They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Certainly the layout and appearance of your CV is a factor in ensuring it will get read. It should be neat, well formatted and attractive, as well as not too wordy in terms of length. But it is not all about appearance. Meaningful content is also important.
The effectiveness of the CV, in my view, lays almost entirely within the opening paragraphs. The opening paragraphs usually consist of a skills summary, but before that there will be an introduction, and is usually the first thing a potential employer will read. This introductory paragraph is sometimes called a ‘Summary’ or an ‘Objective’. I prefer ‘Professional Profile’. But whatever you call it, it should contain a brief introduction to who you are and what you are trying to achieve. Surprisingly, a lot of people miss this section out completely. I believe it is important to put the employer in the picture from the outset. It sets the focus of the CV straight away and helps the potential employer to decide on how relevant you are to the vacancy they may be seeking to fill.
Contents of the profile
It should be specific and it should state from the outset who/what you are in terms of your current situation. i.e.
“An accomplished Electrical Engineer with extensive hands-on experience acquired in electrical maintenance and repair”.
This tells the employer straight away your current status and your specialism. In the next part of this paragraph, you can highlight any relevant experience or significant facts, i.e.
“advanced knowledge of maintenance of heavy plant machinery”.
This is an opportunity to mention some strengths and capitalise on anything you feel might be useful. In the last part, you can go on to say what roles you are considering next:
“Seeking a dynamic new role as a Project Engineer, Maintenance Manager or Facilities Manager”.
You can also mention any future objectives/career goals, i.e.
“With a view to achieving certification as a Chartered Engineer in the longer term”.
What you must avoid doing at all costs is to produce a generic introduction which is neutral and superficial like:
“A highly motivated and dynamic individual with a 2:1 degree seeking a rewarding position with a progressive organisation”.
This tells the employer nothing about your current situation, nor does it specify the nature of your degree. It fails to state your area of interest and future career aspirations. It just makes you look vague and wishy-washy.
If you can produce a coherent and meaningful introduction to your CV, which need only be a few lines long, it will make all the difference. It sets the tone for what follows and helps to define the relevance of the rest of the document. Good luck!
Next time, we will look at the skills summary, and how to sell yourself in our CV.
Peter Panayotou is the Founder and Senior Consultant at The Write Stuff