Preparing your CV
Don’t allow a poorly written CV prevent you from securing that dream job.
Follow a few simple tips to ensure yours stands out from the crowd and provides the best representation of what you can offer.
How do I start?
Before you start constructing your CV, have a long think about what information you are going to include.
First and foremost, it needs to be a document marketing the very best of you. Write down the 10 top achievements of your career then the skills you used to realise them. These achievements are what make you unique and separate from other people with similar qualifications. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- British Gas ASA Learn to Swim Pathway - you should know all about the Pathway and its predecessor, the National Plan for Teaching Swimming (NPTS).
- Teaching different people - gather your thoughts on how you would approach teaching different groups such as children, adults, disabled children, school groups, big groups v small groups. Any particular ways you have learnt to control a large group of children for example?
- Lessons learned - it's a good idea to be able to talk positively about your own personal development. You will have learned lessons and ideas from other teachers over the years - what were these and how have you developed them?
- Games and activities - what are your favourite games and activities for helping people to learn on different stages of the Learn to Swim Pathway and why are they so good?
- More than swimming - stages eight, nine and 10 of the ASA Aquatic Skills Framework involve introductions to other aquatic disciplines of diving, synchro and water polo as well as rookie lifesaving skills.
- Achievements are slightly more quantifiable with coaches - number of national qualifiers, number of medals, number of swimmers at the club etc. While these always sound great and you should definitely include them, most people applying for the job of swimming coach will have similar stats in their arsenal so prepare some more achievements.
- Working with specific swimmers - the relationship between swimmer and coach can be a tricky one to maintain, especially with some children. Have you worked hard to develop a good relationship with any particular swimmers? What challenges did you have to overcome and how did you do it?
- Volunteers - they're the lifeblood of most swimming clubs, arguably of aquatics in general. How have you worked with volunteers at previous jobs for the benefit of the club in general?
- If you've intervened and saved someone from drowning, that's fine to include as an achievement but also talk about what happened afterwards. Why did the person get into difficulty? What steps did you take? Did you suggest changes to the centre managers so this wouldn't happen again?
- Talking about working with the management of the centre to improve safety shows initiative and enthusiasm.
Once that’s done, take a look at the job description for the role you are applying for. Your CV should be written to suit the job.
Just as you hate receiving an impersonal group text or e-mail, employers hate receiving a generic CV, not tailored for their specific role. If you haven’t put in the time tweaking your CV to impress them specifically, they certainly won’t put in the time reading it.
How do I lay it out?
There are a number of CV templates available online which you could use as a basis for your CV.
The most common and safest design is to split your CV into the following section:
- Contact Details
- Personal Statement
- Employment History
- Training / qualifications
- Reference Area
This layout means the information is listed in order of importance and relevance for the reader.
Begin with contact details at the top. Make it as easy as possible for people to contact you. Include name, address, e-mail address, home phone number, mobile phone number.
It’s becoming more common for people to include digital contact details as well including links to LinkedIn or Twitter profiles. If you do this, ensure there is nothing you wouldn’t want your employer to see on these profiles
Give a brief outline of your career to date and what you are looking to achieve in the future. It should only be a few lines emphasising how suitable you would be for the role you are applying for. It's another good chance to show you’ve researched the company as well.
Create a reverse-chronological list of work experience. For each job, list the job title, the dates you were in that job, the name of the organization and one sentence summarizing the responsibilities of the role.
For your previous jobs relevant to the one you are applying for, create a bullet point list of some of your best achievements within that job (refer to your achievement list you created earlier), indicating the skills used for each.
Remember to think which are most relevant for this role. Don’t waste space putting achievements for jobs unrelated to the one you are applying for. Also, don’t include jobs from more than 10 years ago unless they are relevant to the one you are applying for.
If there are significant gaps in between jobs (more than six months), include this time and put a sentence explaining why there is a gap and what you were doing during this time to further your career.
You could create a separate section for any voluntary work you've done but if they are particularly relevant (anything showing an experience of working within sport for example), include them here.
Training / Qualifications
Have you had any official training or qualifications relevant to the job you are applying for? Here is the place to put them. List the full qualification and when you took it.
Unless your employment history and qualifications are particularly sparse, there’s no need to include too many details in your education section. Just a list of your A-levels and GCSE’s will do as well as dates you took them and where.
If you are a recent school leaver and don’t have much to include in employment history and qualifications, you can include some achievements in this section which you think would be relevant to the role you are applying for.
It's the least important section of the CV which is why it is at the bottom! If there's anything else you think would be useful to include, write it here.
Don't waste valuable space on your CV with full addresses for any references (unless they are specifically requested). Just put references are available on request.
How should I present my CV?
The key to remember is keep it short and snappy. Nobody will trawl through a long CV - remember that they are scanned rather than read.
An absolute maximum is two A4 pages of a Microsoft Word document - and that doesn't mean shrinking the font size and cramming in lots of paragraphs of prose!
Just like a tasty meal, the sight of the CV should whet the appetite - include plenty of white space on the page, use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial and a clear font size. Headers and bullet points will help the reader find information easily while you should avoid large paragraphs of text.
If you have to be selective, think of it as a good thing that you've got so much you can impress the reader with!
Finally, give your CV a proper proofread. Formatting and spelling checks on Word will help but might not catch everything - print it out and give it to friends and family for them to have a read.