Manager of the legal and compliance division at Robert Walters Hong Kong
Vitae statistics: how to present your CV
Due to an unexpected redundancy, I am now in the unfamiliar position of having to apply for work. As I have been at the same company for over 15 years, my CV-writing skills are a bit rusty. I have looked online and asked some friends for guidance, but have received conflicting advice. Some say the CV should be brief and to the point, and never more than one page long, as no one is going to wade through a lengthy "phone directory". Others have said a too-brief CV shows a lack of experience and will turn employers off. Can you advise on the best approach?
Your CV is the first part of the interview process and is therefore an integral component. It is your personal intellectual property so you should be careful with it; keep a record of who you have given it to and where you have given permission for it to be sent.
The CV should contain enough material so that whoever reads it is able to understand what you do.
I do not agree that you should limit yourself to one page, certainly not if you have relevant material that would otherwise be included. As someone with 15 years' experience, clearly your CV should be considerably longer than a fresh graduate's, but anything longer than three to four pages may indeed turn employers off.
At the end of the day, it is all about relevant content for the person reading it. Accordingly, it may be sensible to tailor your CV for different applications and in some cases, a separate project or deal list may be advisable.
The layout of your CV is also important. Start with key skills such as languages, education and professional qualifications. Then go on to detail your working career to date, starting with the most recent job, as this will be the most relevant and eye-catching.
In each employment, you should include details of your role and responsibilities, explaining anything that you feel adds value. You can mention promotions you have achieved, as well as anything that you feel has a particularly unique skill to it.
Information such as different countries you have worked in and cultural experiences you have had are of particular relevance in an increasingly international professional environment.
You should expect that interviewers will ask you about any point on your CV, so make sure that you are able to talk about those things in detail and that they can demonstrate suitable achievements and ability.
For most CVs, it would be sensible to avoid things such as pictures, fonts or extravagant colours. Skills and interests unrelated to work are fine to include, as they give an indication of your character, which may not be apparent through your work. Just make sure that they are a basic overview, rather than taking up valuable space.
Overall, your CV is your professional career on paper. As such, there is no right way to present it and no limit to what you can put on it. But when a prospective employer reviews it, you want them to be able to find the relevant information quickly and get a feel for what skills you can bring to their business.