In Search of Perfection
We all know the market is tough at the moment, pretty much wherever you go. So with competition for jobs hotting up, it is important that your CV really sells your skills to future employers in the most effective way you can.
Making an impression
On average, employers and recruitment companies spend just 10-20 seconds skim reading your CV initially, so first impressions count. You need to keep it succinct and professional, and easy to glean information before they read into the detail. Obviously your name and contact details need to appear at the top of your CV, but keep it snappy. Use of space is key, as you need to keep the whole CV to 2-3 pages maximum. Make sure you highlight your connections with New Zealand (i.e. an attachment to a particular area if you have one, such as family or friends there, and what date you plan to move) – this shows you are determined to make the move and are not going to waste their time.
Profile and Key Skills
In the top half of the first page you could also write a short paragraph to provide a succinct overview of your background and key skills. Like the back cover of a book, it should encourage them to read more into the detail of your CV. Something like “Finance graduate who trained and qualified as a Chartered Accountant with a top 10 accountancy firm and since has gained 5 years’ experience in group finance positions within the telecoms and IT sectors.” or “Skilled builder who originally trained and qualified as a bricklayer with the largest UK building firm, before setting up his own business building extensions and loft conversions. Now looking for employment with a well-reputed building company in Auckland.”
Education and Qualifications
In general, the more experience you have, the less relevant your education becomes to employers, so unless you are a recent school/college leaver or graduate you will probably want to put this section on the second page towards the end of your CV (as long as you have mentioned your highest or most relevant qualification in your profile). If you know the equivalent qualification name in New Zealand, explain this in brackets afterwards e.g. “similar to xyz”, so that they have a better idea of what it might cover.
Skills based or Job based CV
A job-based CV needs to focus mainly on the positions and companies you have worked for and the responsibilities and achievements, showing career progression. It should be in reverse chronological order, with the greatest detail given to your most recent role, with less and less detail the further back in your career you are writing about.
A skills based CV could be the right CV for you if you want the greatest chance of being considered for a variety of opportunities with your skills, or if you are changing career direction. It should highlight the four or five main skills that you feel are most important to the type of employers you are aiming to impress, and then should have bullet points highlighting how and where you have gained those skills. Quantifiable achievements are particularly good to include on either type of CV. You will still need to list employers, dates and your role in reverse chronological order later in your CV, but this will be briefer than the skills section.
What else to include (or exclude?)
You don’t need to include your age or marital status on CVs now. For most CVs, details of references are not needed either; a simple statement such as “references available on request” will suffice as potential employers will ask you for these when they need them. Regarding hobbies and other interests, unless they support your application, it is probably best not to include them. Save the space on your CV to show them what you’ve achieved professionally.
It is worthwhile including information such as whether you hold a driving licence (albeit a UK one) as it is one thing less for them to worry about if it is requirement for the job, or they know that the only way you could get to their place of work is by car.
If you have good IT skills and they are relevant to the type of work you are seeking, it might be worth including a separate section on this to highlight them. If the systems you have used are not well-known ones, make sure that you use the generic terms for them, i.e. “database” rather than the name of the specific database or bespoke programme.
Include your name, contact email address or number and page number at the bottom of each page, so that if they get separated when your CV is reviewed they will find their way back together again!
Cover letters / Emails
Don’t underestimate the power of a well-written cover letter or accompanying email. Highlight a few key skills and achievements, plus use the letter to explain how your skills will benefit their company and why you are a good match for them. This is also the ideal place to tell them of your motivations for moving to New Zealand, where you will be based, from what date and any forthcoming visits when you will be available for interview. Remember though, two to three short paragraphs is all you need; any more and the letter and even your CV may be discarded.
Targeting your letter
When constructing your cover letter, you need to think about to whom you are sending it. If it is a letter in response to an advert, be sure to highlight all the points they are looking for. So if the advert says they want a fully qualified accountant with experience of both Management and Finance accounting and people management skills, and you have this experience, put this clearly in your cover letter.
It is useful to use the style of language they use too, as it shows you are on their wavelength; the sort of person who could fit into their company or team. For example, if they are looking for someone with a ‘can do’ attitude, and you believe that is how you are, say it! This should be accompanied with a few bullet points showing how your skills will benefit them and perhaps a couple of the most relevant achievements.
Speculative CV cover letter
If you are sending your CV direct to a particular company to see if they have any unadvertised vacancies it is worth reviewing their website for their mission statement or how they describe what they do so that you can show you have some synergy in work ethics. It just needs to be a single sentence that shows why you are interested in them as a company, and then follow this with your skills/benefits bullet points, and try to ‘weave in’ information about some relevant achievements.
Cover letter to recruitment agencies
Similar to sending a speculative letter direct to a potential employer, you need to highlight your key skills, benefits to their clients, and a couple of your main achievements. Don’t forget to include the address and telephone numbers for where you are moving to, including dates you are available for interview.
Don’t just send it and hope for the best
Lastly, just a note on sending your CV and cover letter. Whether you send via post or email , always follow it up with a call to see if they’ve received it. If you can speak with the hiring manager or person short listing CVs to interview that would be even better. By doing this you bring your CV to their attention (they might have overlooked it, however good it is), and it shows them how enthusiastic you are about the role/company….and enthusiasm and attitude takes you a long way in the world of recruitment.
If after reading this you decide that you would prefer to have your CV written for you, it might be worth approaching a professional CV writing company such as Career Matters. Make sure your CV writer has a background in recruitment and not just writing or typing, and that they include a consultation before writing your documents, as it makes a big difference to their effectiveness.