The Rest Of Your Cv
Rachel Bishop-Firth is a Personnel Manager with long experience of recruiting managers and professionals to a wide variety of senior roles.
The Career and Achievements section is the core of your CV and should make up the largest part of the document. You will, of course, need to add your contact details. You have some flexibility in choosing what else to add to your CV, basing your decision on what will help to sell you to the recruiter. You should almost certainly include at least one of the following:
- details of your education, training and qualifications
- an eye-catching summary of what you have to offer the recruiter
- details of your involvement with relevant professional bodies
- information on your hobbies and interests to give a fuller picture of what you are like as a person
- details of additional skills that you can offer – for example, languages or IT skills.
At the beginning of your career, you may have given much more weight to these elements of your CV. A recent graduate, for example, usually has little to show in the way of career achievement and therefore concentrates on selling the potential demonstrated in their academic successes, leadership of sports teams, and so on. After five years in a career the emphasis should have shifted to focus on proof that you have succeeded in your career (and by implication will succeed in the future).
MAKING A GOOD START
Don’t start your CV with the title CURRICULUM VITAE. Start instead with your name at the top in bold capitals. This is a better use of the space and helps the recruiter find your CV from amongst a pile of others.
Use the name by which you are generally known rather than your full legal name. The recruiter just needs to know what to call you, not what appears on your birth certificate. If everyone calls you David Perkins it simply causes confusion if you give your name as Charles David Arthur Perkins. However, avoid nicknames (’Dave Perkins’) as this looks less professional.
Add your contact details under your name. As a minimum, you should give your:
- full home address including postcode
- home telephone number including dialling code (if possible, also include a mobile number, and add a note to let the recruiter know which number is which).
You may also want to add your:
- work number
- email address.
Only give contact details which will be genuinely useful. Do you check your email daily or just occasionally? If the recruiter calls you on your mobile number, will you be able to speak to him or her or will you be in a business meeting with your current employer?
If you are based abroad, put your contact details at the end of your CV. This means that the employer reads what you have to offer before they are confronted with the information that arranging an interview with you will take extra effort. Email addresses are useful when contacting expatriates – but make sure you check your mailbox every day!
CREATING AN ATTENTION-GRABBING SUMMARY
A summary at the top of the page showing what you have to offer the recruiter may grab their attention and make them read more. For example:
Production manager with ten years’ experience in managing the manufacture of electrical and electronic components. Excellent track record of improving quality standards while reducing overheads in unionised environments.
This draws maximum attention to your key selling points. If they match the recruiter’s needs, you have given them a good reason to look through the rest of your CV. For this reason, summaries are particularly useful on speculative applications. However, the summary must closely fit the position on offer. If you are prepared to consider a wide range of career options, leave this section out when making speculative applications or sending a CV to an agency (which may consider you for jobs other than the one that you have applied for).
Preparing a summary
Summaries can give a punchy and positive precis of your CV and hook the reader’s attention, but all too often they are weak, waffling or grandiose. If you decide to include a summary in your CV, start with a positive statement of what you are – an ‘experienced optician’ or a ‘senior marine engineer’, for example -and follow this with a brief statement of your most marketable qualities. You should always aim to keep this down to three sentences and avoid use of the words T or ‘we’: as you are selling your best points, you can otherwise appear very egotistical.
Question and answer session
’I’ve heard that many recruiters don’t like summaries. Why is this?’
Too many summaries are just empty hype. Statements such as ‘Dynamic and visionary sales executive with excellent interpersonal skills and a track record of success in challenging environments’ tell the reader very little and look false. By all means sell your strong points, but make them factual. Perhaps this summary could be rewritten as ‘Sales executive with ten years’ experience in cosmetics and beauty care products. Track record of building winning teams and expanding market share in Europe and Asia.’ Back up each statement you make in the summary with evidence in another part of your CV, and if you can’t back up a point with evidence, leave it out.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The summary of your educational background should come after the details of your employment, unless you have deeply impressive achievements and are applying for a job in a field where academic excellence is important.
Your professional qualification
From the recruiter’s point of view your most important academic achievement is your professional qualification. Either the summary at the top of your CV or your Education and Training section should tell the recruiter that you are a fully qualified professional – for example, that you are a State Registered Nurse or Chartered Engineer. The most important part of your Education and Training section will be the details of your professional training, demonstrating that you have passed all the necessary examinations. Avoid any ambiguity. For example, stating that you ‘studied for electrical engineering BTEC HNC examinations’ could mean that you took the course but did not pass the exams.
How much should you say?
The amount of space you should devote to your education and training depends on:
- the importance that qualifications will have in deciding whether you get the job
- how recent your qualifications are.
When you were a graduate or school-leaver, this will have been the largest section on your CV. Now you are well established in your career, your CV should be focused on your achievements at work, and you need to start pruning the information on your education.
