I’m not an expert, and perhaps you’re thinking, if you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve only just got my first job. How am I qualified to give anyone advice? I may not be the most experienced of people but I’ve talked to enough people in the media industry, got enough rejections and read enough of other people’s job-winning CVs to have a good understanding of what employers want. I’ve done three internships, mostly online journalism-related, and gained loads of interesting insights.
So I decided to put together some CV tips as I think it would have really helped me when I was writing one (I have rewritten my CV more times than I care to remember). Obviously, it all depends on the exact profession, and indeed personal preference, but most of these will be quite general to the media and writing professions (those which you need a CV for, obviously). Of course, I may be wrong so please leave your thoughts and other tips you’d like to add in the comments!
Be concise. This may sound obvious, but keep it as short as you possibly can. Try to write out the first draft including EVERYTHING you want to put in. See how long it is. If it’s more than 2 pages, cut it down! Be ruthless – think about what the employer wants to see, and it’s unlikely they will be interested enough to read more than that. They don’t need to see a complete list of your GCSE results, and the paper round you had at 13 can probably get knocked off too. Think about what’s relevant and if it’s just there to fill up space, you can probably cut it out.
Don’t resort to clichés on your personal statement. Avoid statements such as ‘I’m a team player but can also work on my own’ and others that employers read every day. It’s not really saying anything and doesn’t showcase any creativity. You don’t really need to repeat anything that’s on there but sum up what really sets you apart from others (specifically tailored for the job, if you can) and pick out a few notable achievements, and include a short line about your interests. You never know!
Make it easy to read. Employers can look at hundreds or even thousands of these CVs when looking for the right candidate so if you can do anything to catch their eye, it’s a definite bonus. Also, you might as well make it look nice too. It doesn’t have to be anything amazing, but nice typesetting and more importantly, an easy layout. Maybe even add a bit of colour. My old CV was difficult to read and looked horrible – it might not have been given more than a glance! Also don’t let sections (education, work experience) run onto the next page, it looks sloppy.
Make your experience work to your advantage. If you’re looking for your first job, and don’t have any relevant experience, put your previous experience down anyway (obviously use your judgement and vet what you think is appropriate) and see if you can make it relevant (there are probably more skills you have acquired that would be useful in your desired job /field than you think). If you do have relevant experience, make sure you’re giving yourself enough credit (a lot of people, including me, find it difficult to talk themselves up and their CV suffers). Don’t forget about societies etc at university and achievements like the Duke of Edinburgh award – this can show you’re more rounded.
Get everyone you know to look at it. Another obvious sounding one, but it’s so easy to ignore everyone else’s advice and offers of help and think you know better. Accept it. Even if they’re not in the industry, they might think of something different. Everyone I’ve asked has a different insight. People in the business, my friends, my parents and everyone else. They might be able to see a better way of laying out, or a skill you forgot you had.
Make it easy for them to find out EVERYTHING. In these times, especially if you’re looking for a job in the media, it’s important that you put as much information about yourself as possible. If you’ve got an online presence, like a blog, or Twitter, or something that you contribute to, put it all on there. If they decide they like you, they’ll Google it anyway so you might as well make it as easy as possible for them to see this stuff. I’ve known people who have been employed off the back of their blog and I’ve had more than a few potential employers and indeed my current employer liked my blog. Also, if you’re not on LinkedIn, get on there and make your profile as detailed as possible – it’s growing and often one of the first places that employers look.
Proof, proof and proof again. Talking to editors and employers, it’s amazing how many CVs for say, editorial roles, that they’ve read that have typos and grammatical errors. They will go straight to the bottom of the pile. Apparently it’s just not that obvious!
There are loads more of course, but these are some of the ones that stood out for me. If any of you readers are looking for jobs, I hope this helped, even a little bit!