Career Moves: Your Curriculum Vitae (CV)
Sarah Taylor, Recruitment and Sales Manager at OSL Consulting, has over 20 years’ experience in recruiting both contract and permanent roles within the engineering sector. Actively involved in the engineering community, she has hosted workshops and supported many engineers seeking employment. Follow her series of articles where she offers her expertise and guidance on all things job related. In this second part, Sarah looks at your all-important CV.
AFTER my last piece on starting the search, I hope you’ve mapped out what you’re looking for in terms of a job role and employer. Engineering is a vast industry, so it’s important to be prepared, focussed and informed when it comes to the application process.
So, you’ve started the search, you’ve made those connections and you’re ready to embark on your next career move… but is your CV ready to sell you? When it comes to job applications, CVs are still your golden ticket, so you need to make sure yours is up to scratch. There’s no set formula for writing a CV, but after reading so many, I have a good handle on what works.
A solid CV needs to be two things: memorable and readable; and as the saying goes, you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. In industry there seems to be a variability in CV standard, some are great, and others can fall short of the mark. Your CV is an essential tool through which you can communicate your skills, experience and personal qualities. It should include some basics: personal and contact details, education and qualifications, work history and experience, additional skills and references. Above all, it should be authentic, accurate and laid out in a simple yet engaging way.
First things first, the format. The format of the CV should be in chronological order with your most recent job listed first. This will highlight to employers your career progression and promotions, ensuring that it’s easy for them to scan through. There have been times when I have received hundreds of CVs in a week, that being able to pick out key skills and expertise is essential. If you’re a recent graduate who’s lacking in industry experience, talk up educational, extra-curricular, voluntary and work experience. Showing that you are motivated, with life experiences and people skills can help you get a foot on the ladder.
When it comes to length, there’s a bit of a myth around the two-page limit, obviously, an employer doesn’t want to sit through a ten-page epic, but don’t worry too much if you go over two pages. Make sure you focus on recent experience, expanding on your most current positions; for anything longer than ten years ago you can use bullet points to illustrate. Think about relevance – if your GCSEs were a long time ago, do you really need them in there? Think about tailoring your CV to reinforce your suitability for the position in question. Above all, you need to engage the employer to make them want to learn more about you in person.
Something which I’ve often found in industry is that soft skills and personal attributes can be overlooked. Whilst industry experience and knowledge are important, so are work ethic, a positive attitude and good interpersonal skills. Team and culture fit, along with a commitment to grow with a business are equally crucial. Be sure to include some detail in your personal profile which showcases who you are as an individual, including pertinent interests and achievements that offer a rounded insight into you as a candidate.
The devil’s in the detail
Inconsistent formatting and typos are real bugbears for a recruiter. Take it from me, if the CV lacks attention to detail, we’re unlikely to call you in for an interview. Make sure you use an easy-to-read font – I would recommend Arial – and ensure your spacing and font size are consistent and appropriate (I wouldn't go any smaller than 10 point or any bigger than 12). Having white space around the page can also make it a lot easier on the eye. CV aesthetics are important, so don’t cut corners with this.
Don’t sell yourself short – by following these simple steps you can increase your chances of being on top of the pile and landing that interview. Next time, I'll be talking cover letters; are they still important? Big clue… they are.