As some of you might know, I used to be manager in a theatre in the West End, and I dealt with the recruitment of the front of house team. While at this job, I received something like fifty CVs per month, mostly from performers looking for a customer service job between two acting contracts.
The problem was that most of these CVs were not adapted to an efficient job hunt. Too long, lacking the important information, not designed for day jobs, these CVs had many issues. I often wished that I could sit down with each of these artists, and tell them exactly what was wrong with their CV.
This is why, today, I’m going to give you pointers to help you polish your CV and help you in your job hunt.
Tip #1: Use a Specific CV
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use your artistic CV for a day job. I can’t count the number of CVs that I received that were clearly meant for agents or casting directors. When a performer puts their stage credit in the first page, you know that they haven’t bothered writing a specific CV and have given you their acting CV.
Make sure that you have a “day job” CV, where you highlight your work-related activities, while your artistic activities take a second place, or are even absent. Most managers and HR people don’t care about your artistic career, and some of them might even see it as a deterrent to hire you.
Tip #2: Don’t Include Your Photo, Unless It’s Required
That’s again a common mistake that I saw in many performers’ CVs: including a photo at the top. Pictures are, most of the time, unwelcome in a CV. I know it depends on the country and the industry you are applying to, but in my experience more and more recruiters are concerned with potential discrimination claims.
It is even worse if the photo is not professional, has a bad quality, doesn’t really represent you well or is not suitable for the type of job you are looking for (for example, a relaxed picture when you apply to a high-end customer service job).
So, unless it is specifically required in the job advertisement, do not include a photo!
Tip #3: Include Clear & Easy Contact Details
It might seem obvious, but I have received CVs that did not include any contact details. Some had contact details that were either wrong (typo in the email address for example) or not easy to reach (phone number from a different country).
Make sure you feature your details prominently, that they are correct and that recruiters can reach you there easily. If you just arrived in a new country, get a local phone number and activate your voicemail. Check your email address on a regular basis, including your spams.
Pro tip: turn your email address into a hyperlink, so the recruiter can directly click on it!
Tip #4: A Personal Statement Is Always a Plus
A personal statement is not necessary if you enclose a cover letter, but I find that it is often a nice touch from an applicant. A personal statement is a paragraph that describes who you are and why a recruiter should consider you and your CV. It is particularly helpful if you hand in a prospective CV to businesses, or upload it online.
Here’s an example, the personal statement that I used to write on my CV:
Céline Terranova is an enthusiastic and hardworking individual, with a scientific background and management experience. Previous employers have found her to be reliable and having excellent organisational skills. She is confident communicating with people, she is a team player and she is also able to work on her own initiative.
Your statement should be short, to the point, and attractive to potential employers.
Tip #5: Your Experience Is the Most Important
Your work experience should be the highlight of your CV, as it is what the recruiters will look for first. Write down the most relevant experiences, with a brief description of what skills you acquired there. There is no need to include all jobs you have done, just the ones that are pertinent to the job you are applying for.
Always present the most recent experiences first. As a manager, I used to be unimpressed if I had to search for the most recent job done, especially if old, irrelevant jobs were at the front.
What if you don’t have much experience? Then think about projects you have done that might bring you the skills sought by a recruiter. Were you class president? Leadership! Did you have a student job? Hardworking! Did you play sport? Team player! You can even acknowledge your lack of experience in your personal statement:
Céline Terranova is at the beginning of her career and is eager to learn new skills.
Tip #6: Education Is Less Important
I remember a CV that I saw one day: the applicant had made a giant table with their school grades that took the whole front page. They also hid their work experience far behind, on the third page. Now, unless you are applying to an academic job, this is not a good idea.
While education is important, it is not as essential as your experience and should be placed after it. There’s also no need (unless asked in the advertisement) to go into much details. A lot of recruiters don’t care about your grades, especially if they were completed many years ago.
Tip #7: CV Length
I have one advice on this: keep your CV length to the minimum! If you have little to no experience, one page is more than enough. If you have a few more years of experience, two is acceptable. More than that is too much!
You don’t want to give more work than necessary to the recruiter, so limit the content of your CV to the most important points.
Tip #8: Polish & Format
Last but not least: make sure that your CV is in the best shape possible. Hunt for typos and have someone else read it to correct any issue. If you leave too many mistakes in, your CV will look unprofessional and botched.
The design of your CV should be clear and straightforward. Don’t use fancy fonts or patterns, keep it simple and clean. Make sure it is aerated enough without looking empty, and that it is readable easily. Don’t use titles like “Curriculum Vitae”. Your name is enough. Remove everything that is not necessary.
Finally, if you are printing your CV to give it in person, make sure the copy is of good quality. If you choose to send it via email instead, privilege file formats that are widely used. My personal preference is PDF, because it keeps your formatting intact no matter which software is used to open it. Some employers might require that you send it in Microsoft Word instead. Keep in mind that most recruiters will not make the effort to download a new software to open your CV, so make it easy for them.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Be Rude!
This is not exactly related to how your write your CV, but I have to say it because many good CVs have been ruined by the manner they were handed in. Please please please, if you hand your CV in person, be polite to everyone you encounter in that company! I cannot count the number of time when I was given a CV with a note “rude, do not hire” stuck to it, coming from the receptionist. Some candidates thought that, since they were not talking to me directly, their attitude didn’t matter. Wrong!
Similarly, if you send your CV by email, be polite and nice to the person receiving it, even if they are not the recruiter.
Need More Help?
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Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.