Wake up to your new-look CV

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
If your career needs a fresh start, then chances are your CV probably does too. Jill Parkin looks at ways you can secure that dream job

Go on, click on the icon that says CV and call up a document history. Just how old and dusty is this vital part of your career flight? That old joke "my curriculum vitae is so old it's written in Latin" has all too much truth in it.

A CV should be updated as your experience and ambitions change, and it should be customised for each job application you make.

These days a catalogue of academic qualifications and previous posts, followed by a couple of referees and a couple of hobbies, won't get you anywhere. Even if you do have total recall of your O-level grades and now defunct examining boards.

CVs should be word-processed and laser-printed in black ink. Spell-checking is essential - rocky English and shaky IT skills may cause you to be weeded out in the first round.

A CV should be about two pages long, personal without any hint of navel-gazing. Its purpose is to get you an interview, so it needs to be interesting. But the debate can wait until you meet the panel.

Heads are busy people. They may ask you to fax your CV, and they will want to photocopy it for every member of the interview panel, so keep it short. It should be clear too, with no fancy typefaces or distracting design.

* Personal profile - under your name you should start with a personal profile. There are some jobs where the trendy thing is to write it in the third person: "James is a positive self-starter and has great leadership potential..." But frankly it sounds daft, and worse still it suggests you think the panel may be daft too.

A two-sentence paragraph is enough to give a flavour. It should be relevant and honest, so if the school is in special measures, you might say you like a challenge and you're a teamworker.

* Career - the next section, a summary of your career to date, should be in reverse chronologial order. Say what you did in each job. For example:

"Head of year six at Cleghorn Primary since1999. I introduced a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and ran a term-long skip-for-health marathon for the whole school."

* Personal growth - you may want to mention in or just after the career section, that it was at this school that you learned valuable teamworkleadership skills. Interviewers want evidence of self-awareness and development. You must be able to substantiate your claims, describing briefly the experience you learned from.

* Academic record - your academic and professional qualifications should come next, again in reverse chronological order. It's worth including subjects and grades for A-levels.

* Outside the classroom - most heads are looking for people who will be part of the larger community, people who have had more than the school to university and back to school experience.

So do write about any voluntary or youth work you've done. If you've done other jobs, include those too. It's better to give an account of what you gained from an experience than to leave an obvious gap. Time out for professional development should be mentioned too.

* Extras - you should include a section on what else you can offer. This should include interests such as musical or sporting skills. Don't forget any special skills - sign language or counselling.

* Hopes - include a paragraph on where you see yourself going. It doesn't have to be a confession along the lines of: "Well, headteacher, it's your job next for me". It could be the image of the sort of teacher you want to be and the sort of job you want to do for the school: "I give of my best when I'm able to bring out the individual in a child, and am not simply turning out cogs and wheels to slot into the machine. That's why I am attracted by the independent spirit of your advertisement." This personal statement may fit better in your letter of application.

Before you go to the interview, think about your CV and what else you'd like to bring out. It's an ice-breaker, a foretaste. It's not the whole story, but it may well set the course of the interview.

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