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Why does everyone complain about writing a C.V.?  It’s just a piece of paper about stuff that you’ve done. How hard can it be?  Definitely won’t take more than half an hour…

These were genuinely the thoughts that crossed my mind when I came to writing my first proper C.V., and by proper I mean not taking up space by explaining why I decided to take GCSE textiles!

I presumed that with a degree under my belt, some work experience and a bit of life lived, writing a C.V. would be simple. I’m an interesting person. I’ve worked really hard. I’ve done some cool stuff. It’ll be a walk in the park.

Well, as you will know and I naïvely underestimated, it was not.

Sitting in my room on a Sunday evening willing words to come that would be succinct and sincere. But all I could manage was either an inventory of my life or what sounded like my application to be the next apprentice! How do you write quietly confident!?

After battling through a day of re-writes and excessive use of thesaurus I managed to produce something that didn’t make me wince and sent it off, sure that the replies would come rolling in.

They didn’t.

As my need to find a full-time job draws ever closer, the thought of waiting in earnest for an email response that may never come fills me with dread.  I’m asking Alice and Phanella what exactly do employers, both creative and corporate, look for in a C.V. and how can we get better at writing them?

 Alice & Phanella’s CV Tips

1. The 30 second rule

Recruiters and employers will spend, as a rule, just 30 seconds looking at each CV. Ditto an interviewer who is most likely to peruse your CV as they head down to meet you in the lift. So the most important thing your CV needs to be is short. Stick to 2 MAX. If you can get the message across in less, so much the better.

2. Focus your message

In the 30 seconds it’s being read, how can you make sure your CV stands out from the crowd? Answer: focus. Start with a punchy but on message summary at the top. Follow with content that specifically addresses the key skills and attributes the employer is looking for. How do YOU meet their needs? Yes you might have to rewrite your CV for different roles. But the improved uptake means the extra time spent will be well worth it.

3. Be specific

Evidence is your watchword. For each skill or attribute you showcase, give an example (from work or life). Better yet, make it measurable – naming amounts you’ve sold or recognition you’ve received. So many women we coach find it hard to hit the right note. If you’re similarly struggling to self-promote, try using the evidence from someone else, for example a supervisor’s report or annual review.

4. Show your personality

Yes, CVs need to be factual but they need to showcase who you are too. Think of them it like your shop window. You need to entice people in to want to find out more, aka invite you to interview. So alongside your killer message include a flavour of what you’re like. A couple of interests for example – 20th century feminist poetry is so much better than just books.

5. Perfectionist

This is the one – and probably only – time we’re ever going to advocate perfectionism. The volume of CVs employers receive means you don’t want to give them any excuse to send yours to the discard pile. Check for typos and then check again. Then send to close friends or family for a second opinion. Ditto formatting and style.

Once you’ve checked, it’s ready to send. Good luck!

x Alice & Phanella x

What’s your top CV tip?

And what career dilemmas would you like answered. Comment below and we promise to reply to each every one.


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