3 Steps to getting a flexible job: 1 creating a winning CV

This is the first of three linked blogs discussing the key steps to getting a flexible job. Since everything starts with your CV today’s blog considers how you can make yours a winning one.

There’s a widely held – and mistaken – belief that a CV is a summary of your work experience to date. In reality it’s a marketing document designed to sell you to your prospective employer. Imagine you were walking through a department store when an assistant thrust a brochure into your hand. You look at the headline: “Your Must-Have Gadget”. Then you read the text and cannot make out what the gadget does or how it might benefit you to buy it. The brochure would immediately go into recycling and you would carry on to your chosen department.

The same is true of your CV. It must clearly explain what you do (or can do) and how that will benefit a potential employer. Your starting point is to identify the job you  want to do and can do. If you’re already working that may be relatively easy as it’s likely to be the next logical step on the career ladder. If you’re not currently in work it can be a little harder – so try this exercise: Imagine you’re looking at a job advert which elicits a response from you that says “I can do that job; and I’d like to do it.”

If you’re not sure what that job is, take a look at some job boards. And if you can’t find the ideal job then write your own job advert. The clearer you are about what you want and what you can offer; the more likely you are to create a winning CV. Recruiters – whether in-house or agency intermediaries – read hundreds of CVs every week. The clearer and more focused yours is, the easier you make their job. And while they may not pick you for their vacancy they’re more likely to remember you when other opportunities arise.

Make it easy to read. Use an 11 or 12 pitch font and logical headings and sub-headings so the recruiter can pick up the relevant information quickly. Keep the format as simple as possible so if the recruiter has a different word processing package the formatting will not be compromised.

Be concise. The received wisdom is that a CV should be no more than two pages in length. If your background is exceptional you may be excused for running to a third page – but don’t make it any longer. Remember, the CV is the marketing document designed to get you the interview. You can go into more detail once you get to that stage.

Wherever possible use standard job titles. If your current or last role was HR Business Partner then say so even if you had a fancy internal title. Don’t leave it to the recruiter to struggle to understand what your role was.

Focus on achievements and the benefits you brought. Don’t simply cut and paste your job descriptions.

Account for career breaks positively. If you’ve taken time out for caring reasons say so; and if you also did any voluntary work during that period or took any steps to update your skills mention that too.

Don’t bother with a summary paragraph at the start. It just takes up space and your skills and experience should be self-evident if you’ve followed my previous advice.

Mention your key academic and professional qualifications, but there’s no need to list every short course you’ve ever attended unless it’s pertinent to the job for which you’re applying.

Similarly there’s no need to mention you’re looking for flexible or reduced hours on your CV.

And finally, if the recruiter likes the look of your CV they may check your details on LinkedIn. By all means expand on your experience there; but make sure the information you provide is consistent with what you’re saying on your CV.

In the next blog I’ll look at how to work with a recruitment intermediary to get the job you want.

Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and one of the UK’s leading experts in re-balancing work. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annameller/

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