Should my CV have a personal touch, or should it just contain facts and figures?


17 November 2016

CV writing - what personal information should you add

When putting together your CV, it may not be easy to work out how best to present yourself, given that there is no definitive CV template that applies to all workers. You may turn to friends and colleagues, or to online help articles for advice, but you may get conflicting opinions on what you should and shouldn’t include, and what is the ‘best’ way to put together a CV.

The bare bones of a CV should always consist of what you have done for work and any associated qualifications, but simply presenting a list of jobs and dates is a bit too minimal in terms of conveying who you are, and what you are capable of. You should also provide information on your responsibilities and achievements in each role, but should you write a lengthy introduction to summarise your personal traits and strengths? Should you mention your extracurricular activities to help give people an idea of the kind of person you are? Should you include a photo of yourself, or make the document look nice with some design features?

 

Design

 

The purpose of a CV is to accurately convey your work experience, skills, abilities and achievements in a concise format. It should be easy to read, so your choice of presentation is important. It’s a wise idea to clearly demarcate sections, highlight important details such as job titles, and make bulleted lists where you have a collection of short words or phrases to describe your duties. It isn’t necessary to ‘design’ your CV document as such, unless you happen to be a graphic designer or content marketer who could demonstrate a work-relevant skill by doing so.

Potential employers will be most interested in the facts and figures on your CV, not the choice of font, logos, or coloured banners, or the fancy boxes you added. In fact, some CVs that contain a number of design elements can distract from the most important content on the document, and rather than demonstrating your creative eye and IT skills, it can end up being counterproductive.

If you have design skills and are planning on creating a CV that is more than just a simple black-and-white Word document, just remember that readability and clarity are more important than aesthetic appeal. Before adding a design element, ask yourself if it is really necessary, and whether it adds anything to your offering. If not, then keep your document simple. Design skills aren’t a core requirement for aesthetic practitioners, so no employer is going to look at a nurse’s CV and wonder why the document isn’t full of pretty colours.

 

Photos

 

Some CV guides will tell you to add a photo to your CV as it will help employers visualise you as a person, and will demonstrate your professional appearance. Others will tell you to never include one, as people can be too judgmental about appearances. The relevance of a photo on a CV will depend on the industry and the role that person plays. If you’re applying to be a maintenance engineer who repairs laser devices in a workshop, an employer isn’t likely to care whether your hair looks immaculate or whether you look smart in a sharp suit.

If you are applying for a customer-facing role in an exclusive aesthetics clinic with a clientele that includes A-list celebrities and Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals, then you will need to be smart and well-groomed for the role. Adding a photo to your CV of you looking smart and well-groomed could demonstrate to a potential employer that you understand the importance of a professional appearance, and could help you get shortlisted for interview. Adding a photo of yourself wearing casual clothes, pouting into the camera with your untidy bedroom in the background, is unlikely to have the same effect.

 

Personal statements

 

An introductory paragraph can be a good way to start your CV, and offer readers a concise summary of who you are and what you want from your career. Personal statements should not just be a repetition of information you’ve already included on your work experience, they should add to it, and give a more individual overview of your strengths, your passions, and your goals.

Think about what you do best, what you love most about your vocation, and how this has reflected positively on your career so far. Think about what you now want from your career and what you could bring to a company. Take your main points and draft a short, concise statement that takes up no more than a quarter of a page. Recruiters and employers are more likely to absorb key information on a CV if it is concise, pertinent, and punchy.

 

Personal interests and extracurricular activities

 

You may be surprised at the number of times we’ve seen cupcakes mentioned on a CV, seeing as we’ve never recruited for the catering industry. Does baking cupcakes demonstrate your wide range of advanced skills? As children can make them, we’d say that’s unlikely. Does baking cupcakes suggest you are a fun person who would be a good team player? As The Great British Bake Off demonstrated, cake-baking isn’t just the pastime of one particular type of person, and some of those types aren’t as likeable as others. Would you be discounted for a role as an aesthetic nurse if you had no idea how to bake?

I’m sure you get the point by now, but in short, there isn’t much point in detailing your extracurricular skills and activities at length, unless they have a relevance to your line of work, or they demonstrate a certain level of skill and dedication. If you had raised thousands of pounds for charity by selling cakes, or raised money by running the London Marathon dressed as one, then a potential employer may be more impressed with the achievement.

Though many CV templates will include a section at the end for ‘personal interests’, this is optional not essential, and no employer will discount an application because it doesn’t contain a long list of personal interests. If you have something impressive or relevant to add, then a ‘personal interests’ section could complement your CV. If you’re just listing your run-of-the-mill leisure activities, keep it brief, as it won’t be adding weight to your application.

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