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Writing a CV? The Do’s & Don’ts

Your first CV was, most likely, messy. It no doubt consisted of a sheet of paper that listed eight GCSEs and the promise that you ‘love a challenge’; all written in Times New Roman, so they knew you were an intellectual icon.

But now, you’re at university. The moment is fast approaching when you’ll apply for actual, annual-salary responsibility. You’ll sit down with a mug of tea, crack open the laptop and slowly realise all your talents summate to three meagre looking lines. 

Don’t Panic. I’ve called in some expert advice from Simon Leyshon, head-hunter and company director of em2 Limited, who’s told me of some simple ways to better your CV that require very little effort. Here’s the rundown of his personal do’s and don’ts:

Firstly, DON’T write too much. Most hirers will lose interest quickly in a lengthy 2000-word essay if they’re reviewing hundreds of CVs for a position. Simon has read through thousands of CVs over the years, and he knows just how dull that task can be. He suggests you should be writing “ideally one page; never more than two.”

DON’T include a photograph. Yes, that holiday snap from Barbados may have gotten over 100 likes, but I can guarantee you none of those were potential employers interested in making you a commander-in-chief. As Simon puts it, a CV “tends to be subjective, so don’t include a photo because it can attract the wrong attention”.

But DO get a LinkedIn profile. This includes a photo, which means you won’t have to put one on your CV, but it must be kept professional. Specifically banned are “wedding photos or old prom photos”. An excellent tip Simon gives is to look at similar companies and industries on LinkedIn, to see where previous applicants have ended up. You could even contact them for some valuable insight.

DON’T leave it too late! Simon describes a “mass stampede” of graduates in June that its paramount to avoid. If you can start looking “a few months” before you graduate, you’ll hopefully be ahead of the game.

DO think about your online presence. Social Media is a magical thing, but it longer exists as a forgotten Myspace page that lists your embarrassing obsession with The Jonas Brothers. When it comes to the internet, employers will be checking anything with your name attached in order to avoid hiring a potential PR nightmare. If you’re a bit of an overactive Instagrammer, consider making a separate, more professional looking page to hand over.

DON’T go for the obvious. Telling a hiring manager that you spend your spare time eating and breathing air probably won’t shock them. Simon’s advice? “Employers like to see where someone has made a personal commitment to develop themselves.” Most universities offer extra courses in languages or other general areas of import that could help to boost your CV. There are plenty of courses available in Manchester. A First Aid qualification, for example, can be fairly cheap, and take as little as three days.

DO be enthusiastic. If we were all honest in job interviews, we’d tell the listener about being £27,000 in debt and ask how many weeks of holiday we’ll get. Such candour, however, is intensely unattractive to employers. You should be applying to a job because you want to work there, so make sure you do your research. Know their practice method, know what they stand for, and think about why you want to be a part of it. 

DON’T be put off by size. A well-established company sounds more attractive, but as Simon warns, “most of the biggest companies in the world have graduate entry schemes and attend career fairs. They tend to know what they are looking for and you have less scope to stand out.” Uber and Airbnb are a testament to the fact that companies can grow very quickly, and if they’re still developing, they’ll most likely have a less formal approach to hiring. 

Lastly, DO think practically. Think about location; job title; salary – are they what you want them to be? It might be better to take a less well-paying job if it’s going to help you further down the line, or even relocate if you’re applying for a specific sector. There’s no point looking for an agricultural position in urban London, for example. 

Job-seeking is never a guarantee, and the most important thing to remember is not to get too fixated upon your first submission. It will take time before you find the position and company you’re looking for. You can give yourself the best possible options however, by following Simon’s guidelines, and eventually, build the perfect application for that elusive dream position.

Written by Helena Young

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