“Me Want Job” aka How Not to Write a CV

CVI’m sorry to break it to you but the perfect CV does not exist. I could harp on about how this is due to humanity imperfect in its nature or something along those lines. While this is undoubtedly true, the lack of perfection with this type of document has more to do with how quickly they become outmoded and require updating.

So there is no true route to excellence when it comes to crafting your record of employment, there are a thousand and one ways you definitely shouldn’t be doing it. Although plenty of these ought to go without saying. For instance,  read through your CV at least twice as many times as you think is required and don’t rely on any spell checkers to pick up on all your mistakes. It is worth to use it at least once but make sure to get others to proofread for reasons of sanity.

But where to start?

“This stunningly attractive and inventive lady has taken the world of recruitment by storm with her unparalleled skill set-“

Nope, can’t do it… For one thing, don’t talk in the third person. It’s certainly a good idea to avoid using me and I. However, talking about yourself in the third person is a weird stylistic choice and can even be a little unsettling. Opt for a report writing style and avoid the pronouns altogether.

Also avoid writing a surfeit of personal information. I don’t need to specify that I’m a woman (it’s relatively obvious if you come to meet me). With the sensitive topic of discrimination flying around, you shouldn’t supply information that is irrelevant to your abilities. For instance: marital status, the number of children you have and their ages, political affiliation, religion or even something as superficial as your height or weight.

“With eagle eyed accuracy, more than 300 CV’s are processed and screened per week.”

Again, very wrong:

  • Typos are something to be avoided at all costs, especially when you’re letting people know how meticulous you are with details
  • Even the savviest typist can be tripped up by sneaky grammatical snares – the plural of CV definitely shouldn’t have an apostrophe. Be confident in your punctuation usage as you may have to disagree with your computer: KPIs, CVs or even DVDs. There is no need for apostrophes here as they either denote ownership or a contraction (e.g. your CV is great can become your CV’s great but 2 CVs are always 2 CVs)
  • Also, outlandish boasts will be spotted and torn to pieces at interview

“Education A levels at PATE’S GRAMMAR SCHOOL (Chemistry, Biology, Maths) University of Kent: BSc in Biomedical Sciences”

Oh where to start?

  • Stick with something like Georgia or Calibiri that is easy to read and looks professional
  • When listing education, go in reverse chronological order with your highest qualification first
  • Always include dates and grades (and even specific marks for certain modules if they’re especially impressive and you’re a little light on formal work experience)
  • Stick with the same format, lay things out in a consistent fashion otherwise it seems somewhat messy or even as if you’ve committed the heinous crime of copy and paste
  • Avoid all capitals. It’s just a little grating. Use bold instead or underline if you want to draw the eye

Other things to watch out for:

  • Don’t have large unemployment gaps on your CV with no explanation. You could have taken a career break to care for your children, done volunteer work or go travelling but if you say nothing then a potential employer will assume the worst
  • No matter how fantastic you are or how fantastic your positions have been and how excited you are at the fantastic career opportunities, try not to use the same word over and again. Resort to a thesaurus if you have to in order to spread the word about your incredible, brilliant, superb, outstanding, electric magnificence
  • Have different file formats available, such as word and pdf versions. Also have copies available on your mobile, laptop or tablet. In case you need to email them over at short notice
  • Keep it under two pages. I know you might have a publications list the length of your arm but do consider edited highlights. Be succinct and selective, less is always more in this context as curiosity makes people more likely to want to get in touch for further conversation. Leave your references off too, these will be asked for in due course
  • If you do wish to include a lot of publications, add them to your LinkedIn profile and link the profile on your CV. Similarly if you are applying for an art or media related role, provide a link to an online portfolio

So go forth and construct an eye catching and compelling CV. You now have the power. Of course, should you find yourself in need of a helping hand I am on hand to provide tailored advice and feedback so don’t be afraid to get in touch.

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Career Advice, MedComms Professionals