Preparing Your CV
Having been through resettlement myself, I understand the issues facing the service leaver: career-making decisions regarding training courses, the range of opportunities etc.
One thing you can be sure of during your resettlement is that you will get a fair amount of conflicting advice.
Different trade and military magazines, careers advisors, agencies and employers rarely share the same views and beliefs. Do not assume that any one person is right. Do your own research. Use the web, read magazines and form your own opinion when you have the appropriate information available to you.
Designing your CV
Your CV should be concise and limited to 2 pages, certainly no more than three. Most employers simply don't read 10 page CVs, unless you are going for a very highly paid job and even in these cases you can edit your CV down to 2 pages.
As a Recruitment Consultant, I hate boxes on a CV. I am not talking about a single box around your profile, which is generally ok, but different sized boxes, some around text, some with a logo, some using the "outside border" function in Microsoft Word, some not.
It doesn't make much difference either way to an employer, but it normally represents additional work for a Recruitment Consultant and if you are submitting your CV to a job board or an agency, then it would be wise to bear this in mind. Why is this an issue?
The first thing a Recruitment Consultant will do when they receive your CV is to remove your contact details and put your CV in a standard format. Some agencies do this by hand and others have sophisticated recruitment programmes to do it for them. Both can cause problems.
Some Consultants will bin your CV rather than put the effort into reformatting it, especially if this takes 10 or 15 minutes.
You can make your CV distinctive without causing the software or the Data Input Clerk to crash! Consider using bold text, italics or a different colour (though don't use more than two colours and not too many logos or your CV will look like a design mish-mash and detract from the information.
This might seem staggering, but I have received a number of CVs as JPEGs and in Acrobat Reader. Even employers prefer not to accept CVs in these formats, mainly because the majority of CVs come in Microsoft Word format and it is convenient to store them in the same place in the same format. From a Recruitment Consultant's point of view, there is no way of editing the CV, unless you scan the picture in, have word recognition software and, as before, try to make the Recruitment Consultant's job as easy as possible by sending your CV in a form which can be easily edited. It is worth noting that most Consultancies use Microsoft Word, although a few may use Lotus. Not all have the facility to read Lotus, but they will all have the facility to read MS Word.
A few things should always be included on your CV: your full name, address, telephone numbers, email address, date of birth, your profile, your professional experience and qualifications. Some of the above may also be points of contention.
I am aware that some Consultants advise against writing your address and contact numbers for security reasons. If you are concerned about the security issue, then call the employer or agency first; that way you can decide if the vacancy is suitable for you and proceed accordingly. At some stage you have to trust your Consultant or employer or you will never get past first base.
On a number of occasions I have received CVs with only an email address. On one occasion, the email bounced. On another I didn't get a reply for 2 weeks: the candidate rung me to chase the job and promptly said he didn't check his emails that often. In both cases the candidates missed out on the jobs because they left their contact number off their CV.
Within your 'Professional Experience' you should also list your job title for each key posting/company. Bear in mind that a civvie may not understand what a WO1 is, but will certainly understand "logistics manager" or "service engineer". It is equally ridiculous to write "Managing Director" in place of "Commanding Officer" - civvies aren't that stupid and this may even hinder your chances of getting to the next stage.
You should list all your professional qualifications, including the full title of the course. A number of the CVs I receive only have the City & Guilds course number and not the name of the course. You should also list all your professional memberships. I realise there is often scepticism about memberships and it is true to say that some are more valuable than others. However, memberships such as the Institute of Logistics & Transport and the IEE do make a difference to employers. It reinforces commitment and understanding within your industry. If you are up against another candidate and you have both performed well at interview and have similar backgrounds and personality, but your CV is littered with professional memberships, it might just make the difference between getting the job or not.