What to leave out
Omit the details of old or irrelevant qualifications. Senior and professional CVs should not include information on any of the following:
- dates and grades of GCSEs, O levels, etc.
- schools attended before the age of eleven
- courses that you failed or were unable to finish
- qualifications irrelevant to your present career; for example, your secretarial training if you are now a manager.
If you cannot omit the last two without leaving an unexplained gap in your career history, keep the details as brief as possible.
What to summarise
Other information should be given in summary form. If you are a graduate you should not include the full details of your A levels, Highers, HNC or similar qualifications. A simple statement that you got 3 A levels is often enough information for the recruiter -they do not need to know subjects, grades and the dates that you took the examinations. Older candidates may go further and decide that it is irrelevant to put in any details of their secondary schooling. If you have many years of experience but few formal qualifications, then you may decide that a section on your education is irrelevant.
If you have more than three years’ work experience since graduation, the full details of your degree course are no longer relevant. Leave out details of the modules taken and the interim grades given – all the recruiter will be interested in is the title and class of your degree and the date it was awarded. The exception will be where you studied for a module relevant to the post you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a post in Spain, you might want to highlight the fact that your business degree included courses in Spanish and international business.
Question and answer session
‘I graduated with a first from a very prestigious university twenty-five years ago with a number of prizes for my work. My career is in marketing. I know that this is not afield where academic achievement is of paramount importance, but shouldn’t my CV give my education top billing to impress recruiters?’
Your academic achievements are impressive. However, if you devote a lot of space to them, your CV draws attention to what you were doing twenty-five years ago – and the recruiter is much more interested in what you have to offer now. It also gives the impression that you hark back to past glories and have achieved nothing to match them since. Keep the entry on your university career brief – a recruiter will still be impressed to see that you got a first.
School and college education
Give the details of your school and college education, listing:
- your schools/colleges
- the dates you attended them
- the qualifications that you gained.
Business Studies with German BSc (Hons) 2:2
HNC in Business Studies (pass)
1 A level
1 A level
Sedgewick Secondary School, Windlesham XXXX – XXXX
This layout shows the course first, which draws the reader’s attention to the qualification that you gained rather than where and when you studied. However, if you want to draw attention to your prestigious university and away from a less relevant degree, you would lay this section out as follows:
Anthropology BA (Hons) 2:2XXXX – XXXX
If you obtained your qualifications abroad, you may need to help the reader to understand the level of your qualifications. For example, a UK employer may not quite understand what a baccalaureate is or what a GPA of 3.8 represents. Provide a few brief words of explanation.
Work-related short courses
This is a section that is important in a junior CV but can often be omitted from a senior one. You should only give details of work-related short courses if this information is going to make you stand out in the eyes of the recruiter because, for example, you:
- have been trained in a specific technical skill
- keep up to date in your field
- have developed your managerial or interpersonal skills.
Details of work-related short courses are most useful if you are applying for work in an area where you need a licence or safety permit to do certain jobs. For example, an engineer applying for a job working offshore will have an advantage if he or she already has the relevant safety certificates and can therefore start immediately. This is particularly important for contractors as employers will be unwilling to pay for (or wait for) training. However, it is usually better to be able to show that you have developed particular skills through what you have achieved in your job. For example, it is better to give details of negotiations that you have successfully concluded than of the negotiation skills course that you attended.
If you have undertaken further education (for example, an MBA or training towards your professional qualifications) you should put the details of this into the section on your Education and Training.
What to avoid
There is a number of pitfalls that you should be aware of if you do decide to include details of the short courses you have taken:
- If you have been given training in a particular area of managerial or interpersonal skills, a recruiter may suspect that this is because you are naturally weak in this area. For example, they may wonder if you have taken an assertiveness course because you are too timid, or that you have undergone time management training because you are poor at organising yourself.
- If you list a large number of courses, you give the impression that you spend a disproportionate amount of time (and company money) training.
- Don’t include details of course providers and dates of your courses unless this adds useful information – for example, showing that the safety certificate that you gained is still valid.
- Don’t waste space with details of irrelevant courses.
Studying as a hobby
If you have good academic and work-related qualifications but have studied an unrelated subject as a hobby, put the details in your Hobbies and Interests section. This avoids distracting the reader’s attention from your relevant qualifications.
Don’t include copies of your exam certificates with your application unless you are specifically asked to. Most employers will only want to see evidence of your qualifications later in the recruitment process.
