’ve got nothing to say!” But that’s not true, you just have to start thinking about the experience and skills that you have and how you can best express them in terms that will be interesting to an employer. Bear in mind that if you’re applying to a career beginner’s position then the recruiter will have expectations commensurate with what you can feasibly offer.
Let’s start with the basics: the headings that you need for your first CV, and a couple of specific areas of the CV which are hard to fill in when you’re just starting out.
For your first CV I suggest the following headings:
- Contact details
- Personal profile
Let’s look at the personal profile, experience, skills, and hobbies sections in more detail, because I think all of these offer an opportunity for you to tell future employers that you have knowledge and skills that they can use and develop.
- Personal profile: You should think of this as an introduction paragraph; an introduction to you, that is. You want this section to show something about yourself, your skills and experience. It should be short (six sentences or fewer), relevant to the specific job you’re applying for, and it should be positive. Here’s a couple of examples:
- For a school leaver, who works in a retail fashion environment, you might put: “I am an ambitious individual who has recently left school achieving high grades in art and design. I’m looking for an entry-level position in fashion retail where I can get practical experience using my design flair and interest in fashion. Ultimate career goal: to become a buyer for a large retail fashion establishment.”
- For a school leaver who wants to work in IT: “I’m a hands on, practical individual who has left school with high grades in computer studies and mathematics. I’m looking for an entry-level position in IT support where I can use my computer knowledge to improve the company’s technology productivity. Eventual career goal: to become head of IT support.”
- For a graduate you can do something similar, for example a graduate looking to enter accountancy: “I’m a recent economics graduate with a 2:1 from the University of XYZ. I’m looking for a place on the graduate financial scheme, where I can use and further develop my business knowledge and analytical skills. The goal is to achieve a chartered accountant’s qualification.”
- Experience: (without work experience) If you have no work experience at all, then your profile should really concentrate on what you have achieved at school and any voluntary work that you’ve done that shows some experience or skills that you’ve gained. However, if you have no work experience, try writing about any of the projects that you have completed during your education, using the CAR technique:
- Challenge: what was the point of your project? What was it set up to do?
- Action: what action did you take?
- Result: what positive result came from your action?
- Challenge: The project was set up to measure the correlation between rainfall and river depth in urban and country areas of the river Erwell
- Action: I worked with a team of three people. I was responsible for creating an Excel spreadsheet to calculate our measurements.
- Result: Our report was presented on time, and showed a high propensity for flood risk within urban areas. Our research suggested a number of potential solutions which had been successful in other urban areas.
The good thing about this example is that you have shown that you can work with people, that you know how to work with Excel and that you have put together a researched piece of work within a time limit. It has demonstrated team work, IT skills, initiative, and time management.
- Experience: (with work experience)If you have completed some internships or other work experience, then call this section work experience and follow the instructions from my previous post.
- Skills: is another opportunity for you to list what IT skills you’ve learned during your education, plus any other qualifications such as languages, First Aid, driving licence, and whether you’ve done something like a sports leadership course.
- Hobbies: This section can be a great chance for you to show that you are a well-rounded person, that you have interests outside of education and potentially have gained skills with these interests. Are you part of a sports team? Have you held a leadership role in a sports team? Have you pursued an interest in photography or written an interesting blog?
- References: One final thing that should be in your CV is your references. It will be enough to write that they can be given upon request. But make sure that you ask an appropriate adult to be a referee, whether it’s a teacher, or a sports coach or a librarian, etc.
Importantly, always tell the truth and don’t embellish. If you get an interview, it’s more than possible that your interviewer will ask you about what you’ve written and you need to be able to talk them.