Preparing your CV
A CV is a factual record of your career and personal circumstances presenting what you have to offer.
It should highlight your achievements and successes in a logical and well-presented way. A good CV should promote you and help with the recruitment process.
Employers don't want a detailed description of everything you've ever done. Judicious editing is often needed to ensure you create a good CV and not just a mass of general information.
Stay focused and concentrate on promoting your best skills and achievements, rather than just reciting your Job Description.
Begin with the vital contact details:
- Name, address and telephone numbers and email address.
- Academic qualifications
- Acredited training and courses - relevant to the potential role.
- Languages - stating whether conversational, intermediate, fluent or mother tongue.
- Driving licence details.
A brief synopsis of you! Highlighting your strengths and achievements. This brief statement will create the reader's initial impression of you and whether you can fulfil their resourcing need. But be prepared to have great examples of any descriptive words you use...if you say you are "dynamic" then where is the evidence?
- We recommend arranging your CV chronologically, with your most recent experience first.
- Clearly state the name of the employer, job title, dates of employment, what the job entailed and more importantly, what you achieved in the role.
- Where possible show achievement through direct examples and figures (e.g. % increases) or numbers showing size and scope of the role (e.g. team of 400).
- Ensure you explain any gaps in your career.
Potential employers will be particularly interested in any activities where you have shown leadership or taken personal responsibility for key projects.
Your fit within the culture of any new business is critical, so you need to try and portray your values as a professional person too.
There is no need to put references on your CV; by using the line 'References available on request' you can save space for other sections of your CV.
- Always type your application and use one clear font for your CV. Use the bold style for headings and the regular style for the text of the CV. Use larger font styles sparingly.
- Take care over the grammar and spelling. Get someone to proof read your CV if you're unsure.
- Don't use too many boxes - many people will be scanning your CV into a Database and boxes can cause problems and end up throwing your information text around the page.
- It is useful to present your career responsibilities and achievements using bullet points. This makes it stand out and is more easily read.
- Be prepared to adapt your material for each application. You need to outline the similarities between yourself and the role you are applying for.
- Don't assume that everyone will know what your previous employers do, so give a brief one sentence explanation with figure work (eg. "Manufacturer of chilled sauces for Tesco and M&S with a £45m turnover and 200 people") under each period of employment if possible.
A two page CV
Whilst we understand why employers request this - the sole purpose of saving time - our philosophy is slightly different.
Yes, a two page CV on the whole will allow you enough space to fit all the relevant information you need to put on your CV. But what if it isn't? Many of our candidates have long lists of relevant and interesting experience and qualifications.
For example, candidates that work in interim food jobs will work on short term contracts that last anything from a couple of days up to 12 months - after being an Interim for a number of years, it is quite common to have a CV bursting with positions at various companies.
When sending a CV to Focus Management or one of our other divisions, we recommend including all your relevant experience. If this results in your CV being longer than two pages - don't worry. We'd rather you put your relevant experience on than leave it off as you've run out of space.
When push comes to shove, it is your past experience that makes you attractive to an employer. By leaving certain experience off your CV due to space constraints, you risk not informing a potential employer of experience that could prove vital to your application.
This said, we are not asking candidates to go and purposely make their CVs longer that two-pages. If you condense down to the 'recommended' two pages, you will illustrate your ability to be precise and to get to the point. What we are saying is that if we were to choose between a candidate who displays this ability or one who has put all their relevant information onto their CV, who has perhaps gone over two pages, we'd almost always choose the latter.
Include all your experience
Time and time again we come across candidates who do not put all of their experience on their CV. This does not mean to say that if you worked two shifts in a restaurant 15 years ago that you should include that necessarily, so be selective.
They key here is relevance - if you are applying for a food job and have experience in the food and drink manufacturing industry, FMCG, food retail industry, this should all be on your CV.
Experience is often the key to be able to perform well in a role, and whether you realise it or not, experience in different types of organisations exposes you to a wide variety of different working styles, types of customers, industries, product ranges - to name but a few.
"Put all of your experience on your CV. I am amazed how many times I come across candidates who, when interviewed, talk about experience they have not put on their CV. Many recruiters will talk about a '2 page CV', however my view is that you should put all of your experience on your CV as it could be the difference between getting an interview and being rejected from the start."
Whether you're a graduate or not - this still applies to you. Amend your CV for particular jobs to include experience that is relevant for that vacancy. If you're sending your CV in speculatively to Focus Management with a range of roles in mind, make sure you put as much experience as you can.
It is usually a letter addressed to your interviewer or whoever you are sending your CV to. It is sent in accompaniment of your CV and will on most occasions be no longer than one side of A4. Some employers will specifically request a covering letter, whilst others may leave it up to you. You will never be viewed negatively for sending a covering letter, but may be if you don't. Our advice? Always send one.
It provides another opportunity to sell yourself and allows you to put your CV in context with the organisation and role you are applying for.
You are able to demonstrate, in a few short paragraphs, why you are applying for the role and how you and your CV are suitable for the position. It might also be useful here to highlight key points of your CV - especially those that are particularly relevant to the role. Check any job advert and pick out the key themes that appear important, showing briefly how you meet those criteria.
When is it essential to include a CV covering letter?
Speculative applications. If you have not seen a particular vacancy advertised but you have a specific desire or interest in an organisation, it is essential that you include a covering letter. Otherwise, your CV will arrive at the employer unexpected and un-introduced.
When sending in a CV, you must include a covering letter that includes some important information.
- Cite any reference numbers pertaining to the application and state where you saw the role advertised.
- Salary - include your current or last basic salary, bonuses (briefly explaining how this would be calculated), pension schemes and health plan details if any.
- Also add in whether you benefited from a car or allowance.
- Draw attention to one or two key points in the CV that you feel make you suited to that particular role.