MEMBERSHIPS OF PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS
Membership of a professional association shows that you are serious about your career. Give details of your affiliation to the association(s) that you are a member of and include details of any honorary posts that you have held. If these details come to more than a line or two, organise the information into a section on its own. For example:
Member of the Society of Pipeline Engineers
- London Section Chairperson XXXX – XXXX
- Member of National Award Committee XXXX
Member of the Royal Society of Industrial Engineers
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
It is not always appropriate to add this section to a senior CV. An inexperienced new graduate’s hobbies may give valuable information on the individual’s leadership potential or ability to work in a team. At a senior level you will be expected to show that you have these qualities through your achievements in your job, with outside interests being used as additional backup only.
How information on your interests can be helpful
Information on your outside interests may help you in the following ways:
- It helps the recruiter to build up a fuller picture of what you are like as a person. Your interests give further indications as to whether you are a teamworker, organised, creative, etc. You may also, quite simply, come across as a more interesting person.
- Your interests may give extra evidence that you have particular aptitudes and skills; for example, a flair for organising events or working with people.
- Success in outside interests adds weight to the picture you are building of yourself as an achiever.
- Outside interests show that you are able to relax and recuperate at the end of a stressful day.
- Sporting interests suggest that you are fit and healthy.
- Involvement in the community (for example, in local politics or the Round Table) may indicate that you have a useful network of contacts and/or that you could help generate good local PR for the company.
If your hobbies and interests add to the evidence that you would succeed in the post on offer, give details of them, but be brief. If your hobbies are watching telly and DIY, don’t waste valuable CV space on them.
Beware of the following pitfalls:
- Telling the recruiter about very risky or time-consuming hobbies. An employer wants you fit, well and in work and a passion for solo round-the-world sailing trips would interfere with this.
- Admitting to anything that could cause a conflict of interest between you and the employer; for example, running your own part-time business.
- Arousing the prejudices of the reader, particularly in the areas of religion and politics. Don’t make statements about your beliefs, unless these are actually relevant to the job on offer. You are unlikely to run into problems if you say, for example that you are ‘an active member of my local church’, but a prospective employer might well be intimidated by an announcement that you are an ‘enthusiastic evangelical Christian’.
- Your hobbies may lead an employer, however unfairly, to stereotype you. You might be best keeping quiet about the fact that you are a train spotter or heavy metal fan.
Details of voluntary work (including involvement with the Territorial Army, Police Specials, etc.) should be included in this section. The only exception to this would be where you bridged a gap between jobs with voluntary work, in which case you would show this in the Career and Achievements section of your CV.
You can decide what other personal details to give. CVs often include the following:
- driving licence details
- willingness to relocate
- date of birth
- place of birth
- marital status
- ages and numbers of children
- current salary.
Some of your personal details may, unfortunately, lead an employer to stereotype you. You may be all too aware of the following prejudices:
- Foreign nationals will have problems with the language and work permits.
- Anyone who doesn’t have a traditional English name is a foreign national.
- You need to be in perfect health to do the job.
- Only people within a narrow age band will be suitable for the post.
- The most reliable employees are married men with children.
- Parents with children at critical stages in their education won’t relocate.
And so on.
Recruiters won’t admit to their prejudices and may genuinely believe that they are free from them, but subconsciously the bias may still be there. If you think that a particular item may lead to unfair prejudice against you, leave it out. If you have the misfortune to meet a recruiter who stereotypes people on the basis of (for example) their age, they are much less likely to dismiss your application out of hand once they have interviewed you and found out about what you have to offer.
If you are a foreign national but have a work permit or do not need a permit to work in this country, make a brief note of this fact. If you have been living in this country for a number of years it can be helpful to state this, as it indicates a familiarity with the culture and language.
You can say that you are in excellent health as long as your ability to do your job is not impeded by any physical problems. If you cannot honestly say this, then omit this section. If you have a disability, you may choose to let the employer know that, for example, you use a wheelchair – but you are under no obligation to do so.
If you have a clean, full driving licence, say so. If you have penalty points on your licence, just say that you have a ‘full driving licence’. Do not add the details of any penalty points unless you have specifically been asked to do so.
If you are willing to relocate, add a short statement to this effect. Indicate which areas of the world you would be prepared to work in; for example, ‘Prepared to relocate within the UK’. If you are not prepared to relocate, omit this section.
Date of birth
Employers like to know your date of birth. Recruiters feel that they can get a better picture of you if they know how old you are. If you have achieved a great deal at an early age, for instance, it is more likely that you are heading straight for the top. However, people make all kinds of unwarranted assumptions on the basis of your age. For example:
- This post demands a mature outlook, so the candidate must be over thirty-five.
- We need someone dynamic and energetic, so we need to recruit someone young.
- Anyone over fifty is quietly winding down to retirement.
If you don’t include your date of birth, the recruiter will wonder why and may conclude that it must be because you are ‘too old’ for the job. It is probably best to include this information unless you are very concerned about age prejudice. Don’t directly state your age, as your CV will go out of date more quickly. There is also no reason to say where you were born, as this adds no useful information for the employer.
