How to Create a Winning CV
A fantastic CV can be the key to getting you through the door and on to that all-important interview.
As part of our candidate resources, we ran a well-attended webinar on How to Create a Winning CV. What should a great CV look like? What are the pitfalls to avoid? We ran through some of our most helpful tips and tricks for CV writing in our Ten2Two webinar.
Watch our webinar How to Create a Winning CV:
Here’s what our audience thought:
“Fantastic for people who haven’t had to job hunt for some time and don’t know where to start.”
“It was very clear, with lots of helpful advice but not too much to take in. I will definitely be making changes to my CV to improve my chances.”
“It provided a very good overview of what a modern CV should look like – just the guidance I needed to get me started.”
“Excellent, lots of helpful tips & information for getting back to work, particularly for myself who hasn’t been working for the past 7years to spent time raising my two boys. Thank you, last night has been so helpful & has given me confidence to get on & work on updating my CV.”
“The webinar was very informative and gave me some great tips I hadn’t thought of, particularly mirroring words in your CV from the job description.”
“Clear, concise and to the point. Great communication.”
“A very informative presentation that has given me the knowledge to produce a relevant CV.”
“Very informative, well structured and well presented.”
“This was a fantastic webinar, exactly what I needed and has given me loads of guidance on compiling my CV.”
“The last two webinars have been fabulous. Very useful and very well run. Thank you so much.”
“I think they’re pitched at a perfect level and the right amount of time too. A big shout out to you all for doing this.”
Jane O’Gorman (00:02):
Great. Smashing. We’ve got people coming on board already. That’s fantastic. Nice and timely. Hi everyone. Thank you for joining us. Just keep, if you can bear with, we’re just waiting for everyone else to join the session. We’ll just give it a minute just to allow everyone time to, to get themselves on board. Thank you very much. Smashing. Oh, lots of people joining us at the moment, Deborah.
Deborah O’Sullivan (00:35):
Great. That’s fantastic news. Yeah,
Jane O’Gorman (00:38):
Thanks so much. We’ll give it a couple more seconds and just wait and see. Just giving everyone a chance to get on board then we’re good to go.
Deborah O’Sullivan (00:54):
Everyone’s very prompt tonight. That’s great.
Jane O’Gorman (00:56):
We are. I’m so impressed. Yeah, <laugh> busy. Busy. Yeah. That’s great. Just give us a couple of more seconds and we’ll just allow a few more to join us so we don’t miss that kickstart. Yeah, I think we’re about good to go. Okay, great. Well, hi everyone. Welcome and thank you for joining Ten2Two for our webinar on how to create a winning CV. As experts in flexible and part-time recruitment and consulting, we have a wealth of experience in this area and we’d like to share some of this with you.
Now, it’s great to have so many of you with us for this informative session. And we do hope you can take away some useful tips. I’m Jane O’Gorman, director of Ten2Two, and your co-host for this session. And joining me will be our MD Deborah O’Sullivan, who will be leading the presentation. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any questions that you may have or comments during the course of the session.
So please do pop those down in the q and a below and we will do our best to cover as many as possible. And we’ll do a follow up after that too. Now there’s no need to write too much down at the moment. We will follow up with the CV template and a link to the webinar. Now we only have 30 minutes for the presentation, plus some added time for questions. So without further ado, I would like to hand you over to my lovely colleague, Deborah, to kickstart the presentation. Deborah, over to you.
Deborah O’Sullivan (02:41):
Lovely, thanks Jane. Welcome everybody. As Jane said, we’re going to do a quick whistle stop tour of how to create a winning CV. We are going to cover some basics. But what I’m hoping is that no matter where you are in your CV journey, everyone will get something from this evening’s presentation. So I’m going to quickly show you what we’re going to talk about so that you’ve got an idea of the way things are going to run. So we’re going to start with a very quick chat around why you need a CV at all. Where to start, which we know is a really big stumbling block for lots of people. Cover off some basics. And then the main part of the 30 minute presentation is about, you know, what are the main components that make up your CV?
