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CV Writing

CV Writing
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The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. Not a job. The distinction is important and worth bearing in mind. The current job market is constantly changing and very competitive. Preparing your CV is a task you should take as seriously as looking for vacancies. So whilst your CV will not get you a job it can open the door to an interview.
So, what makes a good CV? Is there anything you should pay particular attention to as an ex-military job seeker? What are employers looking for? What are the most common pitfalls?

You can access a wealth of information online or in the CTW on CV writing. To help you focus, this guide gives you pointers on some of the top priorities to concentrate on. Don't forget, every CV you send out must be targeted to the job you are applying for.

MAKE SURE YOUR CV IS ‘CLEAR’

Customised
Laid out well
Error free
Accurate
Recent

Customised

When putting a CV together you always need to consider the organisation you are applying to and what skills and experience they are after. Sounds obvious?

It can be tempting to send out the same CV to all employers. But you should never do that. You need to spend time tailoring your CV for each role that you apply for. 

Research the company and use the job advert to work out exactly what they are looking for and how your skills match their requirements. The Recruiter will scan your CV to see if you tick the basic requirements they are looking for – and only then decide whether to invite you for an interview. Make it easy for the employer to scan your CV and see how you match their requirements, rather than letting them search for the relevant information. Chance is they won’t. 

It is obvious to an employer if you have not spent time researching whether the information on your CV is relevant to their vacancy, so if the job is worth applying for, it is worth tailoring your CV accordingly.

Every CV should include a ‘personal statement’ or ‘career summary’. This gives you the opportunity to show how your experience relates to the vacancy you are applying for. The statement is often the part employers look at first and should explain why you are the best person for the job. This should also be reflected in your cover letter.

As you are moving into the civilian market, many future employers are not familiar with military terms or with what your job military job titles mean. A big consideration for you is how to translate your previous job titles and responsibilities and how to present the many transferable skills you will have gained from military service. You need to avoid military jargon and language and to show how your training and experience gained in the military is relevant to the vacancy you are applying for. It is a good idea to show your CV to a ‘civilian’ to see if they understand it before you send it to a prospective employer.

It is very common for job seekers to have several versions of a CV – each contains the same factual information, but it will highlight different skills and experiences, according to what an employer is looking for.

  • If a job calls for certain formal qualifications, highlight that you have those qualifications
  • If a job call for certain experience, explain how YOUR experience is relevant to what they are looking for
  • Consider your language and how you present the CV – is the organisation very formal or informal? How can your CV reflect your ‘fit’?
Common mistakes
  • Listing experience, achievements or awards which may be admirable but irrelevant to the vacancy applied for
  • Not matching your skills and experience to the skills and experience listed in the job description or role profile
  • Using military language that potential employers don’t understand
  • Listing hobbies and interests that are irrelevant to the employer
  • Going too far back in your employment history and listing/describing jobs that are too junior or irrelevant to the vacancy 
  • The CV is too long – try to stick to two pages
Don’t forget CTP Career Consultants can help you translate your military experience into ‘civvy’ language.

Laid out well

Your CV is a potential employer’s first impression of you. There are many typefaces to choose from and it might be tempting to go for something you consider individual, modern or something which will stand out. Our advice is to make your CV as easy to read as possible and that means choosing a common business font such as Ariel, Times New Roman or Verdana.

Employers don’t spend more than a few seconds when they initially scan a CV and they don’t have time to search amongst graphics, cluttered paragraphs etc for the information that they are looking for, so make sure you present your CV in a uncluttered layout. Use bullet points and keep sentences short. If you leave white space around text and between categories, it makes the layout easier on the eye. 

Most CVs are now requested via email or uploaded to an online candidate management system. However, if you need to supply a CV in paper format, white A4 paper of a good quality is the best option.  Avoid coloured or patterned paper. CVs should never be crumpled or folded, so use an A4 envelope to post your applications.

Error Free

Employers receive high volumes of applications and it’s easy to reject those CVs that don’t show the applicant paid attention to what they were doing.

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on your CV reflect poorly on you and what’s worse, employers DO notice. If you are applying for a role that calls for ‘attention to detail’ or ‘good written communication skills’ a CV with spelling mistakes will not do you any favours.

Mistakes such as omitting important information around qualifications or experience are even worse as they actually prevent you from presenting your strongest points.

The good news is you can avoid obvious errors like spelling mistakes by using a spell checker. When you have finished your CV read it through and pay attention to spelling, dates, qualifications and names of employers. 

Common mistakes:
  • Spelling the name of the organisation you apply to wrong
  • General spelling mistakes
  • Misuse of apostrophes. For example: it is called ‘One year’s experience’ and the plural is ‘Two years’ experience’
  • Giving the wrong contact details – be accurate with your phone number and email address 
  • Referring to the wrong vacancy in your summary statement

Accurate

Make sure all details you list on your CV are accurate. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate educational achievements or embellish on what type of jobs you have done. Employers do background checks and take references and you don’t want to start a job on false pretences.

Your CV needs to emphasise the facts relevant to the position you are applying for. To do this effectively, research the role and list the skills, experiences and aspects of your background that are most relevant.  

During your military service you may have gathered various qualifications and decorations but make sure you don’t confuse a potential employer by listing them out of context. Certain things will not have any relevance on a civilian CV.

‘Transferable skills’ are often talked about and no doubt you have loads to offer. You want your CV to demonstrate that the skills picked up during your military career can make a smooth transition into civilian life.  Remember, civilian employers are unfamiliar with military jargon and explain why the skills or achievements you list are relevant.

Recent

A CV needs updating every time you change jobs, gain a new qualification or if it has been a while since you applied for a vacancy. Make sure every version you send out of your CV is completely up-to-date – employers will quickly spot ‘old versions’ where you may have highlighted your proficiency in Office 2000.

And remember, be proud of your military history

A career in the military is one of the most admired out there, so place this in the forefront of your mind when you start your search for a new role. You have marketable skills as well as a whole host of other experiences to lead with. That said, it is worth remembering that most civilians can be, understandably, reluctant to talk to you about any actual live combat details. Tone this down or remove it entirely from your CV to decrease the ‘squeamish’ factor many civilians may feel when faced with this reality.



External links

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CV Writing

Downloads

  • CV Builder User Guide

    Login to myPlan to access the CV Builder tool; these instructions explain how to use it to create a draft CV.

  • CV Writing Infographic

    Everything you need to remember when writing your CV, in an easy-to-read format.

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