Short and sweet;Career development

30th April 1999 at 01:00
John Caunt concludes his series on job-hunting with advice on the all-important CV

For most of the year, job vacancies requiring application by CV and letter, rather than the more traditional application form, are found mainly in overseas and independent-sector advertisements, and amount to only 10 to 15 per cent of the jobs advertised in The TES. This changes dramatically between May and July when CV and letter applications become common across the state sector.

The reason is schools' anxiety about making appointments for a September start. A few days saved by removing the need for the despatch and return of application forms may be vital.

Often, the appointment closing date is only a few days after the ad has appeared. So if you are looking for jobs, prepare a CV in advance.

CVs are usually presented in a chronological format covering much of the detail found in an application form. They should include personal details, education, employment history and achievements. Optional sections are personal qualities and leisure interests. In education, references are normally taken up before the interview, so it makes sense to include them.

An alternative approach is a functional CV that covers your main areas of accomplishment without following a rigid chronological work history. Popular headings are: education, experience, achievements, abilities. This type of layout may be appropriate if you have been in the same job for a long time, are new to the profession or are returning after a career break.

The most common faults with CVs are poor presentation, excessive length and the inclusion of irrelevant material. Your CV should be well laid out on good quality paper with a decent print style. Most word-processors have a CV (or resume) template, and there are several custom-written CV packages for the PC. Some American templates and packages, though, can be rather over the top for British tastes.

Numerous books on CV production are available, although some make the task appear unduly formidable. If you aren't able to produce the document yourself, various CV services offer support, from basic typing to full career guidance. Look for ads in The TES and other local and national newspapers.

People often have difficulty compiling sections on achievements and personal qualities. Deal with these by brainstorming a list of your plus points under each heading, then rigorously trim and refine them.

Use bullet point statements rather than normal sentences. Include only enough detail to ensure that the range and level of your achievements are clear.

There is a myth that a CV should not exceed one page. This may be adequate for a functional CV, but unless you are just starting out on your career, you will struggle to get a full chronological CV on to one page. Even if you do manage it, the chances are that you will have sacrificed white space - and hence readability - in the process.

Aim for a full CV of two well-laid-out pages. More than three and you are in trouble. The literal translation of curriculum vitae may be "course of one's life", but selectors are not looking for autobiographies.

John Caunt was formerly director of personnel in a large FE college. He has 15 years' experience of staff selection

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