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How to write a winning CV – an interview with Liz Gadd

9th June 2023

What should I include in my CV? How long should it be? How can I make it look better to land the job?

We’ve all had these daunting questions when trying to put together a good CV. And with all that information out there, it can be even tougher to find credible facts.

So, we thought it might be a good idea to share some useful tips and tricks to help you avoid the most common CV mistakes. Also, as a bonus, we’ll make it relevant to the creative industry. And those looking for a job in PR, Comms, Marketing, Digital, and Design!

Firstly, let’s start with the correct term – is it a CV or a Resume?

The term ‘CV’ is predominantly used across the UK and is an abbreviation of the Latin ‘Curriculum Vitae’ meaning “story of (one’s) life”. The word ‘resume’ derives from the French ‘résumer’. It means “to summarise” and is a more common term in Europe. Sounds simple enough, but which one should you use?

Liz Gadd: “We’ve noticed that the term candidates mainly use is ‘CV’. And while this is the accepted norm within the UK, we believe that both terms can be used. I should also note that the content of the CV or Resume is much more important than the term you choose to use”.

So then, what exactly is a CV, and what should I include in mine?

A CV is a short, written summary of your professional experience. Your CV should be relevant to the job you are applying for, drawing on your key achievements and demonstrating you are prepared to do the job. It should also be clear and concise, with essential information structured and formatted plainly.

Starting from your contact details (full name, address (or at least town/city), phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile). You should also include your work history, qualifications, accomplishments, and education.

And while there’s no right or wrong way to structure your CV, it is always best to start with your most recent work experience. Follow a reverse chronological order and list your full working history.

“Regardless of the industry you are trying to enter and the job you are trying to land, your CV should always include detailed work history. List your most recent employment and any previous, relevant experiences.

“Your CV should also embody an education and profile summary. Add relevant links to previous work, and certificates or qualifications you have obtained”, explained Liz Gadd, founder of Moxie and Mettle.

What should I not include on my CV?

“There is a recurring trend in creative, PR, and digital CVs we constantly see – the most dreaded ‘references upon request’ sentence. It’s obvious that you have references on request, but you don’t need to state it. Although it’s always a benefit that you have people who can endorse you and your skills, you should remember to mention your referees by name, their relationship with you, and their contact details. Ask for permission from your referees, of course.

“This will create value in the eyes of the hiring manager or recruitment consultant. It will also mean that your references can be contacted quickly and easily.  Of course, you should state any that are NOT to be contacted until after you have accepted a new role. Or don’t provide your current employer’s details until after your new role is secured”, Liz Gadd mentioned.

How long should a CV be?

Again, there is no right or wrong answer – it really depends on the quality of your CV and your writing. While some career sites and industry experts will tell you CVs should not be longer than one page, we believe in quality AND quantity. If your CV is interesting, contains enviable information, and has your working experience, then in all cases, it should be longer!

According to Liz: “Anything between two and four pages is acceptable. More than that, your CV can quickly become redundant. At the same time, if you are applying for a design role and have various examples of your work included in your resume, then you shouldn’t worry as this only proves your extensive experience!”

Should I include any special designs and fonts?

Our friend and copywriter Katie Palmer once said that you should make your CV stand out from the crowd. But does that mean including any special design features? The truth is you should keep your CV simple and easy to read. Likewise, if the company you apply for is using an Applicant Tracking System or ATS software to navigate the high number of candidates, including such special designs and graphics can result in never being seen by the employer. Keywords may not be recognised by the software.

But if you have been successful in passing through the ATS software, it is also important to mention that contrary to popular belief that recruiters spend 7.4 seconds on resumes, most resumes are explored thoroughly.

Liz explained: “I’ve been in recruitment for the past 30 years, and so I’ve learned that if you want to get the information you need, you actually need to spend some time looking at the CV. We always make sure to read through all your applicable employment history. And take into consideration your skills and achievements and match them to our jobs.”

What about the tone of voice and accidental typos? Surely, these won’t get noticed…

Having typos or spelling mistakes is a big NO, especially if you’re applying for a role in the creative industry. You should always ensure to proofread your CV. In fact, one too many candidates have been turned away by our clients for spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. This is especially true for candidates applying for marketing, communications, and PR roles, where grammar and punctuation should be perfect.

“You should strive to write your CV in an active and energetic tone of voice. An employer will almost always reach out if you’ve included action verbs and phrases. Take a look at the action verbs list for your resume from Harvard University and pick the ones that align with your duties”, Liz Gadd added.

Is there anything else I should consider for my CV?

An application with a cover letter is always stronger than one without. Write a personalised cover letter addressed to the interviewer or hiring manager. Keep a lookout for our cover letter checklist for the perfect cover letter.

How about getting additional help with my CV?

You can also make sure to check these CV templates that are simple yet creative:

Simple CV from Canva  

Minimalist CV from Canva

Geometric CV from Word

What’s next? 

You have put together the perfect CV and Cover Letter, and with a bit of luck, you have scheduled your first interview. Now it’s time to do your research and prepare your answers. All so that you can land a job in the creative industry. But if you don’t know where to start, we have put together a list of useful interview tips and advice to help you ace the job interview!

Career Academy is brought to you by the founders of Moxie and Mettle  – [email protected] – 0117 301 8223.

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About Career Academy

Career Academy is a free resource for candidates working in the creative sector in the UK, or those wishing to enter the creative industries so that’s roles in marketing, PR, creative, design, production, digital, communications, and social media.

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