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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Writing a winning CV

Curriculum vitae translates literally as ‘the story of your life’. It is a personal advertisement that will assist your next step up the career ladder to a better position, more money, new challenges. It must represent the best you have to offer. Your CV can continue to work favourably even after it has obtained you an interview. It can help you at an interview by carefully focusing the interviewer’s mind on your good points and achievements. After the interview it will continue working for you, as the interviewer will probably reread it before making a decision. When it comes to salary negotiations a well-written CV can pay dividends do not take shortcuts!

First impressions
As in any first encounter, your CV will never have a second chance to make a first impression. It must attract attention, interest, and positive action during the first 20 to 30 seconds of reading or it will not be doing its intended job nor you yours. Employers really want to know if it is worthwhile inviting you to interview. A summary of your capabilities and/or bullet points of major achievements will help.
– Layout The visual layout is very important. You should use plenty of white space, with appropriate headings and section breaks.
– Length Try and keep your CV to two pages employers do not need to know your life history.
– Organise the information A well-organised CV is easy to read and will build a picture of you quickly. Keep your sentences short and punchy, and use bullet points to break up the text under section headings. Bear in mind that too little information might not have the desired impact. Include details of your accomplishments and achievements, covering more than numbers of exams passed and years of post-qualification experience.
– Information required Personal details, education/ qualifications, training courses, work experience, interests/hobbies and references.
– What to leave out Photos (the only people who need to include these are models and actors), any kind of failure, reasons for leaving each job, salary information, borders (these detract from the content), title pages/binders/folders usually unnecessary.

Selecting your CV format
It is important to use a format that will most appropriately represent you. There are numerous ways of laying one out, but the main examples are performance CV, functional CV, and targeted CV. Each of these formats has its advantages and disadvantages. In general, the performance CV works best for most people, assuming that they are staying in the same field. If this format is unsuitable, either the functional or the targeted CV format should be considered.

Performance CV
In a performance CV, your employment history is shown in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job first. Job titles and company names are strongly emphasised and duties and achievements are described under each job title. You should use this when you are seeking a post which is directly in line with your past experience, or if your current employer is highly respected within the profession.
– Advantages Good if you plan to stay in the same field/work area, as it highlights your promotions. Well known format and easy to read.
– Disadvantages Not so good if you are planning to change career direction, or you have frequently changed employer, as this format may not help to promote a change of direction.

Functional CV
This type of CV highlights the main functions/
achievements of your whole career and it can be useful if you have had a varied career or you are seeking a change of career direction. In this format, job titles and company names are given less dominance or even omitted in some cases.
– Advantages Good if you want to emphasise abilities and achievements that have not been used recently, or you are changing career direction and prefer to describe your overall experience, or if your work history is not solid.
– Disadvantages Promotions/career growth/employers are not so prominent. This format is not so good if your job has limited functions. It is an unusual CV format which may not be liked by everyone.

Targeted CV
This type of CV emphasises abilities and achievements that are directly relevant to a specific career opportunity. It is best used when you are planning a change of career direction. Try to keep this type of CV to one page.
– Advantages It emphasises abilities and achievements not used recently. If you are changing career direction, use it to describe overall experience, including voluntary/unpaid experience. Use this format if your work history is not solid, or if you have different career objectives and need a CV for each.
– Disadvantages Promotions/career growth/employers are not prominent. Again, an unusual CV format which may not be liked by everyone.

The time and attention to detail invested in your ‘personal advertisement’ will be repaid many times over the course of your career keep it current, keep it punchy but, above all, keep it real!
Performance CV
Profile/summary This should be a short summary (six to eight lines) of your key experience, skills, and abilities.
Achievements Include relevant achievements in line with your target position. Use bullet points.
Experience This should be in reverse chronological order.
Functional or targeted CV
Training Include the most relevant training courses.
Education/qualifications Consider putting this section before the training section.
Personal details Name and professional status at the top, other personal details at the end.
Interests Keep brief, including positions of responsibility.
Functional CV
List all your experience under various functional headings, eg consulting, management, marketing, planning, pricing, research, sales, training.
You should have two to five bullet points under three to six functional headings. For each bullet, stress responsibilities and achievements relevant to your target job. Include relevant voluntary/
non-paid work experience.
Include a brief summary of the employers you have worked for, including job titles and dates, after the functional part of the CV.
Targeted CV
Decide which attributes and achievements will be appropriate for the target role. Include work history and education history after capabilities and achievements. Try to keep to one page.
Print on a high-quality laserprinter. Set margins equally, about 25mm. Section headings should be in
BOLD UPPER CASE. In a performance CV pick out employers and job titles in bold text. Use plenty of white space. Check your
CV carefully for spelling and grammar. Present your CV flat, never fold it.