Deborah O’Sullivan (03:31):
What should they look like? What are the pitfalls to avoid? So that’s going to be the chunkiest part of the presentation. We’ll quickly touch on in detail what to avoid and then do a quick summary and then open the floor to questions. That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll just crack on, I think.
So why do you need a CV?
The main thing it’s not, it’s quite nice to have as a record of your career. But actually the main purpose of it is to get you shortlisted for an interview. That’s the purpose.
It shouldn’t do any more than that because that’s the thing that’s going to get you in the door to present yourself and hopefully get the job. It’s still the primary currency, even though I know there’s lots of new ways people are recruiting. Some people don’t ask for CVs anymore. But in the majority of cases, a CV is still your primary currency. It should be a really well presented selling document. So it needs to tell a really nice story, not raise any questions, and make the reader want to meet you. That’s the key thing.
Deborah O’Sullivan (04:43):
Its secondary purpose is a script for talking about your career. Because hopefully when you are shortlisted, (because your CV is so fabulous) then you will get an interview. And the interviewer will likely use your CV as the discussion point. So one of the things we’ll talk about is what you put on your CV. You need to be able to talk about it confidently in front of people. Each CV (and people often do a big sigh at this point), but whenever you submit a CV, even if you’ve tweaked just a sentence or a couple of words, you should tailor it for the role you are seeking.
Today there really isn’t one CV fits all. If you want to get through the screening process and into, into the yes pile for an interview, you want to make sure that your CV looks as though that’s the only job you are applying for. It’s actually quite easy to do. We’ll touch on that. But it’s a really important point. And I will bore you as we go through to it this evening about why that’s important. And then you obviously want to highlight all the experience you have that is relevant for that role. So that might mean reordering your CV, possibly. Or talking a lot more on your cover letter, say, about a company that is very similar to the role you’re applying for.
Deborah O’Sullivan (06:04):
So that’s why you need a CV. The starting point is always a bit of a challenge. So what I would say is that sometimes, it’s better just to start from scratch. If you’ve had a CV that’s been loitering in the bottom of your drawer for 10 years. And each time you’ve changed jobs, you’ve just added on a new job, it probably doesn’t read very well. It probably is a bit outdated in language and design. And the stuff that’s been on there a long time probably isn’t relevant at all.
So I would say if you are feeling at all, oh, I don’t quite know how my CVs working for me at this moment in time, it might be better to start again. If you’re think you’re nearly there, great. You might not need to do everything we’re talking about tonight. So the first thing is to think about being in the right mindset for when you write your CV.
The right mindset
Deborah O’Sullivan (07:01):
When you first create your, what we would call a core cv, where you’re capturing all of your career to date, it’s actually a substantial job. It’s not something you do between, you know, walking the dog and the washing. You want to allocate two hours probably for the starting point and get your head into that space of being you in a workplace. The second thing to do is to consider your audience. We see this quite a lot. I mean we look at thousands of CVs. And we’ve been in business now for 16 years, so we’ve seen a lot. Often people forget who this CV might become might be put in front of. So it could be it could be a brand new junior recruiter who doesn’t know anything about your sector, your industry or understand your achievements.
Deborah O’Sullivan (07:56):
It could be the hiring manager themselves, if it’s a small business. Sometimes the MD does do the recruitment themselves, they might be reading it. It could be a computer, it could be artificial intelligence looking for keywords in your CV to see if they match the keywords in the job brief. So what you need to do when you’re thinking about that, is make sure your CV works for different types of audiences.
Be clear on your work goal
The third thing is to be clear on your work goal. So if you want to say move from a full-time to a part-time job in the same industry doing a similar job, that’s great. When you sit down to write your CV, you’ll have that in mind. If you are thinking of changing sector or changing jobs, again, keep that in your mind. Because the way you emphasize some of your achievements might be different if you’re looking for a shift.
Deborah O’Sullivan (08:48):
Create your basic outline
And then the last point in terms of where you start is to create a basic outline. In a couple of slides I’ll just give you the headings for those. Once you’ve got your basic outline, it’s really easy to start adding content. And once you’ve got that, you can go back to it in between other things. But when you are doing the first draft, allocate time. So I’m just going to do some real basics and I apologize for those who know this stuff already.
