Writing Your Professional CV
Writing your CV
Your covering letter
Ten Don't in your CV
Weaknesses in your CV
Let us write your CV for you
Talk For Graduates
Young graduates face one of the hardest tasks in all CV writing, which is how to differentiate themselves from everyone else and not come across as a wannabe with overblown intentions but little to offer.
Contrary to popular belief, naked ambition is not highly regarded by recruiters, who are actually looking for evidence of maturity and judgement, at least an appearance of originality and creativity and the definite hint of potential commitment.
Your challenge is to imply all of these things without being so crass as to actually say them and this is where intelligent candidates can score highly by making the most of their NON WORK activities and interests.
Young graduates rarely have a great deal of work experience and if they do it tends to be irrelevant to their future career. I often see long CVs that ramble on about the communication skills the person learned selling hamburgers and the numeracy skills they acquired at an all night petrol station.
This sort of information cuts no ice with anyone. Important things about juvenile work experience might be whether or not you did it to fund some amazing trip to North Vietnam or whether you did it to pay for your HND studies and then managed on sheer talent to convert to a degree course....
It's OK to tell a story
Years ago, milk round employers started introducing trick questions on their graduate trainee recruitment forms. They asked things like: What is your worst mistake and how did you recover from it?
Think about that question and what it implies about the people they were searching for: people who can first of all recognise an error, then come up with a strategy to deal with it, then manage a project that gets the result.
What this means in CV terms is that it is that you need to be reflecting on where you are now, not pretending to be Richard Branson.
Avoid using the word 'I' at all costs but describe the experience you do have in such a way that brings out all its value.
You chose your study path; tell them why, what was in your mind, what evolution there has been in the light of experience, what skills you believe it has given you, appropriate to what kind of roles in real work. Do this in a concise and intelligent way that tries to imagine what they want to know about you (see above). Make sure it is not merely blind ambition but also shows judgement, knowledge outside the syllabus, awareness of modern developments in culture and business.
You have non work activities; don't just list them in a dull way; if you practice martial arts mention the resolve and inner calm they help you achieve; if you have participated in voluntary work say why you did it and what you got from giving your time; if you have rebuilt a VW Beetle from scratch and supercharged the engine, you can describe your engineering achievement; if you have travelled and worked abroad, make the most of it by laying down at least one interesting piece of bait for people to connect with at interview.
The heart of your proposed CV
...is bound to be your studies, and for some professional starts it is essential to achieve high grades, which can justifiably be mentioned in detail. Do not under any circumstances miss out your degree class (because people will assume you got a 3rd). If for some reason your did worse than expected after achieving superb A-level results, explain that decline (your father died; you lost interest in the course; you are taking steps to remedy the problem with a Masters degree); if you danced away your A-levels but are on track for a great degree result, make sure the emphasis falls that way.
I often advise people to say why they chose specific courses, who their tutors were (if famous) and what they learned, specifically, from that branch of study. If you fancy investment banking, for example, and have experienced using the same appraisal system that top trading organisations actually use, then mention it and say what you did with it. If you haven't, and you expect to break into a golden career, find out quick !
Young people without maturity, and who are unlikely to be of any use to an employer, expose themselves at once by expecting everything to be done for them. I get enquiries from History graduates who vaguely fancy a career in e-commerce because it pays well, they imagine. Forget it - unless you are a History graduate who has spent hours on the Internet, read the e-business gurus and can talk convincingly at interview about the future. If this is you, say so in your CV; if it is not you, then you aren't much use at the moment and you need to bring your initiative to bear on acquiring information that wasn't handed to you on a plate.
That rule applies to every field of activity. People with 1st Class Honours degrees can almost ignore it, but everyone else can benefit from having gone beyond the narrow confines of academia and well beyond what the college careers service has ever dreamed of.
If you have knowledge, flaunt it and get it out there. Locate your employment targets on the Internet, research the company in detail and contact them direct. Don't expect to follow all the other sheep through an easy gate marked "A graduate career". It isn't like that any more. People with MSCE training who left school at 16 can be just as highly regarded as Computer Science graduates who have no idea what they want, what is possible and how to move themselves forward.
