Five important points to remember
1. Be as specific as you can numbers and details add real power to a CV. Don’t worry that you raised ‘only’ £50 from some activity it’s the fact you did and are open about declaring it, and that you understand figures and money, that comes through.
2. Recruiters will only hire you for the responsibilities you’ve taken on and the achievements you’ve delivered. They’re not interested in how long you spent on it. Try writing about school or work experience as ‘Responsibilities included’ and ‘Achievements included’, even if you don’t use these exact words in the final document. And don’t overlook anything here: what wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there, what did your presence deliver that someone else didn’t have to do?
3. A CV is only to get you an interview, not a job. So don’t include anything that will help someone exclude you, for example, membership of a controversial party or group. Try to intrigue them so they want to meet you. Each job application may need a different CV you’ll want to emphasise different aspects of your past, so don’t be lazy and send the same CV each time.
4. To stand out, you can be really specific about what might appear to be ordinary activities. So, instead of ‘Play the piano’ or ‘Enjoy cooking’, tell us more-‘Play piano and have recently mastered three Chopin preludes, performed at the recent Church concert’ or ‘Passion for cooking and am following Elizabeth David’s French cooking course/concentrating on Chinese cookery’.
If you claim to have a skill or interest, be ready to demonstrate your knowledge-one interviewer was intrigued enough by a candidate’s claim to speak Mongolian to ask him for interview, but was less than impressed when he couldn’t produce a single word.
5. Check for spelling and grammar, explain any acronyms and don’t use colloquialisms. Ask someone else to read your CV before you send it anywhere. If you have a web page, refer to it. Don’t worry too much about Facebook-but you could clean up your page.
Jonathan Black is director of careers service at the University of Oxford and previously director of corporate affairs at Said Business School, Oxford (www.careers.ox.ac.uk)