Applying for a job in publishing can be one of the most daunting things, as you wonder what experience will be the most relevant and should you add in that week of work experience for a local newspaper when you were 14?
Well, after applying for literally hundreds of entry level jobs about a year and a half ago, slowly getting more interviews, I believe that I can talk you through how to keep your CV short, sweet and relevant.
So, what are my rules for writing a CV?
- Maximise the space
Yes, you can have a CV which lists everything you want to say with 2pt spacing and an actual list of your skills, but is this going to work later down the line when you have tonnes more experience, and need to fill it all in? God no!
My basic CV structure:
(my blog link)
My design is fairly ‘basic’, but it fits everything on one page.
2. Key things to cut straight away:
- Your home address – they only need this if they offer you the job
- Adjectives in your bio line – some managers hate these anyway, so keep it simple; state who you are and what you want
- Irrelevant skills to the role – revise your skills bank each time to make sure that the most relevant ones to the role are on the top line and any that don’t fit are removed
- Education from more than 5 years ago – employers won’t care if you got 5 A* GCSEs!
A skills bank is a really good way of communicating very quickly your key competencies without taking up lots of space when describing your experience. There are basic tutorials on how to make these in Microsoft Word online!
3. Keep it current
As much as I know you want to rave about the work experience you had when you were 15 and reached out to a local newspaper on your own and got to write snippets and gained by-lines in said paper in that time, you need to keep it current. I have learned that non-technical skills go out of date within 3 years, and technical, digital and specialised skills can be outdated in less than a year.
With that in mind, I would recommend only listing jobs you’ve had in the past 3-5 years depending on how long you’ve been working. If you’re going for entry-mid level roles, 3 years experience should be enough, while higher level jobs will look a bit further back. Obviously if you’ve only had one job in that time, add in things you were doing before that, this is just a basic rule to get rid of irrelevant roles.
You should apply this to your education section also. If you have a degree, just list your university, degree title, followed by the grade you achieved and the dates you were there. Here you can include any relevant modules to the job for entry level, but just list these beneath separated by commas. Personally, I don’t think previous education matters much, as it was at least three years ago. However, I would include any other certifications you have completed here; I include my Hubspot Academy Inbound Marketing qualification and my two Google Analytics qualifications here. If you’re going to do this, I would recommend linking to your certificate PDFs.
4. Keep it relevant
As with the skills, seriously consider if every single position listed on your CV demonstrates something that is needed in this job. And remember, just because a job is paid doesn’t make it more relevant than some voluntary positions. For example, if you had a voluntary position on your university magazine/newspaper, that’s a lot more relevant than working in the student union bar for £7.50 an hour.
5. Keep your job descriptions to a minimum
A job description should be easily read in bullet-point format. You don’t need to use bullets, but I would recommend bullet pointing the key 5 responsibilities in your job, check that they’re relevant and then turn them into a short paragraph (if that’s your style).
Your job descriptions should be actionable; ‘planning’, ‘managing’, ‘budgeting’, ‘assisting’. If you’re starting a sentence without a doing word, what is it you’re saying and could it be moved to the cover letter, interview or left out altogether?
For your top 2-3 positions, which should be date-ordered, use no more than 5 bullet points to describe your responsibilities in that position. After that, use no more than 3. This will force you to decide what was either the most important thing you did in that role, or what the most transferable/relevant things were.
6. Keep it together
Whether paid or voluntary, if you are dedicating your time and doing things to enhance your skill set or career generally, it can be listed under ‘experience’. Don’t separate out ‘paid experience’ and ‘voluntary experience’, as this is unnecessary.
If you’re going to include a ‘hobbies’ or ‘personal interests’ section, keep it short, interesting and don’t repeat yourself. Just because you’re applying for a publishing role doesn’t immediately make reading an interesting hobby. Only list hobbies you’ve gained something from. For example, I have pole danced for 6 years, competed in university and regional competitions, placing 1st and 2nd respectively. I now teach pole fitness at a local studio in my spare time. Similarly, if you blog about books, you can list this and say how many views you get per month, or how many books you review.
So, go ahead with this information, using it to revise and review your CV until you only have recent, relevant skills and experience so it’s very easy for a manager to identify why you’re right for the position straight away!