Getting CV Ready

Posted: 7th Dec 2020

GETTING CV READY: Expert Career Advice

OA Career Consultant, Jo Sturdy, outlines the key steps to help you perfect this essential job-seeking tool.

A new year is fast approaching, and you are starting to think about resettlement.  You may not have needed a CV since you first enlisted! Thinking about crafting a CV aimed at civilian employers might feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s face it; the reason your CV is crucial in the job application process is that it’s the one document designed to ‘position’ you as a prospective employee to get you through the door to interview stage. It’s then up to you to shine and convince an employer that you’re the right candidate for their role. It also means that your CV should be tailored to each and every role to help maximise your chance of securing that interview.

The profile or personal statement at the top of your CV should help ‘sell’ you to the employer. This is the hook that catches their attention and draws them into wanting to find out more about you.

The process of pulling your CV together is more straightforward and easier to tackle if you start by dividing the document into sections:

Career History: Write down all the jobs you’ve undertaken whilst serving, and before you joined up if relevant. Put them in reverse chronological order with your current role at the top. Head this list, Career History. Go back 8-10 years in detail and then summarise your earlier career.

Key Achievements: Go through each job and pull out those aspects you enjoyed the most and think how well you performed these tasks. What were the tangible, measurable outcomes for your team or unit? Did you improve a process, increase training outcomes or reduce time and money spent on solving a problem? Whatever it was, this is key to turning your autobiography into a self-marketing document. Focus on your key skills and illustrate these. Where possible use dimensions, numbers and percentages and outline your impact and influence. Consider the ‘so what’ of each bullet point you make and use phrases such as ‘resulting in…’ and ‘leading to…’ to show effect.

Key Skills: Look at the themes in terms of the key skills you used to gain those achievements and list those in order of how much you feel motivated to continue to use them in a future role. Then identify the key skills which are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Put this list of skills, together with a brief description of how or where you have used them, above Career History on the first page of your CV.

Job Titles: Review each job title and think about how they will translate into the civilian world. Don’t remove your military descriptors but make sure you have an accurate understanding of what they equate to and add this as well. If in doubt, ask your career consultant or find a military contact in a company you are interested in so they can advise you on specific job titles for which you might be a good fit.

Avoid overstating the grandeur of the role by using equivalent titles such as CEO or COO. Your job title is in bold and will therefore stand out, so ensure it helps to convey your overall message. For example, if you are focusing on operations or project management, try to convey this within your job titles.

Education, Qualifications & Interests: Include your education and qualifications after your Career History section. Keep to relevant information that a civilian organisation will understand.

You can add a sentence on interests or external achievements as these can help portray you as a well-rounded person; try to include information that shows how you have added value to society, teams or groups.

The Hook: The important opening statement or ‘Profile’ is something I suggest you write last. It should be positioned at the top of your CV and will consist of a short, punchy paragraph of 5 or 6 lines giving an overview of your skills, experience and why you should be interviewed. It provides context and background and sets the scene.

 

Final notes:

  • A CV should ideally be two pages maximum to make an excellent first impression so aim for punchy and concise wording. Avoid using ten words where two will do.
  • Focus on tangible, measurable achievements and quantify these rather than responsibilities, where there is no evidence how well you performed.
  • Tailor each CV to the job or role you are applying for. Go through the job description and list all the skills and experience the employer is looking for; against each one, write down what you can offer that equates to it and then tailor your CV accordingly. Try to make it evident that you match their requirements without the reader having to do too much work.
  • Always talk to the contact person, or if none is listed, try to find a connection through LinkedIn before submitting your CV. You may pick up some gems of information that will help to inform your application.
  • Ask if a covering letter is required. Some companies prefer to have all the applicant information contained in the CV but if in doubt, write one. It helps set you apart from those who don’t bother, and it demonstrates your keen interest in the role, highlighting once again why you are the best candidate.

Please don’t pay for external help. Take a minute or two to find the organisations able to provide expert guidance. Remember, your OA Career Consultant is there to advise, and we are more than happy to review CVs no matter how many times you ask.

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