You need contact details obviously on your CV because you want somebody to invite you for an interview. But you don’t need loads of information. What we recommend is you put it in the header your name, your LinkedIn profile. This is so that a recruiter or a hiring manager can just click straight through to your LinkedIn profile. Also your mobile phone number and your email.
Deborah O’Sullivan (09:40):
And then the town where you’re based, you don’t need a full address. You can fit all that in a header, just takes up a few lines, looks really neat and tidy. And you’re not wasting valuable space at the top of your CV. I mentioned LinkedIn. Everybody professionally is expected by hirers to have a LinkedIn profile. So it’s much easier if you put it on your CV for the hirer. It also negates the need to put a photograph of yourself on your CV because hopefully you’ll have a nice smiling photograph of yourself on LinkedIn.
If you really don’t like LinkedIn, obviously it’s not compulsory. But what we would say is, particularly if you’re going for any sort of modern tech-based job, LinkedIn. Most people expect people to have a LinkedIn profile. You can have a very basic profile where you just reflect your CV. You just literally list your jobs by date, but try and make sure they match.
Deborah O’Sullivan (10:41):
What you don’t want is any questions raised by your LinkedIn profile being different from your CV.
Format, fonts and bullets.
We have lots of conversations about these. What our general advice is, is unless you are a designer keep your format simple, your font basic and use bullets. You really don’t want to do anything too fancy because most hirers don’t necessarily see your CV in the form you send it. So lots of people say to us, ‘but I’ve got a PDF and people can’t change PDFs’.
But what happens is if you put PDFs into some of the recruitment systems, they take all the formatting out. So you literally end up with plain text document, which obviously isn’t what you want. So you are much safer using a word document with a standard font and basic formatting. If you are a designer, we would recommend that as your base document and then have links to your work which are hosted somewhere else.
Deborah O’Sullivan (11:57):
Length of CV
So we always laugh about this when you get to a certain age, you know, you’ve got more than two pages worth of stuff to talk about. But two pages is the ideal. So when you are looking at length, don’t try and squeeze everything into a 6 point, 8 point font so that you can get everything onto two pages. It’s much better to precis what you’ve got, condense your older jobs and experience. And if it goes into three pages, it’s not the end of the world, but two is the ideal if you can.
Relevance is the next thing. So make sure your CV is relevant for the role you are applying for. So if you’ve gone, you know, if five years ago you did a job and it’s not relevant at all, don’t write loads about it. Pick out the key points because you want consistency of your journey, your career journey. But don’t waste space on your CV with things that actually the hirer is going to look at and go, well I’m not interested in that particular piece of experience.
Photo or not
I’ve already said, you know, the best solution to that is have a nice photo, professional photo on your LinkedIn profile and don’t use up space on your CV with it.
Deborah O’Sullivan (13:22):
So yeah, I just put that in there. Keep your CV as easy to read as possible. Because you are looking for the reader, (whether they’re the hiring manager or somebody who doesn’t really understand much about the role), you just want them to be able to read it and go, yes, this person, we want to call them for an interview. That’s your objective all the way through this process.
Jane O’Gorman (13:46):
Deborah, can I just interject before we move on to the next slide? My little hand’s up there <laugh>. No, that’s absolutely fine. Just a quick one. Going back on that one, the basics. So really thinking about font and the two pages. One question that’s come through is – is it always sensible then, to perhaps add a covering letter with the CV? And perhaps that can bring some of the content into that, to perhaps leave room for other specifics in the CV itself.
Deborah O’Sullivan (14:17):
Absolutely. I mean, some, some hirers ask for cover letters and others don’t. And if you talk to recruiters generally, some will always read a cover letter, some won’t. So if you’ve only got the opportunity to say upload or provide one document, you can add a cover letter at the front of your CV. And your cover letter should add, it shouldn’t repeat what’s in your CV, it should be additive. Why are you the right person for that role? That’s what your cover letter should be doing. But yes, if you have an opportunity, I’d always recommend doing a cover letter because it shows you are really keen, you are interested and engaged in the process.
Jane O’Gorman (14:56):
Smashing. Thank you.
