What should I include and how to catch the eye with my CV?

Claire de Surrel was a recruitment consultant at Dorothy Danahy SAS. Here she shares her advice on what makes a good CV.

How many pages should your cv be? One concise page, or three thorough pages?

Claire: «This completely depends on the experience of the candidate. If you are a ‘junior’ candidate (with between 0 and 8 years of experience) one page is certainly enough, and if you have more than 10 years of experience, you could add another page, but 3 pages is definitely too long. A CV of more than 2 pages shows me that the candidate doesn’t know how to be concise and precise. It also shows me they’re not able to leave out experiences which aren’t relevant for the CV. The CV needs to be eye-catching and include several key words. I take perhaps only 30 seconds for each CV – the candidate should try and attract my attention by using these key words. You’re going to have to adapt your CV for different job applications, but within reason of course ».

What do you look for in a cv?

Claire : «The first impression of a CV is hugely important: it’s vital that you ensure it is clear. Format your CV using a legible and professional font, and use logical subcategories (Education, Experience, etc). Your CV should also be professional – I am interested in the content of your CV, not really on the colors or stylish font you use. Finally, I want to ensure that you have a good level of experience for the job you are applying to, so make sure you include all the experiences you have had which are of relevance to your application ».

What importance do you place on extracurricular interests and experience?

Claire: «First and foremost, we’ll look at the technical competences, education and experience of the candidate, and then, only really by curiosity, we look at their extracurricular interests. When I call my clients however, these interests aren’t that important to them. In a client interview, normally you will be asked about your experience and your qualifications, the extracurricular interests could come up at the end of the interview but in general it’s just anecdotal ».

What errors do you see most regularly in a cv?

Claire : «I regularly see CVs that aren’t at all clear. First of all I look at the CV in general (form and then more precisely in experience). You have to be precise with your dates as it is important that the consultants can see your career path clearly. Pay special attention to your contact details: if you make a mistake here, we will be unable to contact you and you will miss out on potential job opportunities. You also need to make sure that all the information on your CV is strictly necessary – A 2-page CV, with only half a page of relevant information is useless. Finally, spelling and grammar errors on a CV are unacceptable: your CV is an opportunity to sell yourself to an employer. Recruiters won’t give you another chance if you have grammar mistakes in your CV ».