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CV Writing Tips

Writing a CV – Some Helpful Hints

There are many websites dedicated to the art of writing a CV and the generally accepted mantra is to “sell yourself” and “stand out from the crowd”. Astute advice indeed, though one suspects that thoughts such as “be meek” and “blend in to the background” would be swiftly dismissed by even the least experienced of job hunters.

Following this initial pearl of wisdom, many of our internet CV gurus quickly give in to style over substance and gravitate towards the verbal cosmetics of the superficial buzzword. The result being that a potential employer must painstakingly sift through a congregation of the most ‘dynamic’, ‘driven’ and ‘energetic’ individuals brought together since Sir Alan Sugar naively opened his boardroom doors to the country’s best and brightest.

As specialist recruiters who experience the full spectrum of CV quality on a daily basis, we hope that the following paragraphs will offer some practical tips on how to genuinely differentiate yourself from other hopefuls with an honest and accurate summary of your skills and experience.

Getting Started – The basics

Though unlikely to be a decisive factor to your ultimate appointment, your CV should begin with some basic factual information to identify who you are, including:

• Name.
• Contact details such as postal address, telephone numbers and an e-mail address if you have one.
• Educational background including results and institute of study.
• Professional Qualifications.
• Hobbies and interests (this will give a potential interviewer an easy way to break the ice and an interviewee a comfortable conversation to get started with).

Format

Begin your career history with your most recent role. This is likely to be the most relevant synopsis of your current skills and experience and undoubtedly where any good interviewer will begin a biographical interview.

Following a time line backwards, include all previous positions and provide details on any gaps in employment. Each role should be introduced with accurate dates of employment, the name of the employer and the job title or titles held. Failure to include all of this information will often raise questions and, more often than not, negative assumptions. It is better to outline any unplanned career breaks or quick job moves and explain the circumstances than to give a potential employer the opportunity to think the worst.

Duties and Responsibilities - Substance!

Potential employers will not only want to know what you do on a day to day basis, but also how you do it and what the outcome is. A useful acronym to remember when putting together a CV (or indeed answering interview questions) is STAR (Situation, Task. Action and Result).

Rather than simply stating one of your responsibilities (Task), outlining the reasons why you do it (Situation), how you go about fulfilling it (Action) and what the outcome is (Result) clearly demonstrates your understanding of your job and how to perform it successfully. In addition, this is a great opportunity to show how good you are at what you do and what an asset to a firm you could be.

Facts can be key to attracting interest. Any evidence that you may have to support your STAR is well worth including (for example, league tables, performance to target, specific achievements) as it reinforces the credibility of the information. You must however be prepared to produce this at interview.

Consider the following examples of the same role responsibility:

“I provide advice to clients on all aspects of financial planning.” or
“As a regulated consultant with current FSA authorisation, I am responsible for providing clients in the Lancashire area with advice on pension, investment, mortgage and protection products from the full spectrum of providers. Performing full fact finds with approximately 5 new clients each week, resulting in 3 completed sales has helped me to exceed target for 3 of the past 4 years. In the six months ‘year to date’ I have written £80,000 of commission income against an annual target of £120,000 and currently sit in 6th place of 18 consultants in the regional league table.”

Further Dos and Don’ts

Your CV is your first impression so make sure it's a good one!

• Take time to ensure that your spelling, language and punctuation is correctly used. In the days of spell checks and language tools on word processing software, any errors will be viewed as unforgivable(!).
• Try to avoid extravagant fonts or unnecessary borders. A CV is a professional document used in a professional capacity and should therefore always look (surprise, surprise) professional. • Make your information count and cut the waffle! Consider that the person reviewing your CV may have a number of others to look at so keep the information concise and relevant.
• Refrain from using colloquialisms.
• Do not vent your frustrations about your current role. Cathartic as this may be it will almost certainly add negativity to a document that you are hoping to receive a positive response from.

Get help from Exchange Street

Though we will always appreciate a well-crafted CV arriving in our inbox, we understand that inexperience of the job market or a busy diary can mean that some people need our help. In many cases, a basic outline of your career including dates of employment and a list of responsibilities will give us the foundations to build your CV through your initial registration and subsequent discussions with us.

Due to our long standing existing relationships with decision makers in the Financial Services and General Insurance markets, the CV itself is often secondary to our own recommendations when arranging first stage interviews. However, during the interview process it can be critical in defining the direction, tempo and ultimately the outcome of a meeting.

Exchange Street’s experience and expertise has helped many applicants to achieve a successful outcome to their job search. We offer ongoing support throughout the recruitment process and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.


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