Deborah O’Sullivan (14:57):
No worries. So moving on to the sort of
Main components of a CV
These are they <laugh>. If you have these and it’s well laid out, these are the, the key things – in this order. Start with a profile, onto key skills. Then your career history, your education, and then other information if you’ve got space. So we’re going to talk about each of those individually and try and give you a sense of what they should include. So your personal profile. Remember you’ve got your contact details at the very top in your header. Then the next thing is a pen picture. And this is a short paragraph. Some people call it a personal profile or a profile, but it’s a short paragraph. It’s four or five lines and they say who you are and what your field is. And hopefully you want that field to be the field that the job is looking for.
Deborah O’Sullivan (15:58):
And then you want to include in that profile relevant words to mirror the job ad. And if at all possible, I mean literally mirror the job ad. So if it’s asking for a dynamic marketing manager, you say, ‘I’m a dynamic marketing manager, <laugh> with experience of XYZ’. You want somebody to read this and go, ‘I have to meet this person, this person just is so good, such a good match against the job brief’, then they have to be interviewed. So it’s not a place to be shy, it’s a real opportunity to sell your skills and experience.
So if you’re in sales and you’ve never missed a target in 15 years, then this is the place to mention it. Often a hirer won’t get beyond that personal profile, so it’s your first opportunity to make an impression. So the next thing, and we see some CVs with this and some CVs without, I think it’s a nice opportunity to present the reader a really concise summary of what skills you have.
Deborah O’Sullivan (17:08):
So you can just put it in a box underneath your personal profile with 6 to 8 key bullets of what you, what you would consider are your top skills. And again, I would hope they would reflect the order and the wording of the job you are applying for. So when I talked earlier about tailoring your CV, this is a really simple way to do it.
If, if they’re looking for project management skills in the brief, the job brief as their top skill, make sure it’s at the top of your key skills box. So you know, you might just have to move a couple of bullets around. And all of a sudden you’ve got a key skills list that directly matches the job description that you are applying for. And then use software names here. It can all be on one line. You don’t have to use valuable bullets up.
Deborah O’Sullivan (18:00):
But if, for example, your CV is being screened by artificial intelligence AI, they are often looking for things like Sage, Java if, if there are particular software skills required. So you might think, oh, but everybody’s got Word, it doesn’t matter, <laugh>. Put it in, or Microsoft Office. It just shows that’s an absolute skill of yours and it doesn’t need to be questioned and it matches the brief. So I, I like personally, and most of our recruiters here really like key skills.
So if you’ve got the space I’d, I’d recommend doing key skills. What you then have is career history, which is the real, real core of your CV. So you could go from your personal profile straight to this if you didn’t want to do the key skills box.
Deborah O’Sullivan (18:54):
Career breaks and volunteering
So here you want to start with your most recent employment. So even if you’ve had a career break, then you start with – 2020 to date, career break raising my family, and it doesn’t matter that it’s the first thing. What you’re saying is, this is what I am currently doing or have most recently been doing.
If it’s something that isn’t relevant to the job, so let’s say you have been on a career break and you’ve been volunteering. So you’ve been busy looking after the children and volunteering. If the volunteering is relevant for the job you are going for, because you’ve been doing social media posts or handling finances, include it. You know, don’t shove it at the bottom of your CV as a voluntary experience. Put it there because it’s, it’s still a job, it’s still experience, you’re in the workplace.
Deborah O’Sullivan (19:51):
If it’s really not, you know, if you can’t think how it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, one sentence just to cover off what you’ve been doing in recent times. Really you don’t need any more than 10 years’ experience on there. Unless you’ve been doing something and you want to return to something you were doing previously.
For example, say you started your career in finance and then you worked in sales for 10 years, but actually you quite fancy going back to finance, you would definitely talk about your earlier experience in that field.
And then beyond 10 years, you can just summarize, assuming you’re not doing that, then you can just summarize the dates and maybe one or two bullet points about what you did in those jobs. Rather than chunky commentary.
