Traditional careers advice doesn’t really take account of the fact that CVs land on media recruiters’ desks in their hundreds, and getting yours to stand out from the crowd takes work. The main points to remember are:
- Keep it brief – aim for one page, one and a half at most. In media land, the more experienced a person is, the shorter their CV becomes. Make every word earn its keep. I once saw a cv which included under the ‘Personal Details’ section the fascinating snippet ‘I have two sisters, Sarah aged 9 and Catherine aged 11’. You can probably leave out the name of the family dog as well.
- Work history goes before educational experience.
- Get someone to look at your CV and tell you what they notice in the first five seconds. This is about as long as an employer will look at it before deciding whether they want to read on. Make sure that what you want to be noticed actually sticks out.
Write a short covering letter (must be typed) saying who you are, what you want and why they should give it to you. The longer your letter, the less likely it is to be read. The same goes for your CV. No 17 year old needs a five page CV, though a surprising amount have prepared one.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any need to put in your marital status – it seems a bit outmoded these days. Likewise, date of birth can be omitted, but only because it tends to make employers feel extra aged and haggard when they realise that people born after 1985 are now asking for work.
If you haven’t got much relevant work experience, then list your education first – reverse this as you gain more work experience. Employers are much more interested in the work you’ve done than what you did for your dissertation. If you’ve got a degree then you don’t need to list your GCSE’s and A Levels individually.
You don’t have to list your references on your CV, unless you want to highlight the fact that your referee is someone important. It’s fine to put something along the lines of “References available on request” as these will generally only be needed if you are under serious consideration for a job.
A prospective employer may also ask someone else for a reference without your knowledge, particularly if they know someone who’s worked for the same company as you. The more you work in it, the smaller you will find the media world to be, so be aware that it’s not just the people you choose who may be asked to recommend you.
If you include a list of interests, don’t include things that are basic staples of life like reading, keep fit or the dreaded ‘socialising’. You might as well put breathing and sleeping as well. Only include interests which are genuinely interesting and (preferably) relevant to the job.
I am the UK’s most experienced media career coach. To find out more, here’s my media coaching site.