The CV rules that help candidates get noticed

Head to head: expert advice on how to make an impact

Does everyone need a CV?

While there is no clear-cut answer, people being considered for the most senior appointments, such as the chief executive of a global corporation, are unlikely to need a CV at all, as much of their experience and profile will be in the public domain. In these cases, the search firm will usually prepare a full report for the client on behalf of the candidate.

However, should a written document be necessary, having a one-page biography that gives an overview of the individual’s career, current role or portfolio, is useful.How long should a senior level CV be?

It should be no longer than the equivalent of three sides of A4 paper. The trap of merely adding to it as a career progresses has to be avoided and a CV must be regularly reviewed for relevance and, when appropriate, tailored to the specific role being applied for. Current position should come first, working backwards in time. Early career can be summarised – but without leaving gaps, which can leave unanswered questions.

Responsibilities and tangible achievements in the current role should constitute at least half, if not all, of the first page. There is no need to conform to a normal format, either. Anyone with a brilliant academic background – a first class Oxbridge degree, for example – should include it towards the top, not on the last page.Do you still need a job to get a job?

Apart from those candidates made redundant through no fault of their own, this adage does still carry weight in the current market. If you are considering leaving an organisation to look for a new role, I would strongly advise against it. Job searches often take longer than anticipated and as the sabbatical lengthens it can work against you.

Your worth will be perceived as greater when you are in an active executive position rather than “between jobs”. The only circumstance when it could be legitimate to leave a role to search for another is if you are relocating internationally.Should I include my age?

Legally you do not need to put your date of birth and there is no need to date your education. Search firms and employers will not expect to see these details included. However, in some cases I have suggested candidates do include their date of birth to showcase that they are particularly young to have reached chief executive or managing director level, for example.

Organisations expect a talented candidate’s CV to reflect a certain pace of career progression. While they cannot make judgments directly based on age, they will still expect an individual to have risen to certain levels of seniority at particular points in their career.Do I need to provide details of my education?

CVs at senior level need only refer to degree and post-degree qualifications, particularly if they are relevant to the industry. It is surprising how many senior-level CVs still feature O-level results, “school prefect”, or “captain of the cricket team”. Certainly include an MBA or professional qualification relevant to the role you are considering but avoid listing every executive or management course you have ever attended.Is a personal summary statement necessary?

It has become common to see personal statements at the top of CVs. However, consider whether it adds anything. If it is just a repetition of what comes after, leave it out.

On the other hand, if you are applying for a job outside your experience profile, this can be the right place to explain the motivations behind your change of direction. Covering letters and emails are often disregarded so it can be a helpful way of positioning your experience and aspirations in the right context.Should I include hobbies and interests?

Yes, but not at any length unless they happen to be relevant to the job. Stay neutral and avoid adding personal details such as the names of your family or pets. Should I include my home address in my contact details?

Not necessarily. The only contact details you really need to include are a mobile number and personal email address.

If you are applying for a role that is located some distance from your home address, leave your address out completely or state “location flexible” or that you are prepared to relocate.

Alternatively, use a relative’s address if there is someone located nearby. Otherwise, you might be overlooked, regardless of whether you fit the role.

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