Ensure when you put your contact details in the body of your CV and NOT on the header. Some CV systems are designed only to recognise text in the body of the CV and if your details are imported into a database, the Recruitment Consultant may not be able to get hold of you with job information. It is fine to list your reasons for leaving various jobs on your CV, although it is probably better to put this in a covering letter or discuss with the Recruitment Consultant. Things such as promotion, contract work, redundancy, more money etc are fine but listing reasons such as "family", "discuss at interview" and anything personal about your old boss should most definitely be left out!
Like it or not, there are still some ageist employers out there. This can be a very good reason for omitting your date of birth from your CV. However, if the employer is looking for someone in their 30s rather than someone in their 50s, it stands to reason that when you meet the employer that you will not be what they are looking for and you will have wasted your own time by attending an interview. On occasion, an employer will give a Recruitment Consultant a vacancy to work on with a tight person spec. This is likely to read something like "Ex Senior NCO, logistics background, CPC qualification and 35-50 years of age". This is, of course discrimination and would not appear in an advertisement, but will be an internal guide for a recruiter. The intention of the employer is likely to be based on their previous experience of that post. They will be aware that an 18 year-old will not have the man management experience or qualifications to do the job and if there is physical work involved, someone over fifty may not be able to handle it. This is, of course, relative to the candidate and most recruiters try to be sensible about this practice, but it is still useful to be aware of it.
The word 'competent' suggests adequacy and the client is likely to be looking for more than that. Substitute it for 'experienced'.
It can be dangerous to put an 'objective' in your CV. True that it can illustrate your focus if you are prepared to amend it every time you send a CV out. Most candidates, however, are not that diligent: Recruitment Consultants and employers alike receive applications all the time for a 'Logistics Manager' with the objective at the top of the CV reading "looking for a Security Manager's post". This is especially dangerous if you post your CV on job boards. Agencies will download your CV to their database with your "objective" at the head of your CV and this might not serve you a few months down the line.
Avoid putting everything in your CV in capital letters. Use capitals properly. It can be interpreted as improper use of grammar otherwise. In certain fonts when there is a lot of type together, it can more difficult to read. Professional fonts are Times New Roman and Arial - NOT Comic Sans!
Do not 'blank out' parts of your CV, for example with XXX or @"#*. This will only serve to frustrate whoever is reading your CV. Either put the information in or leave it out altogether. Make sure your time can be accounted for and that any career gaps can be explained - a client may think you have been detained at Her Majesty's pleasure if you have left two years unaccounted for. At best, Recruitment Consultants or employers to ask you every time they review your CV: best to take the precaution in the first place.
Another controversial issue is what military terms to list in your CV. I know that some candidates make up a military and a civilian CV. There is nothing wrong with this, but it can lead to confusion when you put your CV on a job board. It is a good idea to make up different CVs for different vertical markets you wish to pursue (i.e. mechanical engineering, security, driving etc.). If you do this, however, you must take great care not to ignore the job description if you are applying for a specific post. For example, if you send your CV to a security company, covering your general security experience, it may not be enough to convince the employer that you are worthy of consideration. The employer may be looking for specific skills, like investigations or loss prevention and these are security skills that you may omit, unless you come from a Forces police background.
Do not be afraid to state your rank as well as your position, as long as you don't abbreviate it the first time you use it in your CV. You should also include your Unit and service as well as Consultants search for "army", "REME" etc.
Your CV should take the following form:
- Name, contact details
- Profile (80 words covering you as a person and a professional in a snapshot
- Career summary (only necessary for a functional CV)
- Professional experience (include your rank, unit and split each of your job titles up into key responsibilities and key achievements within each job, focusing in particular on your experience in the last 5 years)
- Education and qualifications (list all your qualifications, including military and any appropriate acronyms - they may be searchable. There is no need to write out your GCSE grades from 20 years ago though)
- Hobbies and interests (keep it short)
Having spent 8 of my years since leaving the Forces in media sales, I have learned how to sell. Selling space in a magazine follows (or should follow) the same process as selling your CV. What do they both have in common? They are satisfying a need. A company advertises a position in a magazine in order to fill it. A salesperson phones the company up to illustrate how he/she can satisfy that need by advertising in their magazine, the advertisement is successful and everybody is happy. You should be selling yourself to a company in exactly the same way an advertising salesperson sells a product, the difference is that the "product" in this case is YOU. How do you do this?