Deborah O’Sullivan (20:42):
Focus on your achievements rather than the job description you had. So you often see CVs or people say, well I was responsible for the marketing candidate, or I was responsible for keeping the, the team training plan up to date. You want to change that around into – I increased sales by X percent in two years, or I organized all the training plans improving participation by X percent. Anytime you can use data and an achievement to demonstrate your skill and your experience, is much more powerful than just saying ‘I was responsible for’. We suggest using action verbs.
So things like I led, I managed, I communicated, I authored. That type of language is much more engaging to the reader than I was responsible for. So you might need to spend a bit of time working on it, but, and it doesn’t have to, not every sentence has to be that, but if you can weave it in, it’s very useful.
Deborah O’Sullivan (21:55):
Here’s just a little example. So this would be one of your chunks under your key component of work history. So your title – marketing manager, what was the company, when were you there? If, if it’s a big brand like BT or Mars, you know, you probably don’t need a descriptor. But if you can do in small font a descriptor of the company, again that helps the hire go, ah, so she worked for a textile company or oh, she works in that type of company.
So it’s quite useful if you can, to do a little tiny descriptor. It’s not, not vital, but very useful for the hirer. Again, not vital, but if you can, if you’ve had lots of shorter assignments or perhaps you’re a contractor, a reason for leaving is quite also quite useful. It saves the hirer looking at your CV and going, oh, they weren’t there very long.
Deborah O’Sullivan (23:00):
Well I wonder what happened there. And as soon as you’ve got a question mark in that person’s mind, the likelihood is they’ll go, ah, okay, I’ll put them on, they look good, but I’ll put them on the question mark pile, give them a call. And the likelihood is they don’t, because they’ve already got 10 people on their yes pile. So if you can, the reason for leaving is helpful if you’ve had either short periods of employment. And that could be, you know, maybe the company relocated or you relocated or if you’re a contractor.
So it looks like you’ve had lots of short assignments, but that was your intention. And you can do that in your profile. You can say, you know, as a seasoned contractor, I’m an experienced finance manager having worked in X, Y, and Z sectors. But it’s, again, it’s all the time thinking about your audience and thinking, I want to mitigate any questions they may have by looking at my document.
Deborah O’Sullivan (23:57):
And then here you can see there’s just some bullet points. So designed and implemented a social media campaign that increased consumer sales by x percent, redesigned company website, increasing traffic reviewed and improved, managed a person and taught them how to do analytics. So they’re quite good examples and I know it’d be different for every sector, every job. But there, that’s the type of language you’re looking for, for your last 10 years of experience and that’s not, it sounds quite easy. It’s not actually that easy. So don’t worry if you get stuck a little bit when you do that cause you can keep improving that as you revisit your CV over time. I notice you’ve got your hand up, Jane, you’re muted.
Jane O’Gorman (24:45):
I have, and I ought to unmute myself first before I say anymore <laugh>. It’s just, we have quite a number of questions coming through at this point and I wonder if we should address some of them now. Okay. If that’s okay. While it’s still relevant quite a few on the profile. In terms of – should the profile be in third person?
Deborah O’Sullivan (25:07):
Okay. Actually doesn’t matter. I personally think it’s better to do whatever you are comfortable with. So if it feels weird to you to say ‘I’ then don’t, you know, say ‘Jane’, ‘Jane is’. It’s fine either way, whichever you prefer. The majority of the time we see. Hmm. Jane, what would you say? I think it’s probably a split.
Jane O’Gorman (25:31):
Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a mix of the two actually. And as you say, it’s what comes comfortably. But we do see a mix. I think it’s about the content quite often. Absolutely. Actually whether you put it in first person or third person, it’s what you have to say that really matters. So really think about that and what you want to tell the reader. Yes. which actually <laugh> comes onto one of the next questions, which is – if I want to start a new career, (so you’re shifting away perhaps from some of what you’ve done previously) is the profile the best place to perhaps present that? Would that be the opportunity to say now looking for a new direction.
Deborah O’Sullivan (26:13):
Yes. So that’s the opportunity to say, describe what you are, looking and then you move into, looking to use my many transferrable skills in and whatever the job title is you’re applying for, but something like that. So that again, you don’t get somebody getting down to your first, your, your first career history bullets, going, well why are they applying for this job? You know, you need, you need to lead the reader through your story. So absolutely yes, you’d do it in the person profile.
