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The perfect CV

Frank Hutton

You don't need to try hard to find information online offering to help you create the perfect CV, the one that will secure you the job you want. Or one that will ensure you are being interviewed every time you apply. Some of these will help you for a 'small' price if you download their guide/template.

That's all fine and it's quite OK to charge for one's services (I do!). But what are you actually getting?

I am passionate about the fact that while we're all similar as human beings, we're not all exactly the same. One size does not fit all - if you don't believe me, try some of the men's trousers on in Debenhams. A 32 inch waist seems to vary enormously.

Joking apart, your CV is probably one of the most important tools you have when looking for work in the UK. But the solutions you're seeking are unlikely to be delivered by an approach that assumes it is the same culture either side of the Atlantic Ocean or the needs of an accountant are the same as those of a teacher.

However, there are some nuggets of wisdom locked up in certain ones so by reading a number you might come up with something useful. The following are some points to consider when doing so:

Culture - we've already mentioned that the UK and USA are two very different cultures and use words and pictures differently. But the culture of the professional world in which you are seeking to operate will vary too. I spent much of my time working in a creative setting. It is massively different from the world of large corporate banking (my first job). Make sure what you do is culturally relevant and will communicate the message you want to your target audience (the recipient of the CV).

Recruitment Process - the way in which your CV will be accessed, viewed and used will be different every time, so understand that process. Many large companies and organisations use online interfaces to manage the large number of approaches they receive. Your CV may go into a database for future reference. Ensuring it contains relevant keywords to your situation is really important for the long term. Make sure it looks good on a screen not just printed out. That's how it will be viewed initially. And that the key information is easy to find in the top half of the first page.  If you're applying to a small company make it a work of art, hand-crafted to that particular role/company and full of pointers to the benefits you've brought to your previous employers.

There's no such thing as a CV that's too long, just one that's too boring.

Length - there's no such thing as a CV that's too long, just one that's too boring. Relevant information is always good to have in there. Try to order things in a way that means that I can stop reading sooner rather than later because I know you're someone I just have to include on my shortlist. I may come back to the other more detailed information later when preparing for the interview. And it may help me put you to the top of my mental pile, ahead of other, in reality, equally well-qualified contenders. That's not a case for a standard way of presenting your CV. What will ring the bells of an employer will vary massively. Just make it quick and easy for me to find the relevant and 'exciting' stuff.

Avoid hyperbole - Any 'expert' that says their approach, if you download it for just $5, will 'guarantee' you an interview, or help you  'never have to work hard again' or get 'any job you want' is lieing. It's the online equivalent of the travelling medicine show in the American west in the 19th Century.  There are genuinely needy people (like you!) willing to try anything to succeed so they can feed their families or avoid bankruptcy. Like those old fakirs they use dramatic claims and the lack of local policing (online) to sell their wares and then move on with impunity. Preying on people at this point is pretty grim and it makes me quite angry (no, very angry actually).  If you're looking at someone's website like this now - close that window!

What can you do then?

Find a good career coach, of course, who is adaptable and well-versed in the market in which you're seeking to operate. Find trusted and reputable online brands offering decent advice (www.totaljobs.com have some good CV templates with advice attached and suggest some reasonable covering letters as well).

Some of the national newspapers have run features - can't say I've been impressed by any so far. Do learn from the available sites and experiment. Show your finished versions to trusted friends who will be honest but who won't crush you with crass comments.

Lastly, always believe that there are still some good people out there, genuinely trying to find the right person to fill their vacancy and that they will take the time and trouble to rummage through all the CVs they receive to find that person. Being honest and straightforward might just be the best policy on such occasions; and you already know how to do that.

I wish you well in your job search.

Looking for a Career Coach in Bristol, Bath, the south west or beyond? Call us on 0117 299 3035.

By Frank Hutton