Pushing Toward Employment Nirvana – Part 4: It’s Never Too Early to Start a CV

Don’t be late (photo by raena)

There are some things we spend too little time on. Things that have a great bearing on our lives. Buying a house, for instance. The average time spent looking around what’s probably the most important purchase of your life is about 17 minutes. That almost inconsequential amount of time can make such a profound difference to your future that all the experts shout that more time should be invested in making sure you’re doing the right thing.

Those experts shout until they’re blue in the face. The advice only gets through to a few people. Those people can, therefore, spend a little more time and use it to their advantage.

I say the same thing is true for writing a CV.

It’s woeful how little time we spend on such a potentially life altering document. Okay, so a CV is never the sole basis for employing someone and some companies don’t even accept CVs, only their own applications. But there are so many advantages to a good CV that it’s madness to ignore its importance. You see, a CV is your entry to an interview in many cases and the chance to give a positive first impression. And if a company won’t accept CVs, at least you have your positive qualities, work and education dates, awards, and key skills written down (up to date!) and ready to transfer to the format the application requires. Then all you need to do really is complete a personal statement. I aim to write about these at a later date.

I’m not going to explain HOW to write a CV, because there is a multitude of books, websites, blogs, forums, advice centres, yadda yadda yadda, that can do that. There are some tips on getting the basics right below, however.

Anyway, what I want to shout until I’m blue in the face is:

“Write your CV while you don’t need it!”

…or at least make a convincing start.

Since 17 minutes isn’t a long time (unless you’re waiting for the bloody kettle to boil…sorry!), why not spend about 15-20 minutes A WEEK during TERM TIME ONLY and see how much you can get written in the same time it takes to listen to 3 or 4 songs on your MP3 player? Not even while you’re on holidays and semester breaks. Just when you’re at uni itself.

Using short bursts of time to achieve a goal is not a new concept. Just look HERE and HERE. So your CV is one important document that deserves a flash of energy over about 30 weeks. Just 15 minutes a week would give you an amazing 7 and a half hours on developing your CV. That’s like one whole working day for a lot of people, so you should have a pretty solid standing by that time.

Of course, there’s no reason to do it this way if you’d rather get it out of the way. If you do, even better! But don’t rush it. Maybe one hour a day over a week would be just as good…

The point is that ignoring your CV is tantamount to ignoring your future and hoping for the best, even though you’re not putting your best in. As I said in Wednesday’s post, if you don’t put your points across, or even if you do a poor job of it, your skills and experiences will count for nothing.

All CVs are different and depend on a lot of factors, but they all should feature:

  • your personal details (name, address, etc.)
  • dates of education and the grades you achieved
  • any work experience and prior employment
  • key skills

There are many other possible entries on a CV (such as awards, memberships, personal statement/motto, professional qualifications, etc.), but I won’t go further into those as you’re more likely to have a better idea when you’re trying to give your CV a more purposeful or targetted focus. For now, it’s more important to get the basics organised as carefully as possible.

And here are 7 tips on getting those basics right:

  1. Make it punchy, with hard hitting sentences and short explanations. An essay on each job is not required here.
  2. Get your CV to fit about 2 pages – This is old advice and given out often, but it doesn’t stop people sending off CVs with 4 or 5 pages. There’s no need for it. If you really must, make it 3 pages, but I’m sure you’ve got it in you to rework it into less (yet make it even harder hitting…).
  3. Space your CV out – Present the CV so there is plenty of margin space and room to write around your text. You never know when employers want to write notes so they can remember the positive information you’re communicating to them!
  4. Set out bold headings so people know where they are looking and what to expect.
  5. Don’t be lazy about mistakes – A CV is one of the worst possible places to make mistakes. It still happens quite often. Check, check again, check with someone else, then check again. Then check again!
  6. Make it concise, yet relevant – Never forget this document needs to be punchy. Nevertheless, you still need to give relevant examples. It’s not good enough to say you are trustworthy and a teamworker, explain why and how you managed it.
  7. Think ’employer’, think ‘recruiter’ – Look at your CV. Would you give yourself a job? Do you think it would be hard to find a better CV than yours? Does the CV feel personal? Do you believe in the CV as much as you believe in yourself? Would you be happy to show this to someone and say ‘this is me in a nutshell’? If not, keep trying until you do.

Monday’s and Wednesday’s posts gave tips on forming a career plan and understanding your abilities, skills and experiences. With that in mind, you will hopefully see what kind of detail would look good to a prospective employer.

Get this out of the way now and you can quit worrying when you actually NEED a quality CV.

This article is part of the Pushing Toward Employment Nirvana Series.  The full content links are:


  1. Thanks for your comments LJ.

    I do like the idea of first interviews coming from cyberspace. And if they gain ground now, it’s an important topic for students of today to consider.

    I also hope different interview and recruitment techniques will attract those who might not have shown interest through more traditional methods.

    If you haven’t already seen, I’ve answered your question about advice as a post. Thanks for the post idea!

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