It's a tough world out there
...and it is entirely commercial. All careers in the future will be sales related in some sense. Wise up to that fact immediately and be prepared to develop your career from whatever angle you can gain entry into the world of your choice. Many of the most successful people I write CVs for started life by leaving school at 16 and showing initiative at every step of the way. Bear in mind that as a young graduate you are untried and unproven and that the world does not owe you anything. You have to prove yourself and make yourself valuable enough to employ.
The way to start is by showing that you can actually sell yourself, getting the message right, positioning appropriately, not producing a bombastic imitation of a mature career CV.
Snappy letters work wonders
Spend time on your application letters and throw the first 25 you write away. Until you have one that sings, that is less than a page long, that excites interest, that does not repeat your CV and is not soured by blind ambition, you have not yet written the letter. When you have written the right letter it will open doors and you can adapt it for application form statements.
I cannot tell you how to write a letter. It's a creative process, par excellence. You need to throw away your constraints and start by just saying what you want to say in plain English. Then tidy it up and add a few choice buzzwords. Then cut the ones that go too far. Then write it again, and again and again and again until it feels just right. Then try it out and revise it if no results come back.
Like your proposed glittering career, your very first application requires some hard work, commitment, maturity, willingness to get your hands dirty, admission of ignorance, capture of new knowledge and all the creative flair you can muster.
Ten Resume "Don'ts"
Resumes are a necessity for almost every job on the planet -- accountant, teacher, CEO or municipal employee. But unless you carefully and objectively examine your resume before sending it out, recycling bins across America may be filling up with those ill-planned documents.
Before mailing your next resume, check the ten resume "don'ts" below:
1. Appearances Count -- Don't try to save money by printing your resume on cheap copy paper instead of good quality stock. Check for typos, grammatical errors and coffee stains. Use the spellcheck feature on your word processor and ask a friend to review the resume to find mistakes you might have missed.
2. Does Size Matter? -- If your career warrants a two-page resume, then go ahead and create a document that reflects the full range of your experience and accomplishments. Don't reduce the type size to such a degree that your resume becomes difficult to read.
3. Truth or Consequences -- Don't fudge over dates or titles on your resume to hide the fact that you have been unemployed, that you switched jobs too frequently or that you held low-level positions. If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers that you lied, you can kiss the job good-bye.
4. State Your Case -- If you are seeking a job in a field in which you have no prior experience, don't use the chronological format for your resume. By using a functional or skills-oriented format, you can present your relevant experience and skills up front.
5. Put Your Best Foot Forward -- Don't simply copy the job description jargon from your company's HR manual. To show that you are more qualified than the competition for the positions you are seeking, you need to do more than simply list your job responsibilities. Present specific accomplishments and achievements: percentages increased, accounts expanded, awards won, etc.
6. No Excuses -- Don't include the reasons you are no longer working at each job listed on your resume. The phrases "Company sold," "Boss was an idiot" and "Left to make more money" have no place on your resume.
7. What Have You Done Lately? -- While it is certainly acceptable to have a two-page resume, don't list every single job you've ever held. Personnel managers are most interested in your experience from the last 10 years, so focus on your most recent and most relevant career experience.
8. Target Your Audience -- Don't mail out your resume to every ad in the Sunday newspaper. If you are not even remotely qualified for a position, don't apply. Read the ads, determine if you have the right credentials and save the wear and tear on your printer.
9. No Extra Papers, Please -- When you send out your resume, don't include copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation or awards, unless you are specifically asked to do so. If you are called in for an interview, you may bring these extra materials along in your briefcase for show-and-tell.
10. Don't Get Personal -- Personal information does not belong on a resume in the United States. Don't include information on your marital status, age, race, family or hobbies.
How to Take Care of Weaknesses on Your Resume
Do you have a unique circumstance that might raise a recruiter's eyebrows when reviewing your resume? Your first impulse might be just to lie about your past experience, put there are other ways still make yourself attractive to an employer without necessarily being deceitful.
