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How to write a winning CV

Whether you are looking for a permanent job or a temporary contract, your CV plays a pivotal role in securing an interview. It needs to accurately represent your experience, skills and qualities. Often, your CV is the first point of engagement that you have with a potential employer or client, so completing this document to the best of your ability is key to any potential success in your job application. 

In a busy industry with significant time pressures, reviewing CVs is not normally top priority amongst hirers.

All too often, we see candidates who have the right experience overlooked for an interview. This is regularly due to the CV not offering an accurate representation of the individual. Given the time pressures of the people reviewing your CV, if the experience they are looking for doesn't leap out at them, you could get overlooked. 

Know your audience                

Clients in the construction field are very focused on the companies that you have worked for, what projects you have worked on and the role and responsibilities you were entrusted with. These specific aspects need to be prominent on your CV. It will be these criteria that grab attention and secure you that interview. Being accessible to the site or the office and having the necessary qualifications or industry accreditations are a given. Generally, specific detail of no more than three or four lines including the name of the project, value, programme and the form of contract with a brief description for the works will be more than sufficient. 

Demonstrate stability, progression and achievement

Most employers tell us that when considering applications for permanent roles, they are looking for stability and progression, We tend to think the only indication that we have of future employment behaviour is past behaviour. Clients tend to take a dim view of frequent changes and a stable employment history is a real selling point - so highlight this if you can! 

Make sure you get your dates correct. Don't cut out employers unless it is literally a matter of weeks. We always encourage people not to "doctor" their CVs as it is often found out, creates doubt and gets rejected at first screening or the interview stage. Transparency and honesty are always the best policies.

Presentation and layout 

Clarity is key. We see literally thousands of CVs a year. They range from two to ten pages long with a considerable range of styles from the clear and concise, to the complicated and confusing. You can probably guess which type the client is most likely to read! If a potential employer can spend two minutes glancing at the CV and know what you do, where you have worked and what type of projects you have been involved with, the CV is working well for you. 

As a rule, we recommend Arial font throughout. Size 11 for the main body of text, while subheadings are size 14 and in bold. Stick with one font throughout and a maximum of three A4 pages.

A logical order means that it is easier to view key information quickly and we recommend that you follow the below:

Personal details - Name, address, contact number, email and Skype name (if applicable)

Professional summary

This is optional but should be no more than five lines of specific, relevant content summarising your past roles and responsibilities, as well as any notable achievements you have attained in recent years. Be very careful to avoid offering meaningless buzz words that don't offer an insight to what you have done as an individual. Examples include: "a highly driven, professional individual who is capable of delivering projects on time and in budget," as this doesn't specify anything that you have done.

Here are a couple of examples we would suggest:

Example 1: I have been project lead on three projects valued within the £25-40m range within commercial and RC frame residential projects. I have been responsible for chairing design, progress and client meetings and have an overview of cost. On my last project I won the *Insert award* and was promoted to Senior Project Manager. 

Example 2: I have spent the last three years as a setting out engineer and since graduating, have worked on two major new build projects. I am currently working on a £25m hotel project and I am managing work packages reporting to a Senior Construction Manager. I am keen to progress to senior engineer and ultimately want to develop my career along the site/project management route.

Qualifications and education

These need to be in reverse order with your professional qualifications first and your education second. Include the awarding body or educational establishment and Grade if applicable, the name of the qualification/accreditation and the date of the award. 

Employment history 

Critical to sealing an interview will be a clear employment history accurately set out in reverse chronological order (most recent first). You should name the employer, specify the position held, the role and length of time with the employer. Underneath each employer you should list the project, detail your role, reporting line and, if applicable, any direct reports or team responsibilities.

Depending on your length of time in the industry, it may not be necessary to detail your entire career - but you should concentrate on the last 10 years.

Temporary or contract assignments

In most circumstances, the CV of someone who has worked on temporary/contracts assignments is going to look very different to that of a permanent employee. We suggest that under the employment history section you group together periods of time, types of projects or time on assignment, whichever looks better depending on the individual situation. The important thing is to make it clear that the assignments were freelance and to highlight duration of contracts or repeat business with particular clients.

Reference details 

Attach the names and telephone numbers of two referees. Ideally, these need to be direct reports whom you have worked with in the last five years.

Do's

  • Take your time! A CV worth sending should not be rushed
  • Check thrice over for spelling and grammar, preferably over a couple of days so you can look at it with a "fresh pair of eyes"
  • Ask a trusted colleague, friend or family member to read it for an unbiased opinion

Don'ts

  • Avoid buzzwords or colloquial/informal English
  • Don't include a photograph or any other visual effect
  • In the age of data security, don't include your date of birth or NI number. Limit your personal data to your name, address, personal email and mobile number

Summary

Your CV deserves time investment. If you follow some of the advice above, it should serve you well! Don't offer too much detail at the CV stage as you need to hold some information for the interview!

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