Producing a good CV should be like answering a well-revised exam question. You need to communicate your point efficiently – and you’ll inevitably get extra marks for style and presentation. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, and when you’re job hunting, a good CV is crucial.
Where to start
Just like that exam question – there’s rarely a ‘right’ answer when it comes to CVs, but there are certain key points which you need to include:
- Start with the obvious – and not everyone does! Rather than writing “Curriculum Vitae”, your name and contact details need to be clearly presented at the top. Check your email address, and make sure it does you justice. Think about whether you add you date of birth – you’re not obliged to disclose how old you are on your CV.
- Personal statement: This is the equivalent of the firm handshake when you meet someone for the first time. Keep this paragraph brief and to the point – no more than five sentences long. You’re simply aiming to introduce yourself, outline what you have to offer, what you’re looking for, and give a flavour of your personality.
- Work experience: Begin with the most relevant, most recent first. If you’re applying for a teaching job, it would be sensible to prioritise your teaching experience and work placements. Include your job title, the name of the organisation, the dates you were employed and key responsibilities. An employer will definitely be interested in your classroom skills, but don’t forget holiday and/or weekend work can also demonstrate work-readiness. Even if you’re just starting out in your education career, you’re bound to have a lot to offer a potential employer.
- Education: List the dates, type of qualification and your results. If you’re new to teaching, you might feel your educational achievements make a greater impact than your work experience. You could move this section up on the first page of your CV – remember, it’s all about playing to your strengths.
- Achievements: This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you gained the skills you need to be a strong candidate. Drawing attention to your relevant skills and achievements and providing evidence through examples will enhance the credibility of your application.
- Hobbies and interests: It’s important to plan this section carefully. It could be a source of common ground with your interviewer, and what you do in your spare time will affect the recruiter’s perception of you. Also, education employers will be on the lookout for people who will enrich student experience. If you are actively interested in sport, music, travel or drama (to name a few), you could be a valuable addition to their team.
- Extra information: Be sure to include anything that explains gaps in your career. Taking a break or changing direction is fairly common and rarely a problem. If you took time out to volunteer, take on a caring role, travel or re-train, turn this experience to your advantage by demonstrating what you learnt in that time.
- References: Schools need two references as part of their compliance process, and recruiters can use good references to strengthen your application. Whether or not you include these details on your CV, you should definitely plan ahead. As an NQT, you should line up an academic referee, and a contact from your most recent teaching placement. It is courteous to speak to them before giving out their contact details, and they will probably be used to providing references.
Getting the tone right
Choose a clear, straightforward layout that is easy to read. You’ll want to come across as an organised professional, and your CV should reflect those qualities. Section headings such as Work Experience, Education, etc. should be consistent and should be ordered logically.
Most CVs should be no longer than two sides of A4, and if you have recently graduated, you might manage with just one. If space is at a premium, take care to prioritise your information and to use vocabulary which will make an impact. Think about the point of each paragraph and start sentences with words which set the scene. Positive openers could include assertive, confident, detail-conscious, flexible, hard-working, innovative, precise, pro-active, and responsible.
Once you have drafted your CV check your spelling, grammar and consistency of layout. And check it again!
Some people easy fall into The Apprentice trap when they’re writing their CV – anyone can claim to be a ‘goal driven multi tasker with excellent communication skills’. The trick is to avoid clichés, back up your claims with interesting and engaging examples, and make sure you’re telling the truth. After all, if your CV has done its job, any of these points may be picked up at interview. Honesty and genuine enthusiasm will shine through and help your interview technique too.
Room for improvement
Remember that your CV is a fluid document. Keep it up to date and be prepared to tweak and tailor. The point of your CV is to highlight why you’re a strong candidate, what makes you stand out from the crowd and what you have to offer in that particular role. Check your potential employer’s website – if a school focuses on their behaviour management policy or their enrichment offering, for example, highlight something relevant from your interests or experience to show that you’re a good fit.
Help is at hand
Whatever stage you’ve reached in your job search or education career, a second opinion can always be useful. Our consultants are highly skilled CV experts who have been through the school interview process themselves. It’s now their business to work closely with schools and know exactly what they’re looking for. Get in touch now to find out how we can help with your job search.