The 6 Basic Rules of CV Writing
Previously we’ve looked at our top tips for showreels but we’ve decided to go back to basics and look at CVs. Similar to showreels, we look at hundreds of CVs every week, so we know when we see a good CV. We have previously given advice in one-to-one clinics at industry events and regularly have students in for work experience where at the end of their placement, we will offer them CV advice for future employment. Over the next few weeks we will look at everything from the basics of CV writing, CVs for those new to the industry, those with multiple credits and looking at more creative CVs.
We would love to hear from you on what you think works or what difficulties you face with your CV for the video production industry.
This week we will start with the basics…Now, there are elements of this that some might argue don’t work for certain professions or for CVs in our industry. It might be difficult to demonstrate everything you’ve worked on as a freelance creative in a restricted CV but we will examine that in a later blog post. These basics are the general rules that most industries would suggest following for CV writing and are a great place to start if refreshing your CV or even writing one from scratch. When we discuss credit lists in a later blog post, we will address some problematic areas (such as only having two pages to include hundreds of credits). We will also later look at more artistic CVs that may be more appropriate for a visual industry such as ours. The below list looks at a few rules for writing a standard CV:
Rule Number 1: Everyone should have an up-to-date CV. Everyone!
Why? Because if you don’t need one now, at the moment when it comes round to needing one for a certain client, you will have a lot of work to do. If you are freelancer or work on contracts, make sure you update it after each project so nothing is missed out. It could be that one credit or company that you have worked with that is deemed as appealing to your next client. If you work on more long term projects or in permanent positions, every time your role changes slightly make sure that is reflected on your basic CV.
Sounds simple but make sure your name, job title, location and contact information are all visible on the very first page at the top. And if you have one, ensure that a link to your showreel (thecrewingcompany.com/our-top-tips-for-creating-your-showreel) or website is clearly shown too.
There is no need to put your full address on a CV. If an employer requires it, they can ask you later however it is advisable to put a general location so they know where you would be based for the project. Avoid revealing information that might be used to discriminate against you such as putting on your marital status, your date of birth and/or gender. There is no need to include a photo either. As well as allowing the wrong type of people to make the wrong type of decisions about you, it shouldn’t ever be required and will just take up valuable space.
Some would suggest including one or two lines of profile or information about the type of work you are seeking. This should be altered every time you send out your CV to reflect the reasons you are sending it. For example “15 years’ experience within TV production, seeking next contract to develop skills further” or “Recent graduate in Television Production from the University of Media, seeking further professional experience. Aspirations to work as a Director”. These should demonstrate quickly your background and what you are looking to achieve by sending your CV to the employer.
Rule Number 3: Make sure the information is in the right order
At the start of your CV have a clear list of your skills, the software you use, what kit you have experience with, any language skills you have. Use strong, key words that prospective employers might be looking for but try to avoid generic clichés like “Good at Team Working”, “Story teller” or “Motivated”. These are likely to appear on a large number of people’s CVs. It might suggest to your next employer that you are as unimaginative and predictable as the buzzwords used. You want yours to stand out for the right reasons. Ensure the basic details, skills and software don’t take up more than a half of the first page of your CV as some of your generic skills can be listed in your employment history.
When listing details of jobs make sure you include details of your role, the company, the dates, your tasks and any key accounts or productions. Be clear in your responsibilities yet avoid repeating anything that might be similar between positions. The space is valuable on your CV so should be used appropriately. For employment and education, it is always best to work in reverse chronological order – so list your most recent experience first. This will be the most important to your next employer.
Ensure that your education history is present near the end of your CV. Keep this as brief as possible and list any further training undertaken as well, such as first aid training or Camera courses you may have been on. This will show to future employers your continued drive for knowledge and a commitment to self development.
A generic rule that most advising on CVs will suggest is to keep your CV to two pages. This is obviously more difficult to follow if you have a large amount of experience. If it goes onto a third page, this might not be an issue but ensure all the pages you use are full without the need to add any fluff to make it read longer. It is likely that if your CV goes over three pages, there are elements you could cut down or streamline. These could include:
Use bullet points and short sentences; avoid using images; use columns when needed. Try to ensure there is no blank space without making it look too squished together.
Don’t assume they know what AP means or what each client is or does. A brief description of your role and who the client is works great. Try not to use acronyms like FCP as others might be searching a CV quickly for ‘Final Cut Pro’. How many different ways have you seen After Effects written? AE? AFX? FX? “Able to use all of Adobe CC”. To avoid your CV sounding like “I do this and I do that”, try to avoid using first person. This will save space and add an element of subjectivity to your CV.
Once you have completed your CV, make sure you get it checked by someone else for spelling mistakes or any errors. We have previously seen CVs that have said “Pays grate attention to detail”. Don’t do that.
It is always best to have a word document that can be altered quickly, even on the go, and then a pdf copy to ensure any formatting isn’t changed.
We generally prefer word documents for our CVs as we can search the CV easily and upload into our system. Many clients also have similar processes so sending a .doc and .pdf is always advisable.
Always make sure that you are altering your CV for each role so your profile, your skills and your experience are presented in the most accurate way. Don’t assume the employer will have time to look through all of your experience. Similarly, writing a cover letter (or cover email) to highlight why you are applying for a position or why you think your skills would fit their organisation shows your genuine interest in the role or company.
I hope you have found this useful! There are many examples online of how these standard two page CV should look as well as other sites offering advice on CV writing. Here is a link to the BBC Academy’s CV Writing Advice.