CV masterclass

15th January 2010 at 00:00
Everybody dreads doing it, but a well- crafted CV can open doors for you. Fiona Salvage helps you get the balance right

Original paper headline: Juggling the other curriculum

You might be a whiz with the national curriculum, but how are you with your own curriculum vitae? Selling yourself on two sides of A4 doesn't come naturally or easily to most people but it is a crucial skill to learn as this is a popular way for recruiters to decide if you're a suitable candidate to interview.

You don't have to give your life story in this document but if you offer too little detail you look like you're hiding something. When cutting information to get your CV on to two pages, don't leave expanses of time unaccounted for - people will fear the worst and assume you were in prison rather than doing an unglamorous job in a chicken plucking factory.

CV basics

Never write `CV' at the top - everyone knows it's a CV - simply put your name in a slightly larger font than the rest of the document. This also applies if you're sending your CV digitally, and you should also remember to name the file with your own name, such as "Jo Bloggs CV.doc", and never just "CV.doc".

Font sizes should be the same whether your CV is printed or emailed, with 12pt a good compromise, 10pt a little too small, and 1314pt looking like you're filling space. Although many teachers use Comic Sans MS on everything, the CV is not the place for it. Stick to Times New Roman for printed CVs as it is easier to read, and a sans serif font like Arial for emailed CVs as this font reads better on screen.

Bold and italics should be used sparingly on a CV; bold for section headings and italics for job titles is a good way of breaking up the text and making it easier to read. Don't use bold to highlight key words. If you're using italics for publication names, such as if you were on the student paper, make sure you use them consistently.

Always check your CV for spelling, punctuation and other errors. Your work as a teacher on that front will be under a lot of scrutiny and if you can't get your CV right a recruiter will worry about what care you will take with other written material.

It's not necessary to put your date of birth or marital status on your CV, but if you're a mature candidate, leaving out your vital statistics may look like you're trying to cover up your age.

However, email isn't secure and you shouldn't put security details such as date of birth in a CV you are going to email. Instead, you could compromise and ensure you leave in the dates of your education.

Never include a photograph, unless requested. It looks terribly unprofessional.

Don't skimp on paper and printing. Use good quality white or off-white A4 paper, minimum 80gsm but preferably 100gsm.

If you're using a Mac and think your CV's conversion to Word on a PC may affect your careful formatting you might prefer to send a PDF, although experts say Word is more widely used (for more information on digital applications, see page 17).

Your personal statement

Whether you are at the start of your career, or are a career changer and late entrant to teaching, you should always start your CV with a personal statement and your work experience. Recruiters want to know about you as a person, what skills you have and what your experience is (even if limited). These things will give you lots of areas to expand on at the interview stage.

Highlight your achievements, when you've turned a bad situation into a good one, and give them a feel for the sort of teacher you are and hope to be. Make sure you include something on why you want to be a teacher.

Personal statement, professional profile or career profile? Whatever you call it, the paragraph at the top of your CV nestled between your contact details and work experience is probably the most difficult part of a CV to get right. This is the part of the CV that makes you sound human and allows you to demonstrate your qualities and motivations rather than just your experience.

It doesn't need to be an essay - keep it five to 10 lines maximum - but you do need to word it carefully, persuasively and concisely. This is one place in a CV that bullet points will not do you any favours. You should try to write this in the third person rather than the first. The best way to make this paragraph powerful is to make sure every word counts - don't waffle, definitely don't exaggerate, but do get to the point. The statement should be summing up your experience - so if you sorted out the lending library and the health and safety paperwork you're a skilled administrator, or a well-organised individual. If you've turned a class from below par, to achieving the expected level for their age, you might be versatile, flexible, dynamic, innovative or motivational.

Design tips

Use of space is as important on your CV as it is in the classroom. Gaping holes with nothing going on will do you no favours, and nor will shoving everything on it.

There are plenty of templates available on word processing software packages, on websites or in CV books and you can take a steer from these. Use the space sensibly - leaving white space to aid readability - balance the page so it doesn't look lopsided, use bullet points where appropriate and use headings to help the reader navigate through the page.

Above all, make sure you're consistent in bullet style, spacing, font size and design.

Be a wordsmith

Throughout your CV, a good use of vocabulary will help take it from being an average one to an outstanding one. There are lots of CV books on the market and they all offer long word lists that you can crib from.

The most common of these are action verbs (eg achieved, accomplished, managed, improved, developed) and positive adjectives (resourceful, versatile, innovative, positive, productive)

Be interesting

One of the most revealing parts of a CV, but also sometimes the most neglected, is the multitude of sins that comes under "hobbies and interests". Rather uniquely, those applying for teaching posts are probably able to turn this awkward part of a CV to their advantage, and use it to highlight opportunities for extra-curricular activities that you can get involved in.

Candidates with music skills would do well to highlight these talents, as would those with sporting prowess, while any position of responsibility in a team or organisation shows you can organise and get things done. Good luck!

Good words to use


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