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First impressions

First impressions count – if your CV does not attract the reader’s attention in the first 20-30 seconds then your chances of obtaining an interview are greatly reduced. An employer may have a hundred or more CVs to look through and a limited amount of time to make their selection. Put your work experience at the start of your CV, not personal or educational details, unless you have only just left education.

What an employer really wants to know is why they should invite you for an interview. For this reason a short summary of your responsibilities and capabilities and/ or a list of your major achievements is a good idea. Of course it is also important to be honest and fair in your self-appraisal – don’t oversell yourself or you run the risk of sounding arrogant.

The visual layout of your CV is very important. Even though the wording you use may be correct, if people cannot find the information they want quickly they will move on to someone else’s CV. You should use plenty of ‘white’ space in your CV and appropriate headings and section breaks – don’t cram everything into a tiny space and don’t use a small font – your CV will be dismissed in favour of one which is presented more clearly. Always use a word-processor/DTP package. Use good quality A4 paper, preferably 100gram for both your CV and cover letter.

The length of your CV is also an important consideration. There is no need to submit a long CV detailing every work and educational detail. It is a skill to produce a concise CV which highlights your relevant experience – remember, your CV is your personal marketingtoo – its purpose is to raise the reader’s interest enough to want to meet with you. It is usually best to try and keep your CV to two pages of A4, unless someone specifically asks you for a longer CV. If you cannot keep your CV to this length then you probably have not understood an employer’s requirements. Equally, don’t be too concise. A lot of people do not include enough details about their previous jobs and experience – they may have to reject your application.

See Alec’s CV tips and Bradley CVs for more CV advice.