The art of the perfect CV – A 10 point plan for success

The art of the perfect CV – A 10 point plan for success
Published: 23 February 2022

In UK manufacturing there is strength in our traditional industries, and increasing potential in engineering technology start-ups that are applying the ideas of the ‘Best of British’ minds. Despite Brexit uncertainty, the UK economy is in rude health and excellent job opportunities exist for candidates who are prepared to invest time in their search.

A job hunt requires a well-crafted CV; below are a few reflections to make sure you set out with a supporting document that will achieve its objective - open doors and lead you to the right career challenge.

1. What are you trying to achieve?

It is vital that you ask yourself this question at the start of the process. Too often the updated CV consists of the same information used last time, with a quick 10 minute update on the current job. The document needs to be reviewed in its entirety to ensure it is a current, well thought out piece of work that is consistent with your objective.

2. Fact over fiction

Clearly a CV is designed to paint us in our most positive light, however its content and chronology needs to be based in fact. Integrity is paramount and if that alone is not enough (it really should be), we live in an era where the ability to verify history and achievements is both a fundamental requirement of the hiring process; and relatively straightforward to boot.

3. Qualify and quantify

Too many CV’s tell the story of what responsibilities were held, but not what was achieved whilst holding them. A great CV is achievement based and evidences the difference you can make to a new employer.

4. Design quality

Fancy graphics, pictures and styles are unnecessary, and if the formatting is complex it can often lead to a very different document arriving at the other end; unless it is sent as a PDF. You may still want to highlight your creativity, particularly if the role you are going for is likely to value this but I advocate a simple design; it’s substance over style that matters.

5. Order

What comes first on a CV? There is no fixed rule here, but it is important to play back what is important to the hiring manager. Can this person do the job, is their experience in a relatable industry to mine, are they intellectually capable? To achieve this CV’s should follow this order – brief summary, career history (what and who for, most recent first), education and contact details.

6. Length

A CV needs to flow, tell a logical career story that includes ALL your history (early career details can be minimised but should still be referenced) and be concise. At any stage of your career three sides is plenty to achieve this.

7. Photo etiquette

To include a picture is often seen as an International rather than British trait. It is unnecessary, after all what relevance does how you look have to job capability?

8. Personal details

Do interests add much value to a CV? I can remember in the dim and distant past an HR Director telling me he automatically rejected CV’s of Liverpool fans as he supported Manchester United! Your interests bear no relation to suitability, equally your status, age or family situation is irrelevant so it doesn’t need to be included; unless you feel strongly you want to share this information. There will be plenty of opportunity for the company to get to know you (and you them) in the course of a robust interview process and beyond.

9. Writing in the 3rd person

I am tempted just to say a big NO and end the discussion there. This is a very personal document, why would you imply you have outsourced its creation?

10. Attention to detail

This matters, please ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors in your CV. Not just the computer spell check, this also includes checking there are no ‘mangers’ in your CV; unless of course a feeding trough is relevant to your career history!

A great CV is a key part of your job search armoury; seek advice then make sure it is a document you are proud of when you send it out. It should be tailored towards each specific opportunity, maximising your chance to convert an application to formal interview.

David Thomas is a Partner in the Manufacturing & Engineering Practice at Berwick Partners.

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