GAPS IN WORK HISTORY
Many people have gaps in their work history. If you have a legitimate reason for major gaps, such as going to school or having a child, you can simply state this on your resume. You could, in some situations, handle one of these gaps by putting the alternative activity on the resume, with dates, just as you would handle any other job.
Minor gaps such as being out of work for several months, do not need an explanation at all. You can often simply exclude any mention of months on your resume. Instead, just refer to the years you were employed such as "1993 to 1994" and any gap of several months is not apparent at all.
Are You Ready to Negotiate Your Salary?
Whether you're sitting down with your manager, an HR representative, or someone you want to work for, your ability to get what you want depends on your preparation. So think about what you want, what the other side wants, and how you can persuade him or her to come around to your way of thinking.
Preparing for a successful negotiation requires clear thinking, focused attention, and the willingness to do some research. This quiz will gauge how well you have prepared and how ready you are to negotiate.
1. Are you sure you have selected the most appropriate person(s) with whom to negotiate?
Yes, I considered all the different people who have influence over my career and some role in deciding its future.
No, I just assumed that this is the right person since s/he is my manager.
No, it did not seem worth thinking about.
2. Have you identified the important issues that you and your company want to negotiate (e.g., salary increase, additional benefits, job responsibilities, etc.)?
Yes, I have, and I have also asked my manager about what s/he expects from me.
I know I want to talk about salary, but I haven't anticipated what my manager wants to discuss.
I am only interested in the bottom-line--how much they are willing to pay me.
3. For each of the issues above, have you thought about what you really need and why you need it?
Yes, I have asked myself why I want what I want and tried to determine what I really care about. Then I prioritised the items on my list.
No, I have a sense of what is important to me, but I have not really examined why.
No, I want more money and a promotion.
4. Have you tried to predict what the company wants out of this negotiation?
Yes, I have anticipated what my managerís agenda may be, then consulted with colleagues who have been through similar meetings.
No, I assume we have the same goals, but I'm not really sure.
No, I donít see why the companyís agenda is important. I know what I want.
5. If you do not like what your manager offers you in this meeting, have you considered what you will do?
Yes, I have developed a Plan B that includes actions I will take and alternative ideas that will work for both sides.
No, if I have to, I can think on my feet and adjust my requests according to what they offer.
Yes, if I do not get what I want, I will think hard about leaving.
6. How would you know if the offer presented to you was fair and appropriate?
I have researched the market and my company to find out the typical range of salaries and benefits for people with similar skills and experience.
I have asked a few of my peers at work what they make.
If I get what I ask for, then I know it is fair.
7. Do you know who has the final approval on the outcome of your negotiation?
Yes, I am aware of the chain of command that is responsible for finalising this process and have thought of ways to help my manager present my case to senior management.
No, I just assumed that my manager would make the decision.
No, I think my work speaks for itself.
8. Is there anything about your relationship with your manager that may make this conversation difficult?
No, we always discuss any problems as they occur, so I don't foresee having to address them during our meeting.
Yes, we've had conflicts in the past, and I am prepared to address them if they come up.
Yes, but if conflicts come up, I will point out that the meeting is about my work performance, not our personal differences.
9. Have you put together a plan for the meeting?
Yes, I have written an agenda to make sure that I cover all the key issues.
No, I know what I want to talk about, but I'm not sure what my priorities should be.
No, I don't think the sequence in which I discuss each issue matters, as long as I know what I want.
Let us write your CV for you
We do not accept handwritten CV's, you must appreciate the considerable amount of CV's our client receives, and so it is imperative that these be presented in a neat and tidy way to attract attention.
We therefore kindly ask you to submit the CV in a typed format.
Should you wish we can offer the following services for a nominal fee:
a) Typing of CV. This would involve pure typing of an already existing CV, all neatly printed in high quality on laser printer.
b) Assistance in formulating of a professional CV. This would involve assistance in drafting and typing of suitable wording and presentation of a new CV in accordance with the vacancy concerned.
In both circumstances we can copy this CV on to a floppy disk (3.5) for future use and order as many copies as you require at a small extra charge.