The sales process is made up of 4 steps: Probe, match, confirm, close.
The 'probe' is where you would do your research. Find out what sort of position you want, identify companies, agencies and job boards where you can make contact and register your CV. More specifically, you need to find a job description which really appeals to you. Find out what sort of person a company is looking for, what skill sets they require and what qualifications. Ask yourself what they need. You may even contact them to find out more specifically if you are unsure.
The 'match' is where you look at your CV and the job description (JD) together and figure out how to 'benefit sell' yourself. Take care not to repeat verbatim what is in the JD as it will look like you are just saying what be client wants to hear. You must PROVE how good you are through your achievements. If the client is looking for an A1 qualified NVQ Assessor with a minimum 80% pass rate, this point should be relayed on your CV as follows:
As an A1 qualified Assessor, responsible for assessing students in literacy and numeracy
Achieved 100% pass rate from 150 students and awarded Assessor of the year by City & Guilds as a result
Making your point in this way is telling the client to come and get you. You have illustrated that you are qualified and have been responsible for assessing and what you have achieved as a result of that and it is DIRECTLY RELEVANT to the job you are applying for.
Make sure your CV is NEVER written in the first person - always third person and written in a business-like matter-a-fact way.
The confirm part of the sales process is to check that your CV is a good match and that you have all the right information. Closing the deal is not getting the job, it's getting the interview - the job of the CV is then done. Beyond that you have to prove yourself face to face and the sales process starts all over again and you should benefit sell yourself in the same way when you are face to face with the client.
This is basic sales, not rocket science; in an ideal world it is how most of us like to be sold to. We like people to listen to us, to understand our needs, to make us feel important, to match our needs to something they can offer which is of real value to us, according to what we have told them. We confirm this is correct and we buy. Simple as that.
We buy a car. A really good car salesman will ask us "what is important to you when purchasing a car?". With that one question, he will get everything he needs from you…speed, design, colour, interior, space for the kids, space for the gold clubs, a good sound system. When he assimilates all that information, he can direct you towards a close match. You test drive and you buy, or you wait for your lottery numbers to come up!
What type of CV to send?
There are a number of different types of CV - to avoid confusion we will cover the two most commonly used - the functional and reverse chronological. The functional CV is useful if you are applying for a management, training or IT job, where there is an overarching function. However, you should still use key responsibilities and achievements throughout. When writing a functional CV you MUST write a career summary after your profile. The reason for this is so that a client can see, at a glance, where you have worked and how your career has progressed - functional CVs are notoriously bad at highlighting this fact. My personal preference is for the reverse chronological CV, listing your professional experience in order of your most recent job. It is very easy to see how your career and responsibilities have progressed, providing your CV is constructed with care and you have done your client research and "matched" properly.
There are literally hundreds of job boards around now.
- Military specialist boards such as www.forcesrecruitment.co.uk or www.defencejobs.com
- General job boards - www.monster.co.uk www.jobsite.co.uk www.totaljobs.com
- Vertical specialist - www.justengineers.net www.thecaterer.com
You should look at a combination of military, general, vertical (depending on your trade) and geographical (depending on your location).
When you register with a job board you will almost certainly be asked to supply a copy of your CV for the database. This is worth doing. Don't restrict access to viewing unless you really have to. You should also register your CV with several Recruitment Consultancies - the more places you get your CV out to, the better your chance of finding a job.
Limit your CV to 2 pages or an absolute maximum of 3 Leave your contact details on your CV Sift through a number of job boards Use a professional font Send your CV in word format Follow the sales process Research your client Register with job boards and Recruitment Consultancies
Put boxes around your text - ensure your CV is properly formatted
Send your CV in Acrobat reader or as a JPEG
Omit job titles
Leave out your career profile if you write a functional CV