PRODUCING AN EFFECTIVE CV

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Introduction
At the risk of sounding over dramatic, a curriculum vitae is one of the most important documents you will ever have to prepare. Without an effective CV you will never get the interviews you deserve and without them your career will plateau and stagnate.

The basic principles of putting this document together may seem obvious but too many candidates appear ignorant of them or display critically short memories.

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Presentation
The first basic principal is presentation. Never hand write your CV.; beg, steal or borrow a word processor if necessary and preferably get someone who can actually type to turn out the finished article. Check spelling (particularly on the words curriculum vitae!) and ensure any mistakes are corrected even if this means going back to the beginning and starting all over again. Even one mistake can spoil a good first impression. Whilst there are some advocates of photographs and presentation folders, the consensus of opinion is that they are gimmicks and best avoided unless specifically requested. Photographs in particular seem only useful for brightening up personnel departments' Monday mornings.

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Personal Details
This section should cover your name, address, age, date of birth, marital status, nationality and , if convenient, a daytime telephone number. Things to leave out are names of children (illuminating, possibly entertaining, but completely irrelevant), height and weight (most companies have little interest in whether you can stick to a diet or not) and how long you have been married. Remember this is a CV, not a dossier for MI5.

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Educational Background
This should include a list of schools and further education establishments attended together with dates and exam successes, both academic and professional. Only leave off the grades of 'A' levels or level of degree if they are bad. Potential employers and recruitment consultants tend to be a suspicious lot and will assume the worst.

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Employment History
Employment history is the section that really separates the wheat from the chaff. Here, candidates tend to latch onto a variety of styles. Out of the woodwork come fans of the Minimalist school (fifteen years of hard work in four sentences), James Joyce (all the information is in there somewhere but it will take a week to work it out) and Leo Tolstoy (CV can only be lifted onto the recruiter's desk with the aid of a fork lift truck). As a rule try to aim for two sides of A4 paper which is about as much as a recruiter can handle on first reading.

Employment history is best written in reverse chronological order, starting with your present position, which should also be the one covered in most detail. Give accurate dates, state salary and list your key responsibilities with appropriate detail rather than writing reams about bits that interest you most.

Try to show progression in your career and illustrate a variety of experience drawing attention to interpersonal skills, technical skills, decision making abilities and computer literacy.

Tell potential recruiters what business past employers are engaged in and how large they are. Whilst IBM and ICI may speak for themselves, Bloggs and Co does not. Try not to leave gaps in chronology. The suspicion factor is usually activated if time is unaccounted for, so if you have been expanding your horizons by travelling the world say so and dispel the assumption that the time has been spent less fruitfully in Pentonville Prison.

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Interests & Achievements
The final section of the CV is that which cover interests and achievements. This is the area which allows you to show yourself as an individual and get something of your personality over to your potential employer. Do not, however, be tempted to get carried away. Remember that you are applying for a job as an accountant not as a cricketer, sky-diver, etc..

Try to put down fairly recent achievements; junior school prefecture and cub scout badges are unlikely to have much impact once you are in your twenties. Resist the temptation to attach references, press cuttings, articles, diplomas, etc.. Whilst it may be worth referring to them briefly in the CV, they will only stand in your way in initial application.

Above all, resist the temptation to oversell yourself - you will only get caught out and look foolish. Everyone has strengths which are marketable outside their present company, the secret is to recognise them and present them in the best light rather than attempt to project yourself as something you are not.

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The Covering Letter
Once you have finished your CV and given it to a sympathetic friend or spouse to check for sense or typographical errors you will need to write a covering letter. This can be hand-written if you are really confident about the clarity and presentation of your handwriting but a typed letter is generally safer if you have any doubts at all. As with a CV keep the content concise and to the point. If you are approaching a recruitment consultancy, confine yourself to who you are, what sort of position you are seeking, salary range required and geographical areas you will consider. If you are applying direct to a company state briefly why you are interested and refer to any relevant points in your background which make you suitable for a position. It is essential that you keep this section brief and to the point. Candidates still come out with such old chestnuts as their desire to work with people in applications to leisure companies. This is the kiss of death and can result in even the best CV getting filed in the bin.

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Final Reminders
On a final note, if you are asked to fill in a form by a consultancy or a potential employer, then do so properly. Avoid the temptation to be clever and/or funny as it hardly ever works. Answer all the questions, not just the ones you like the look of and do not just write "refer to CV" in the spaces provided.

If an application is worth making at all then it should be done in a serious and professional manner.

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And don’t forget to ask for the job ............... After all ...... That’s why you are at the interview ... isn't it????