People Management: Coaching session

Q: I'm looking for a new job and constructing my CV. What is the best practice?

Throughout my career I've seen some pretty appalling CVs, often from people who should know better. Somebody ought to do some research on whether there is a link between CVs and how people turn out in the job.

Organisations are increasingly preferring to look at CVs rather than the old-fashioned, public sector application form. If you are looking for a new job, getting the CV right is an important task.

As in all things, appearances do count. It's no good being in a tremendously important job and boasting lots of achievements if your verbal diarrhoea compels you to write a six-page CV. There's no absolutely correct number of pages, but two or three is probably right. Do get the font and format right - no silly fonts or boring Arial default.

Before you start, get a sheet of paper and list the top five or six real achievements of your career. Use these to form the basis of your CV - do not use the CV to repeat job descriptions.

Although you will want to have a CV template, do remember to change this to suit the job for which you are applying. If they ask for key competencies or skills, think about how you can demonstrate these specifically in your CV.

You want to give a flavour of your real 'added value'. Although you might want to describe staff and budget responsibilities, remember that size isn't everything.

It's wise to avoid the kitchen sink approach. I know it's impressive that you've managed 32 training events and had more than 600 delegates attend, but wasn't this part of your job? If you told me you had reversed a decline in numbers and boosted income, I might be more impressed.

And as for 'hobbies', I detest the term. It's extraordinary how many people feel compelled to tell you they like "walking, reading and gardening". However, 'hinterland' is important. List your voluntary activities and involvements, and mention exotic and interesting activities too. But if you really are sad and boring, I suggest you don't advertise the fact.

- Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send questions to

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