Writing a Good CV

By James Long

There are numerous articles and sites giving advice on how to write a CV. I have put together this guide to give an insight into what I have found makes a successful CV from my dealings with candidates and clients in Asia. I will be publishing a similar guide specifically for graduate’s at a later date which will provide some tips for those candidates with little or no professional experience.

If you are working in the design industry, it’s worthwhile creating a graphical CV and I’ve provided guidance on this later in the article. This should be something which visually shows your creativity whilst also ensuring that you include as much information about yourself as possible.

If your CV is to include graphical touches I recommend that you start with a simple written CV and then design around that. I shall therefore firstly outline the structure and written content that I think you should include. This written structure can be used for candidates working within the construction and property fields where the majority of candidates will have a selection of projects to describe.

Start with your personal information, full name (English and other language), contact details etc. A photo is not necessary but sometimes asked for by clients – this is a matter of personal taste. If you use one, please ensure it is not too artistic or fanciful, a simple portrait image, about the size of a passport picture should suffice. I have seen some extreme examples but none more so than the hopeful graduate who sent a CV with a photo of him in a chicken hat and funny glasses…a talking point perhaps, an aid to him finding work? Perhaps not!

Following on from your personal information, write a brief professional profile. Outline your strengths, skills and the experience you have. When talking about your experience, give a brief chronological overview of your career history and how you have arrived in your current position e.g. “I started as a graduate with a large engineering consultancy where I was promoted to principal engineer within 5 years. I then took up the position of project director with a leading developer where I led their residential projects in China. I was recently promoted to General Manager….” and so on.

Also highlight your personal characteristics and any aspirations. Be slightly careful with the aspirations – highlighting “a desire to work with a big name architect or developer” only to then send your CV to a small boutique company can send conflicting messages. Therefore do not be afraid to tailor the profile to suit the application you are making and make sure you keep track of the CV’s you send to different companies. Also mention any significant languages spoken in the profile.

Next outline your education. Detail your years of study both as an undergraduate and postgraduate, the institutions and grades achieved (expected). If you have recently graduated or have limited professional experience then briefly outline your significant academic projects and grades here. There is no need to list all your school grades/exams – simply provide an overview. e.g. 11 GCSE’s grade A-C. You should also include any awards/medals you received during your studies.

Curriculum Vitaephoto © 2008 Desi | more info (via: Wylio)

Following on from your education, now outline your work history. This should include your dates of employment (month and year), the company, your position and then a brief description of your role. Next add a project list and breakdown for each position – make sure you outline what you did specifically on these projects, even if it was detailing toilets early in your career! Include both individual projects and those completed as part of a team. This should only include your significant projects and does not need to include a 1 week study, unless of course it’s extremely relevant. Outline the project brief, your approach, how the project developed and the end result, including any awards. If working as a team, highlight your specific contribution to the project. With each project include facts and figures – it’s value, size and what type of project it was. You may you include some images of the projects here – remember be subtle and relevant. You don’t need hundreds, save that for a portfolio if you are a design candidate.

It’s now time to detail other specific skills. For example your CAD competency, IT knowledge, hand drawing ability etc. Outline each software package you can use including a level of proficiency for each. In the design industry for example a lot of firms are looking for experience with the newer software packages such as Rhino, Maya and Revit.

Following this now outline your language proficiency – if you are only English speaking it is not necessary to have this as a skill – it should be obvious by the CV you have written! But do include any other languages you speak at a decent level of proficiency, indicating the level of proficiency and whether it is spoken or written.

Finally it’s time to talk about your interests or any other relevant information. Here you should include things such as team membership at university, any leadership positions you have had or extra-curricular activities undertaken in any of your roles.

You can include reference information at the end of your CV if you wish. Most firms in Asia will require references, sometimes quite early on in the selection process. Having written references to take to interview is the best bet. If you put referee contact information on your CV please do check with them to make sure they are aware that someone may be contacting them – you’d be surprised how many people don’t check and I’ve had instances where companies have called to take references only to find the referee can barely remember the person. Never a good sign!

If you decide to create a CV with graphics, I’d recommend being creative but subtle. Sometimes, people will try to counteract a lack of practical work experience by overloading their CV with images, colourful flourishes and a visual barrage. Be careful here, it’s important to have a balance which gives enough of a flavour of your design skills but also allows for the written information to be easily accessible, not hidden in a mass of drawings. Remember the most important thing is that you impart relevant and easy to find information to the person reading the CV. Be detailed and allow them to see how you could add value to their business. Let the graphics complement this.

The information above should form the basis of your CV and as a graduate should probably be around 1 ½ pages to 2 pages long and for more experienced candidates up to 4 or 5 pages. It does not need to be any longer than this and avoid writing a CV containing a lot of pages – people simply won’t read all of it!

I hope you have found this guide useful – please feel free to post any comments or questions you have about writing a CV.

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2 Responses to Writing a Good CV

  1. Pingback: Normal posts will resume next week… « Ellicott Long's Blog

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