10 tips for smartening up your third sector CV

Posted on: 13 March 2013

Whether you are a first year looking for summer work experience or a final year trying to secure your first graduate job, your CV is often the first impression an employer gets of you so make sure it is a good one. I have spent the past few weeks reading through over 300 CVs for the Ethical Internships Scheme and thought I would share a few of my top tips with you for third sector CVs.

1. Never title it CV or Curriculum Vitae: an employer knows what a CV looks like and knows that they asked you send one; don’t waste precious space telling them what it is again! Simply put your name in the centre at the top and start your CV straightaway.

2. Remove any unnecessary personal information from your CV; it is illegal to discriminate on the basis on age, race, place of birth or gender so things like your birthday, ethnic background and gender do not need to be on your CV; again don’t waste precious space on unnecessary details! The important thing is that your contact details are correct and stand out.

3. Make sure you use a professional email address; create a gmail one or use your university email address. Please don’t use your embarrassing Hotmail address from when you were fourteen. We all have one, but that is no excuse to put it on a job application!

4. A personal profile is a great way of highlighting your most relevant experience; write a summarizing statement of your most recent and relevant skills and your motivations for applying for the job. Capitalize it and put a box around it so it stands out and is the first thing your employer reads after your name and contact details.

5. When listing your education; start with your most recent first; aka what degree you are studying. List your last end of year results; only add module results if you feel they are appropriate to the job you are applying for. Then list your A-Level subjects and grades. Don’t write out all the subjects you took for GCSE. All you need to do is say what grades you achieved; so you could write: 2A*s, 5As, 2Bs or you can simply write 9 GCSEs all A*-B. Put a subject in brackets (with the word including!) etc if you feel anything is especially relevant.

by Kerri Mak - CUS Visual Media

6. Use subheadings as appropriate: if you are applying to a job in the third sector and have tonnes of volunteering experience but most of your work experience is in retail, put a section entitled ‘RELEVANT EXPERIENCE/VOLUNTARY POSTIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY first followed by ‘PAST EMPLOYMENT’.

7. Always write your experience/job roles in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent first. Employers are most interested in what you have been up over the past 2 years rather than your paper round at 12. They will want to ask you questions on what you have been doing with your time most recently and so you want to make sure this stands out.

8. Never, ever use big blocks of text on a CV; employers will see 100s and 100s of CVs and will not have time to look over it. As a general rule, three lines maximum for each past position. Highlight what your roles/responsibilities were and what skills you gained from it. Bullet points can help you keep things short and sweet if you are struggling to cut it down.

9. When describing your experience; use specific examples where you can. For example, ‘I designed and coordinated a training session on fundraising and leadership for 6 new committee members ‘ sounds so much more impressive than ‘I trained the new people. ‘ Big yourself up!

10. Make sure you always send your CV in the correct format; if the organization asks for a PDF send then send them a PDF! Failure to support your CV in the correct format suggests that you cannot follow instructions and may cause problems for the company systems. If you do not have the software required, get in touch with the organization and ask if there is an alternative format they will accept.

Rachel Egan

Rachel Egan is a Psychology graduate from Cardiff University. At the time of writing, she worked for Student Hubs as the national Ethical Careers Coordinator.

Tags: Social Impact Careers


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