Jane O’Gorman (26:43):
Okay, there’s a few more, but I think we can carry on and
Deborah O’Sullivan (26:45):
We’ll okay. Come back
Jane O’Gorman (26:46):
To those a bit later. Thank
Deborah O’Sullivan (26:48):
Education and training
You. Okay. So we’re onto education and training. Again, this doesn’t need to be a massive section on your CV. Obviously if you are new in your career, so you’ve just left school or uni, then education is a much bigger part of what you’ve got to say. You know, if you’re 15 years into your career, start with your highest level of education and you could probably leave it there. And then add any relevant training that you’ve had.
And I say relevant, I’ve literally had a CV before with three pages of training courses that somebody had attended, none of which were relevant for the job. So again, think about what’s relevant training, what is my highest level of education, do I need to include anymore? If you’ve got letters after your name, then a good place to put that is just in your header and then it appears on every page.
Deborah O’Sullivan (27:44):
You’re sort of stating it without stating it. So it’s a really neat way of saying that. And then once you’ve done your education training, the other section is sort of additional information. Now, if you’ve run out of space, this isn’t vital at all, but it is an opportunity to give a flavour of your character. So you might ski, you love baking and you regularly run marathons, let’s say, oh, that would be nice. That says a few things about you.
You know, it says that you’re interested in health and fitness, but you like eating cake with just by three words. Someone’s got a bit of a picture of you. So if you can, I would. There’s, there’s some debate amongst the HR community, whether it’s all just a waste of time. But I personally and I know the team do, really like that additional information.
Deborah O’Sullivan (28:41):
It just gives you an idea. And if you then get an interview, it also helps the interviewer to maybe just have that ice breaking conversation with you when they first meet you. So if you can, then do include that. So that’s your CV done. You don’t have to include references. We, we are going to send out Jane mentioned it, but we’re going to send out a little proforma format for you to have a look at.
References is on there, but you really don’t need to include references. If you do, all you need to say is references available on request. You really don’t need to list names and addresses because they won’t be needed until you’ve been offered a job. And at that point, that’s when you check and double check for spelling mistakes, give it to your friends, give it to your family.
Deborah O’Sullivan (29:26):
The document should be something you’re proud of. It shouldn’t be something to hide away. So give it to some colleagues, ex-colleagues, your partner. Just say, you know, does this reflect me? What do you think? Is this right for me? And of course it’s a moving document so it doesn’t have to be set in stone.
Pitfalls to avoid
So just moving on to pitfalls to avoid. And most of these are fairly obvious. So I’ll whizz through cause I’m conscious of time. Never lie, it’s really obvious. But just remember what’s on your CV is likely to come up at interview.
So then you’ve got to, if you lie, you’ve got to then carry that through to interview. So then, you’ll be nervous enough at the interview. You don’t want to make it more stressful for yourself. I said this before, achievements you’re confident about, so you want to be talking about them. And it’s a really good exercise actually when you do your CV you think, oh yes, I did do that really well and actually I was brilliant at that.
Deborah O’Sullivan (30:26):
You know, so I think actually it’s an opportunity to reassure yourself, pat yourself on the back. Beware CV building packages. They’re quite tempting but sometimes they don’t give you very much flexibility. Often the formatting can be a problem when you are then uploading your CV to various platforms. So you, I don’t really think you need them. LinkedIn does have a CV building platform and basically what it does is it just takes down your profile into a CV format, but it is formatted.
So again, I would still be quite wary of that when you are sending that elsewhere, once you’re off the LinkedIn platform. It works fine on the LinkedIn platform. But I wouldn’t suggest using it all the time. We’ve talked about fancy fonts and formatting. So avoid those, avoid long acronyms. This comes back to who’s your audience.
Deborah O’Sullivan (31:19):
So if you’ve been in quite a technical role, say in a big corporate. Anyone who’s worked in a corporate knows they have their own language, but unless you are literally looking for a like for like job in a, like for like sector, those acronyms pretty much are meaningless to anybody else. So just be careful to use things or, or spell them out if you going to use an acronym, at least spell them out the first time you use them. Unexplained gaps, we’ve talked about that a little.
