The CV is the first line of attack – your first opportunity to impress. It is of vital importance. Unless you have been recommended by a current employee of the firm to whom you are applying, the CV is likely to be the only sales tool at your disposal. You cannot afford for something so manageable to trip you up. Too many strong candidates let themselves down with cluttered, unconsidered and poorly drafted CVs. There is no excuse - all the advice you need is below.
If you think of yourself as a product, a brand, the CV is your packaging. You wouldn’t buy a bar of chocolate if the wrapper were already torn. It is therefore imperative that you package yourself appropriately in your CV. It must highlight your benefits to the potential employer at first glance. It must inspire confidence in your abilities and most of all, it must make the employer want to know much more about you. Therefore, ensure that it does not tell the entire story but rather gives the reader a taste.
Here’s how to build your CV
1. Compile all the information that you need
First of all, assemble key facts and consider the following information, which will be required:
2. Have a go at a first draft
Your first attempt will not be your final draft, so don’t write as if it is. There will be plenty of time for proofing later. Lay the foundations first. Here are some points to consider before tackling that first draft:
a) Results count in sales: A financial services CV should primarily be achievement focused. In most sales environments an understanding of your results will be of greater interest than your skill set, so ensure that you make your employment history section results oriented.
b) Aspirational branding: Define yourself by the role you want rather than the role you might currently be delivering. In other words, tailor your CV to your preferred role. This means drawing out any relevant exposure you may have had and matching your experience as tightly as you can to the job specification criteria. It’s obvious but few candidates bother to do this.
c) Enticing profile: Your personal profile should excite the reader about who you are and what you have to offer. It needs to summarise the breadth of your experience, explain where you want to be and underline your drive and motivation for seeking employment. It should be as brief as possible. A taster, not a comprehensive summary but a snapshot of the résumé ahead.
d) Always relevant: Question the relevance of everything you include, e.g. listing your children's names won’t add any value and are therefore best left out.
e) Keep it snappy: Ensure that no information is duplicated. You don’t have room to double up. CVs should be as short as they can be and where possible never more than 3 pages in length. Remember – employers rarely read CVs properly, they generally scan them quickly.
f) Keep it honest: Make sure that everything you claim is truthful and that it can be verified - interviews are likely to be based on your CV.
g) Stick to CV convention: Within your Employment History, detail your work experience in reverse chronological order, i.e. list your most recent role first. Please note your current role must be in the present tense and past roles in the past tense. Additionally, ensure that you do not abbreviate dates in your Employment History.
h) Mind the gap: Every gap of more than 1 month must be covered in this section. Clients are constantly asking us about gaps and we need to have an answer, even if it is ‘looking for work’.
i) Visa detail: Under your visa status you must describe the type of visa you have, the expiry date of the visa and the number of weeks worked on a Working Holiday Visa.
j) Age discrimination: The Age Discrimination regulations came into force on 1st October 2006, so none of the CVs we send to clients will include date of birth. There is therefore no need for you to include this detail on your CV.
3. Format it
a) Use Microsoft Word: Whether you like it or not, it is the accepted application for drafting documents. Don’t create a hurdle for your potential employer.
b) Portrait is standard: Always use an A4 portrait style. You’re in Financial Services not Design.
c) Keep it simple: Stick to a white background, don’t include any decorative borders and avoid binding.
d) Straight typeface and consistency: Choose black font and a simple typeface - use this style consistently.
e) Highlight headings: Use italics or bold; avoid capitals and underlining.
f) Easy on the eye: Using ‘white space’ will make your CV read more easily. Don’t clutter the pages.
g) Get help: If formatting is not a strength then ask someone who knows.
4. Proof it
a) Print: Print your CV out as it’s easier to spot errors on a printed version. It’s also how your employers will view it, rather than from the screen.
b) Someone in the know: Now is a good time to get someone in your industry to review your CV. They will be able to cast a more commercial eye on your résumé and review it for content rather than design or style.
5. Sending it
When forwarding your CV to us it’s always worth detailing, in a covering letter or email, why you want the job and why you feel you are the right person for it. The personal profile goes some way to providing this information in the body of your CV but the covering letter is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate how you communicate professionally. This letter should simply highlight your purpose, why you want the opportunity, why you feel you would be right for the position and your next steps.
6. Future planning
Creating a CV from scratch can be a headache for some people and quite labour intensive. To ensure that you never have to do this again, remember to keep adding to your CV even when you are no longer seeking employment. Therefore register your achievements, important dates, details, projects or successes on an on-going basis to avoid the fear of a blank Word document again.
If you have recently written or updated your CV, we invite you to quicksend it to us today.