Writing a CV for the first time: Ask the expert

I don’t really know how to write a CV or fill in an application form as I’ve never had to do either.  I’ve only done two jobs in the whole of my career (I worked in an office for 20 years, then moved to do night shift as a care assistant and also work on a casual basis for the local hospice).  Now I feel a change of career and shift pattern would suit me better.  I love working with people and I love to care for them.  I would welcome any advice.

Anything you’ve never done before can look a lot more frightening than it is (just think back to the very first time you used a computer, for example).

Let’s focus on application forms first – they make it easier for an employer to compare candidates directly with each other (eg “this candidate has worked with our client group before; this one hasn’t”).  They collect data employers need during the recruitment process (e.g. there’s a section on most forms for the contact details of the applicant’s references).  Most importantly, they allow candidates to explain why their skills, knowledge and circumstances make them perfect fits for the jobs on offer.

You need to think about the usefulness to the employer of each section of the application form before you start completing one for a real job.  As a training exercise, print out an application form (for any job that you might apply for) together with the job ad, job description and person specification relating to that vacancy. The job ad etc tells you what information the employer wants you to put on the application form (e.g. if the application form for a caring job asks about your career history, explain in detail your achievements in previous caring jobs and mention only briefly the non-caring roles).

Draft your application on a copy of the original application form and get someone else to proof-read it for you (just in case any silly typos have crept in!).  Always keep a copy of the completed application form – you’ll need to refer to it when preparing for interview. You’ll find it easier to design your own CV after you’ve looked at a number of job ads and employers’ application forms.

You can write a CV any way you want to – it’s a document to sell your services to your target employers so put in only the information that helps you do that.  Employers shouldn’t be interested in your date of birth or marital status, for example, but a hospital employer should care about your ability to make sick and frightened people feel safer and more valued.  Think of the evidence that supports what you say about your work successes – for example, you may have been given a company award in recognition of the support you’ve given patients.

Remember to make it easy for potential employers to contact you – you should provide email, mobile and landline numbers plus your address at the top of your CV.

Whilst every care has been taken in compiling this answer, WorkingMums cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice.

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