You want an easy to read, chronologically sensible document that makes the person want to meet you. If there’s a big gap somewhere and you haven’t explained it, then you just become a question mark and then well what I’ve just said. So avoid anything that raises a question for the reader. So, so basically in summary, a good CV is going to be an easy to read, concise, comprehensive, descriptive and personal document.
Deborah O’Sullivan (32:20):
It will be relevant to the role cause you’re going to tailor it every time, even a little bit. Even if you just tailor your profile and your key skills, maybe move a few bullets around, tailor it for the role you are going for. It shouldn’t leave any question marks, should have a clear journey that the reader can follow and hopefully it will move you to the yes pile. And that is the overall name of the good CV. That was, yep. That felt fast. I hope everybody got <laugh>. I hope everyone got at least some hints and tips from that.
Jane O’Gorman (32:55):
Indeed. Deborah, we’ve got quite a few questions coming through. What I would say is, I don’t think we will have time to cover all of them. So I suggest that we do come back with those when we are sending out our webinar and CV template too, so we can try and cover more. But just for now I would say there a lot of common several questions around career gap. I know you’ve touched on that already, but it seems to be a particular area of concern about how that is identified on the CV, right?
And if there is a significant career break, is it sufficient to say ‘career break to spend time with family’? Or indeed we’ve touched on volunteering, is it worth mentioning in terms of the tasks that one’s been doing in that particular instance? It might not be directly related to the role in question, but where should volunteering come. And if that happens to have been during that career break is it worth mentioning at all?
Deborah O’Sullivan (34:02):
Sure. We are literally creating a webinar at the moment about gaps and returning after a break. So, we’ll be doing something about that in the future. What I would say is it actually depends on what you’ve been doing. Today there is much more openness to the fact that people have breaks. So there used to be, you know, 15 years ago people used to be a bit shy about even talking about them. And actually the pandemic is one of the things that’s helped this. People recognize that you work and you have a family. Or you might have to care for elderly relatives or, you know, so people do get it. And I always say if they don’t, do you want to work for a company that doesn’t? Anyway, so I think it’s best to be open and honest.
Deborah O’Sullivan (34:55):
If you are on a career break, then like I said before, start your CV with that, but it’s about the relevance of what you’ve been doing in the interim. So if you have been volunteering, let’s say in a charity shop. And so your experience there is retail, but you are going for a job that’s got nothing to do with retail, then think about what you’ve been doing. Is there any skills that you’ve been doing in your volunteer position that matches the job you’re going for? If there are, you don’t need to make a big deal out of it.
You can put the dates, you don’t have to say it’s a volunteering job. Just say you’ve been working for Oxfam for the last two years. You can say managing cash, customer service you know, that type of thing where you think about the role you’ve been doing as a volunteer in a professional setting.
Deborah O’Sullivan (35:42):
So that’s what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to pull out all the skills you might have gained and put them in a format that is meaningful. If you have been at home, let’s say. So we work with people who have 10, 12 year career breaks, you still want to say that and if you haven’t, if you haven’t done anything that, you know, in terms of you could put down as a job, that’s fine. ‘Career break to raise family. During this time I successfully raised three boys. I renovated the house and something else’.
So, or literally one line, I’ve had a career break to raise my family and I’m now excited to return to the workplace. So it does depend what you’ve been doing. If you’ve been volunteering but it’s not relevant, put it at the end under other interests after your education. So you can have another heading, saying volunteering experience.
Deborah O’Sullivan (36:39):
But generally most volunteering as well as, you know, generally raising a family gives you loads of skills that you can either put in your key skills box or include as actually a role. So it’s quite a big topic. I can’t really cover it all because it very much depends on what you’ve been doing and how long your break is and what you want to be doing. So I suppose the key message is if you’re applying for a job, the hirer is always looking for a brief match. They’ve got a job brief, they know the sort of person they want to be doing it. You want to make yourself look like that person, through demonstrating your skills on a CV. So, and if you think the gap’s too wide, then maybe it isn’t the right job. So yeah, so watch out for that webinar coming soon.
