C&M's definitive guide to creating the perfect CV: How your hobbies could bag you that great job
“Should I include a photo on my CV? Can I leave gaps? What about hobbies?” I’ve been asked these (and many more) questions countless times over my 20 years in recruitment, so as the director of the UK’s largest specialist travel recruitment company, I thought it was finally time to put together my guide to what you should and shouldn’t include on your résumé.
Length / fonts / file formats
Gone are the days where your CV has to stick rigidly to a limit of two pages – if it’s relevant and specific to the vacancy that you’re applying for, feel free to make it longer, but there really is no point including anything irrelevant. In terms of fonts, it’s best to keep it simple, so Arial or Verdana in size 10 is a safe bet. While there’s nothing wrong with a basic black and white CV, you can be more experimental with the design - especially if you’re going for a digital, marketing or creative role. However, don’t be creative for the sake of it.
One of the key things that many people don’t even consider is which file format they save their CV as. Most recruitment agencies and many big companies now parse candidates’ résumés to their own database, and heavily formatted PDFs or those containing multiple images can sometimes create problems. So to give your CV the best chance of finding its way on to a recruiter’s database, save it as a simple Word file and keep any uses of tables or boxes etc to a minimum.
It should (hopefully) go without saying that your CV should have a professional tone with perfect grammar, spelling and spacing, as well as consistency in terms of style and format. And it may be a personal annoyance, but I’m instantly put off by any CV that’s written in the third person. It should be first person every time.
Order / structure / which roles to include
Your CV should start with your personal details i.e. name, address, email address, mobile phone number. This may sound obvious, but I’m still amazed by how many people’s CVs fail to include any contact information!
After this, provide a list of your experiences in reverse chronological date order beginning with your most recent job, with bullet points detailing your achievements and successes under each role. Even if your latest position isn’t particularly relevant to the vacancy that you’re applying for, you should still list it first because recruiters and employers need to know what you’ve been doing.
How far back into your career you should go, really depends on how relevant the roles are. If you’ve got a lot of experience then the last 10 to 15 years is the most important, but if you’re relatively new to the industry then include all of it. If you’ve spent a considerable number of years in one job, then break this down into the different roles that you had – and if you only had one role during that time, then split it into sub headings with separate tasks.
For every other job, list a few bullet points under each with a couple of examples of your successes – usually relating to targets, profitability and revenues. So if it’s a marketing role, state which tasks you have been part of. If it is a sales role, detail which targets you had and illustrate how you reached them. If it’s a customer service role, perhaps include some testimonials from clients that have been happy with your service.
Whatever you do, don’t leave gaps on your CV. As a recruitment agency representing you, we need to know what you were doing so that we can explain it to the potential employer in the best way. However, if you sent your CV directly to the employer and it included big gaps, they’re likely to think that you’ve either been doing nothing, were unemployed or were maybe even in prison! The CV is your shop window and it needs to sell you in the best possible way, so don’t make problems for yourself by leaving gaps and creating needless question marks.
How much educational information you include on your CV depends on how much experience you have. Even if you’ve been in the industry for a significant amount of time, then it is still important to put some education on your CV – especially if you are degree or A level educated. So list where you were educated and a top overview of what qualifications you’ve gained, but you don’t need to specify every individual subject and grade. Any additional qualifications or training should go above your education but below the employment history.
Something that people often overlook on their CVs are hobbies, but I think they can be really important – especially any sporting achievements. If you’re going for a sales role, then someone with a competitive nature or a high achiever within the sporting field will always be attractive, so if you’ve played any activity to a club, borough or country level, then this should certainly be included because it demonstrates drive and application, and potentially the ability to work as part of a team as well.
Also, what looks is good is if you’ve coached any teams, such as children’s football or something similar. Hobbies outside of work are quite important, especially if they are in some way relevant to the role that you’re going for. Every recruiter is different, but I always look at hobbies on a CV.
All candidates should make sure they include a personal statement, which should be at the top of the CV below the personal details. In it should be everything that’s not included in other categories, so it should include attributes, strengths, achievements that aren’t already listed – such as if they have sat on any boards – and things that are related to the industry that aren’t in their employment history. It should be a paragraph or perhaps two at the most, but no longer - and it absolutely shouldn’t take up half a page.
Separate covering letters aren’t really used anymore, but you should still include a version of it on the email when sending your CV in. It should be a short synopsis of the CV which needs to state what role you’re going for, what your attributes are, why you could be good for the position, when you’re available for interview and how close you’re located to the vacancy. If you’re applying to a recruitment agency then you should also say how far you would be willing to travel for the right role, what salary you’re looking for, why you’re leaving your current role, what notice period you’re on and whether you’re applying for any other roles. That should all be condensed down into about two paragraphs or, even better, use bullet points.
Don’t do it! When applying for the average role, including a photo on your application is just ridiculous. Unless it’s absolutely relevant (for example, if you’re applying for a cabin crew role and the employer is interested in your appearance), please don’t even consider it. Including a photo just opens up the risk that the employer might discount you purely for what you look like.
Also, it can potentially come across as arrogant because employers may think that you presume you have an advantage in getting the job because of your looks.
Need more help?
Hopefully that’s covered a lot of questions, but C&M Travel Recruitment have been helping candidates find great travel roles for the past two decades, so if you need any extra help with your CV or want to know how best to present yourself, just let us know.
Barbara Kolosinska is the Director at C&M Travel Recruitment and C&M Executive Recruitment