Summary of Monday's Guardian Careers online CV and covering letter clinic

I am a great fan of the work that Guardian Careers do, particularly their online Q&A sessions. They give great accessibility to expert advice, and cover a huge range of industries and career-related topics.

As you may know, on Monday I participated as a panel member in the Guardian Careers online CV and covering letter clinic. It was a great experience. For those of you who wish to have a look at the complete article it is available online here (but you’d better hurry as the link won’t be up for ever).

For those of you who have missed the link or who don’t have the time to read through the whole thing, I thought I’d use this blog post to produce a quick summary of some of the main points addressed:

Your CV should cover up to 2 sides of A4 paper

Only in exceptional circumstances should you go longer than this - most recruiters only want to see 2 sides. If your CV is too long, then it is a sign that you are unable to communicate relevant information concisely. Consider grouping together past (less relevant) jobs or experiences and take up unnecessary space writing out all your GCSE grades if you have done higher qualifications.

Your CV should be tailored to the job you are applying to

Most recruiters agree that, in theory, you should be amending your CV to each job you are applying to, making sure that it is targeted to the relevant skills required.

Your CV should cover the most relevant information first

The age old question of ‘should I put my education before my employment?’ depends totally on what section you feel is most relevant to the particular job and most appealing to recruiters. You may need to chop and change the order from one CV to the next. Use of a personal profile or a key skills section high up on your front page can be a good way of doing this.

Your CV should have a formal appearance

The competitiveness of the current job market does not give excuses for ‘over creative’ CVs. Bright pink envelopes and sparkly paper attract the wrong kind of attention from recruiters. In the vast majority of cases you should keep it traditional. Consider the culture of the industry you are applying to.

Your CV should make good use of white space

This makes it much easier on the eye and, therefore, more easily readable to recruiters. Don’t make sentences too long or paragraphs too ‘blocky’. Consider the use of bullet points instead.

Your CV should contain information on work experience opportunities and extra-curricular achievements

Employers do value these experiences, particularly if you are young and don’t have much work history. They want to employ people who are proactive and who seek opportunities. But they become less important if you have a steady and relevant employment history.

You CV need not contain everything about you

It is not fraudulent to choose to omit certain information such as past jobs of little relevance, nationality or date of birth. A CV is about you choosing the information that you feel positions you best for the role. It should be selective and not exhaustive.

Your covering letter may not even be read

Some recruiters will go straight to your CV so make sure you are not relying on using your covering letter to get across important information. However, it can be a useful opportunity to convey personality and qualities such as enthusiasm, or to explain any career changes of gaps in your CV.


For more information on the professional CV review service we provide at Momentum Careers Advice, please click here.