A CV, or to give it its full title – Curriculum Vitae – essentially is a summary of your skills, experience and qualifications. The term comes from the Latin for ‘the course of one’s life’, which would give the impression that it should be a complete retelling of your life story on biblical proportions and lasting for ten or twenty pages. Clearly this is not the case. For the purposes of securing a job it can help if we ask, not what is a CV, but instead what is a CV for?
The principal aim of a good CV is to give a potential employer an overview of what you have to offer and to persuade them that potentially you are a match for the vacancy they are trying to fill, so that they will want to meet you. Essentially that is the purpose of a CV and what it is designed to achieve.
Therefore when written properly a CV can become a powerful sales tool, highlighting the parts of your background that will be most of interest to the hiring manager and helping to secure you an invitation to a meeting. It will avoid unnecessary detail and include only information that builds you up as the right person for the job.
What does a CV contain?
Generally a CV will include your contact details, educational and training background, career history and personal interests. These are all important details and employers will use the information to match your experience against their vacancies.
Other information you can also include is an overview or objective statement, where you set out what you are hoping to achieve in this job move – helpful for making clear to an employer that their job is the one you want.
Candidates sometimes also include a section highlighting their key achievements. Again, this can be effective as you can select instances where you have demonstrated success in the kind of tasks that a job calls for, or you have displayed the kind of personal qualities that are typical of successful people in these roles.
The aim must always be to show an employer that your abilities will make you a success in their role.
Tailoring your CV
If you are targeting a specific industry then research the area so that you can see what type of experience or skills you should be highlighting in your CV. You can find this information from the job descriptions stored on company websites and you can also get a sense from the overall website as to the kind of qualities these companies value. Review the details and try to identify what characteristics or experience are essential and desirable.
Do your ideal employers emphasise team players or individual performance? Are organisation and attention to detail the biggest priorities or do companies seem to value creativity and innovation? Of course, some jobs will naturally call for certain requirements and this will help guide your hand. Sales reps tend to be outgoing self-starters, while PAs usually need to be meticulous and well organised. However, try to get an understanding of the prevailing skill and personality set.
Knowing what qualities are prized in a job will help you to tailor your CV accordingly.