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Career Planning Guide

Career Planning Guide

Non-academic CVs

There are a variety of CV styles for non-academic roles that you may come across in the UK, but the most commonly used tend to be:

  • Reverse Chronological – often referred to as the traditional CV. Follow this link to a simple example on the Prospects website.
    Skills based – often used when applying for a role where your experience may not be directly relevant, but you have developed and can evidence key transferable skills. Here is another simple example from Prospects.
  • Hybrid – you can also combine a skills & reverse chronological CV. This style gives you a little bit more freedom when tailoring to the job description and person specification. You can choose to weave key skills through your experiences or have a short, separate key skills section with evidence to back-up your claims. You can use headings and subheadings to help you bring key experiences or qualifications together without worrying about the date order in which they occurred i.e. you can showcase the most relevant first even if it isn’t the most recent. Here is a downloadable and annotated example of a Hybrid CV.

By carrying out careful background research you will identify the most relevant style for the organisation you are applying to and for the stage you are in your career. If you want to see examples of CVs, in different formats, focusing on a variety of skills and attributes, you can head over to Prospects and look at their example CVsVitae also have a fantastic resource with CV examples, showing difference versions of the same CV as an academic CV, and in chronological and skills based formats.

What’s the purpose of my CV? It is the document that gets you through to the next step of the application process, it doesn’t get you the job. It is the first thing a potential employer will see, therefore you need to view it as a marketing document that is carefully tailored to the role you are applying for and remember – first impressions always count!

What do I need to do to create a powerful CV?

The following questions and suggested actions will help you get started.

Research the sector and the organisation! Your research should not be limited to the organisation’s website and application materials. Often you can find out a lot about an organisation through following them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook etc. Read the press and sector specific magazines and journals.

You may, through reviewing your own network, identify individuals who have knowledge of your organisation of choice. Using LinkedIn Alumni may help you identify graduates from your University who are working within the sector you are trying to break into and even the company you are applying to. Why not use your common experience of studying/researching at the same University as a way to connect through LinkedIn and start a conversation!

Attending employer events and fairs run through your University and elsewhere will also provide you with opportunities to have key conversations with recruiters.

Pay very close attention to the advert, job description, person specification and any other information the organisation provides and that you can find out through your research. For example, if in the advertising materials for the post you are offered the opportunity to find out more about the role before applying, embrace it! Make contact with the person listed and prepare for your conversation in advance. Don’t ask questions for which the answers could be easily found through the website, or application materials. Think about what you need to know to support your decision making around whether the role and the organisation are right for you and to help you target your CV further.

Taking time to do your background research and looking at the language in the recruitment literature and on the organisation’s web pages will help you with this. Try to weave this naturally through your CV.

If unsure, ask! And follow all instructions provided. Generally the length of a non-academic CV is two full pages of A4 but, you may find that certain sectors within the UK have a specific page length preference, for example, investment banking is often quoted as one such sub-sector within finance which tends to lean towards a 1 page CV.

Depends – you need to write a concise profile that is tailored to the role and that stimulates the interest of the recruiter, motivating them to read on. It needs to ‘whet the appetite’ i.e. focus in on the key points of ‘you’ e.g. skills, experience, qualifications, as they relate to the role. It is not a place to give detail, but key hooks to lead the reader on.

Suggestion: get a constructive critic to give you feedback on the initial impact of your profile. If your profile doesn’t hook the reader, than are you’re wasting space!

Identify the evidence, transferable skills and experience that are most appropriate to share for each role you apply to. Don’t just consider standard work or study based examples; what other things have you done or do you do that makes up who you are? E.g. volunteering, sport, entrepreneur, set-up a charity, PGR related interest groups, hobbies etc. Always keep in mind relevance; you are looking for examples across your various experiences that will allow you to evidence skills, experience, enthusiasm and potential. Don’t forget that some experiences that, on the one hand, may not seem related to the role, on the other may be ideal for showcasing the development of key transferable skills that you can’t showcase from more directly related examples.

Make it positive, for example, don’t use ‘I feel’, ‘I think’, ‘I had to’. You need to confidently convey your actions using ‘power verbs’. You may find this link will help you get into the swing of this technique.

An applicant tracking system helps companies organize candidates for hiring and recruitment purposes. These systems allow businesses to collect information, organize prospects based on experience and skill set, and filter applicants’.

Generally speaking, it is the very large organisations that use ATS.

Hints and tips to help your CV be filtered ‘in’ not ‘out’ of the selection process when being scanned through the ATS process:

  • No spelling mistakes! The ATS will miss important keywords if misspelled.
  • Consider the keywords, buzzwords, technical terms, experience and skills used in the organisation’s recruitment material and in the industry
  • Paste your CV into a text file to check for any characters or formats that look strange – the ATS may not be able to read them. 

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