When it comes to applying for jobs, your CV says a lot about you. By adapting your CV each time you apply for a job you increase it’s impact and make it easier for recruiters to quickly identify the skills they’re looking for. Whatever your experiences, present them in language most relevant to the position you’re applying for.
So how do you construct the most relevant CV for your job application?
Most CVs are written in reverse chronological order
This method of highlighting your most recent (and therefore probably also the most relevant) experiences first means that the older experiences on your CV may well become, over time, less relevant or less demonstrative of your skills, and you can simply remove them as you see fit. So the two-week work experience placement you did whilst at secondary school will probably be the first to go.
Split your experiences between job specific and general experience
Say, for example, you want to pursue a career as a lawyer. As well as taking part in extra-curricular activities at school, part-time jobs and other work experiences you can build up specific law-related experience by attending insight days, short-courses, volunteering at legal advice charities, and by taking part in the Law Society. These career-specific experiences can be separated from other work experiences and positions of responsibility to demonstrate to potential employers the serious steps you are taking towards your chosen career. By having a section entitled ‘law-related experience’ or ‘finance-related experience’ that precedes another section called ‘other work experience’ or ‘other experiences’ you can present a coherent narrative whilst still adhering to the reverse chronology mentioned above. This doesn’t mean that you should remove other experiences and jobs altogether because they demonstrate other, transferable skills.
Write a clear, concise personal profile
Not everyone will feel the need to include a personal profile at the top of their CV, particularly if you are in the happy position of feeling that your education, work experience, and extra-curricular activities create a cohesive story of your career objectives. However, if, like many people, you have a variety of life and work experiences and are applying for a job or internship without previous experience in that industry you may want to signpost your interest in the position with a personal profile. Let’s say you have a Geography degree, a part-time job in Subway and you want to apply for a research post at an NGO. In this statement it is best to begin with a brief explanation of who are you based on your most recent experiences. This might read:
As a recent graduate from Queen Mary, University of London, with a 2:1 honours degree in Geography, I have undertaken three years of training in research and data collection, analysis and evaluation. During my degree I have managed a part-time job, university deadlines and a commitment to QM Amnesty International as their membership secretary.
This tells the recruiter that you have identified some of the most crucial skills for the post and that your ability to manage a job, studying and a commitment to a society has in no way impeded your ability to meet deadlines and secure a good degree result.
Can we talk about your hobbies?
Only include hobbies and extra-curricular activities you are currently involved in (or were until very recently). Ask yourself: does this activity demonstrate a skill listed in the job specifications? Chances are it does and you may even want to talk about it at interview. Competitive sports enable you to talk about drive and determination. An interest in travel allows you to discuss communication skills and a desire to learn about other cultures. The musical instrument you stopped playing when you were 10… is irrelevant, so don’t list it!
For information on how to book an appointment with one of our CV and Applications Advisors visit: careers.qmul.ac.uk/book.
Application Adviser, QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre