The beauty of your CV is in the eye of the beholder

Curriculum Vitae

We see a lot of students at the Careers Service asking how to produce the ‘perfect’ CV, but the truth is that there is no such thing! How you should present your CV and the information you choose to include will be determined by the industry to which you are applying, the specific role you have chosen, and by how you want to present yourself on the page. A colourful and ‘creative’ CV will not be welcomed in investment banking, whereas you could well be expected to produce something unusual and eye-catching if you want to work in advertising.

We have run many exercises where we ask students to play the part of a recruiter and assess a range of CVs for a particular role, and these tasks always highlight how CVs are subject to our personal preferences; the opinions on what makes a great CV differ wildly between individuals as much as between employment sectors. It is possible for a particular CV to attract one recruiter and completely repel another.

A good example of this variation came up earlier this week when a group of second-year Computer Science students taking our Career Management Skills Unit presented their own research in how CV layouts are perceived. After sending six sample CVs to various engineering and IT employers, it was clear that the recruiters in the personnel division of the companies favoured a more traditional CV, whereas the engineers with whom the applicants would actually be working preferred a much more personalised CV, so that they could get a sense of how that individual might fit into their team.

So, how can you produce a CV that is the best possible match for the organisation to which you are applying?

Do your research! It’s crucial to talk to people in the industry that interests you to find out what they expect to see in applicants’ CVs. Don’t just assume that you know what they want. Use Careers Fairs to meet recruiters as well as our Careers Network to get you started with contacts. Social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter are also great places to ask industry experts for advice.

Target your CV. Make sure that the skills you are showcasing match those that your intended employer is looking for.

Get some feedback. Don’t just send in your CV and keep your fingers crossed! Come into the Careers Service and ask if an adviser can look over your efforts. We can help you to target your CV appropriately as well as highlight what you have to offer.

Have a look at our CV examples to get you started. We have a CV booklet that you can download from our web site containing different styles of CVs to give you some inspiration. It’s also worth getting onto Google and seeing what’s out there; sites such as Slideshare can offer examples using tools such as Powerpoint to create more colourful and interactive CVs, if that’s what you need.

Finally, remember that your CV should be your best representation of what you have to offer, so the person who needs to be the most satisfied with your CV is you!

Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser

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