Jane O’Gorman (37:28):
<Laugh>. I think we might need it <laugh>. Staying with relevance, and I know we’ve touched on highlighting relevance to the job, if it’s not necessarily the most recent role. Yes, but actually we had a couple of repeat questions around perhaps several years now being the less relevant and actually yes, wanting to return to a more relevant role, the career that perhaps was something that this, this person did five, six years ago. Yes. And in that instance, is a chronological CV still the best route or would it be better to think about skills-based or what would work in that instance?
Deborah O’Sullivan (38:07):
We see that a lot where often it’s, it’s mums who’ve had a family and have stepped back to either work part-time or just stepped back in terms of number of hours and responsibility. So, and then the kids get to a certain age and then it’s right, okay, I am ready to take on, to do more than I used to do before. We see it quite a lot and the best way to present it on your CV is in your personal profile to actually think about the wording that suggests that’s what you’ve done. So ‘I actively chose to pursue a local job while my family was young and I’m now feel perfectly ready to restart my career at the level I was before’, or words something like that.
You’d introduce your story in your personal profile and then you don’t exclude the jobs you’ve been doing recently. Because they will have, they’ve kept you in the workplace and will have relevant skills. You would probably downplay those and up play your earlier experience and that’s how you get that message across. And again, your cover letter could be the point where you explain that in a bit more detail. You know, ‘I appreciate I’ve been working at a lower level but I previously held this job. I’m more than happy to join and at a more junior level than I was before, but I’m really keen to restart my career in this direction’. So that could be your cover letter, it’s the place for a detailed explanation I would say.
Jane O’Gorman (39:44):
Progression within one organisation
Okay. We’re kind of running out of time. I’ll try and squeeze in one more. Rest assured, I know we have a lot of questions here, we will be looking at those and coming back to you on as many as we can too. Yeah. There was actually a couple of similar questions around those who have been in a role with one company for a very long time. So in actual fact you may well have progressed through various roles, but within one company so you are seeing progression. How do you lay that out or present that on the CV?
Deborah O’Sullivan (40:19):
So I would, again, I would treat each progression as a new role. So let’s say it’s a big corporate, let’s say BT, so you say BT and then each job title is the dates you moved the job title and you pull out those differences.
And again, in your personal profile, it’s an opportunity on the last line to say, you know, having, having worked at in a large corporate for the last 15 years, or 10 years, I feel ready to use my skills in a different sector or a different size company. So again, you’re sort of acknowledging that. I know I’ve been at a company for a long time and, and that’s good, you know, that shows loyalty, it shows progression and you can use those words. Having progressed every two years in my corporate career to date, I’m now ready to move to a different sector or a different company and transfer my skills to, you know, a different culture. I can’t, it’s hard to come up with the words on the spot, but you know what I’m saying.
Jane O’Gorman (41:25):
<Laugh>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Thanks. That’s great. I think we will have to pause on the questions there. That’s all we have time for at the moment. I would like
Deborah O’Sullivan (41:36):
To say, sorry Jane, can I just say, so what we’ll do is if we go through the questions and then we can actually answer them and everybody will see all the questions unless you mark it as personal.
Jane O’Gorman (41:48):
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I mean there are, so we can have a run through, rest assured, and we’ll have a look at those for you. As I say though, I’m afraid that is all we have time for just now. Thank you Deborah for a great presentation and thank you everyone for joining us. We do hope that you have found this useful. As I’ve mentioned, we will follow up with the CV template with the summary of the questions. There are a few, I know some of you touched on perhaps going back to some of the earlier slides. But we will be sending a link to the webinar so you can watch that in your own time at your leisure.
Please do allow us a couple of days to come back with to you with those. There will also be a very brief survey to gather your feedback. Which we value very much and we do like to have your input. So please do let us know your thoughts. And if you are not already a member of Ten2Two, please do register on their website. And you’ll be informed then of upcoming roles and future webinars too. So that’s it for now. We do hope to see you on another Ten2Two webinar soon. Thanks again, Deborah, it’s bye-bye from me and bye-bye from Deborah. Bye.