What not to include
The following information should be added with caution, if at all:
This should only be added if you want to capitalise on the common preconceptions that single people are more mobile and married men more dependable. Never say that you are divorced or separated, as these words may arouse unfavourable and unjustified prejudices. If your marriage has broken up, you can say that you are single.
Details of children
Many CVs include the ages, sexes and even the names of the applicant’s children. Leave these out. They are irrelevant to your ability to do a job, and a prime source of prejudice, particularly if you are female. If you want to emphasise your freedom to relocate or take a job abroad, you can make a direct statement about your mobility.
Don’t give these unless you have specifically been asked to. The employer may otherwise decide that your current salary is too high for you to be seriously interested in their job, or too low for you to be senior enough to do it. If you are asked to give details of your salary, include not only your base salary but also brief details of the major benefits that you currently receive (company car, bonus, etc.), as the base salary figure on its own can be very misleading.
As this section has little bearing on your ability to do the job, leave your Personal Details until the end of your CV.
Question and answer session
As a manager, I take a lot of time and trouble to make sure that I select people solely on their ability to do the job. Why should we be so cautious about what we put in our CVs?’
Most companies make a real effort to treat their candidates fairly, but some do not. Often recruiters are not deliberately discriminating against candidates. They just have an overly narrow picture of what the ideal candidate will be like and the discrimination is unconscious.
Don’t use up valuable space on your CV with details of your referees, as the employer doesn’t need this information until the final stages of the selection process. Simply state ‘references available on request’. The exceptions to this rule are where:
- your references are from deeply impressive individuals
- the employer has asked for details of your references in the advertisement
- you are looking for immediate employment or contract work and want to save the recruiter time by giving the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your referees.
Testimonial letters should not be included with senior CVs.
You may want to include other sections in your CV.
If you speak more than one foreign language, create a separate section to give the details. Say whether you are fluent or whether you have a working knowledge (i.e. are reasonably competent, but not fluent). Do not include details of a language unless you have at least a working knowledge of it. Give brief details of any experience that you have had as a translator.
Only include details if the technology is still in current use and you have a good working knowledge of it. If you are an IT specialist, you will need to create separate sections to detail the environments, programming languages, operating systems, software and hardware that you are familiar with, as part of your Career and Achievements section.
If you have published any papers, articles or books on subjects related to your profession, put the titles, dates and publisher in a separate section after your educational qualifications. If you have had a large number of works published, list only the most relevant.
List any awards that you have gained which relate to your profession or studies. If it is not immediately obvious what these are for, include a brief explanation. For example:
Institute of Pipeline Engineers, Gold Medal, XXXX
– Awarded for best research paper published each year in the field of pipeline engineering research.
Justin Meneaugh Prize, Felixtowe University, XXXX
– Awarded to the most promising final-year engineering student in a faculty of 30 students.
Steve decides what to include in his CV
As an IT contractor, Steve includes in his CV full details of all the systems and packages that he is familiar with. Steve also has good academic qualifications, and he lets the recruiter know that he has a relevant degree, 3 A levels and 7 O levels. However, because he knows that these will be of less interest to an employer than the skills he has learned since he left university, he keeps the section on his education short.
One of Steve’s strengths is the fact that he has good interpersonal skills as well as technical ability. He is sociable and likes working with people, and this is reflected in his outside interests. Steve enjoys playing sport and has been asked to join his current client’s company cricket team. He includes this information in a section on his interests. Finally, Steve notes that he has a full, clean driving licence, is in excellent health and will make references available on request.
Brian decides what to include in his CV
Brian’s CV focuses very much on his experience and achievements at work. He has taken the somewhat unusual step of leaving out all details of his education, because:
- this was over thirty years ago
- he gained no qualifications.
Brian therefore feels that the space would be better used by describing what he has to offer a company. He has also decided not to draw attention to his age by including his date of birth. The recruiter will be able to make a guess at how old he is by looking at the date he started work, but Brian can dispel at least one negative preconception that an employer might have about his age. As his Interests section shows, Brian is very fit and healthy, and he enjoys running and cycling.
- Have you included full and accurate contact details?
- Is your personal summary (if included) concise and meaningful?
- Have you included all your important professional qualifications?
- Have you left out irrelevant detail about your qualifications?
- Have you included details of your membership(s) of professional organisations?
- Are the details that you have given of your outside interests appropriate to your application?
- Are the personal details that you have given relevant?
- Have you included sections on all the other points that the recruiter will need to know?
POINTS TO CONSIDER
- 1.How important will your education and qualifications be in deciding whether you will get the job? Does the space that you have devoted to this section reflect this?
- 2.Will giving details of the short courses you have attended in the last few years help you to get a job?
- 3.What do your hobbies and interests say about you as a person?
- 4.Have you included anything in your CV which could lead to prejudice against you?