Ever seen an employer completely dissect a CV, from the white gaps, to how many lines your personal profile should be? We hadn’t either, so we headed over to the KISS FM CV clinic to find out exactly what they were looking for in a CV, with actual, real-life examples from CVs that did and didn’t make the cut for their work experience programme.
Adem and Natalie, both station assistants at Bauer Radio, had to look through 64 work experience applications and narrow them down to a tiny four. And after all that there were some serious mistakes that came up again, and again…. and again.
“You have to show you want to work in radio,” Adem explained before bringing out the CVs for the tutorial. “When I’m looking at your CV, I want to be able to see your passion for radio straight away.” They took a selection of ‘good’, ‘okay’, and ‘bad’ CVs to talk us through what’s wrong and what’s right about them, and here’s the five most important tips we took away.
“You should put your attributes and characteristics, not your education or degree,” Adem said. He reiterated the fact that nothing should be repeated on your CV, because why would you put your degree when you mention that further down your CV, too? Inject your personality, use buzz words, tell them what you love and what your ambition is.
The length of the profile was a big topic of conversation: “It should be a brief snippet of who you are,” he says. “It only needs to be a few sentences long.” Having browsed some CVs that had a hefty paragraph for their profile, Adem said he wouldn’t really read past the first line. And of course, it goes without saying that waffling is not allowed.
By structure, we’re not talking about what you’re actually writing, but where you’re writing it. “Relevant experience and employment to the job, and your skills should be at the top of your CV, and education and grades should be at the bottom,” we were told.
Employers want to know predominantly about you, so place the things they’ll want to know nearer the top along with your contact details (‘that shouldn’t take up a lot of space’!). References should of course be put at the bottom – and Adem has preference on whether you include the contact details, or write ‘upon request’: “If they’re just applying for work experience, the contact details aren’t necessary and they shouldn’t take up too much space.”
Detailing what you’ve done – both paid work and work experience – should be the bulk of your CV. But a reoccurring mistake was placing emphasis and detail on unrelated paid work (i.e. your part-time jobs that are irrelevant to your career ambitions), and not enough emphasis on the experience that is relevant to your application.
“You only need a brief description, maybe even one line, about irrelevant jobs on your CV,” Adem explains. “Your work history needs to demonstrate an interest in the job you’re applying for.”
Ultimately, they don’t care if you’ve worked at your local pub for three years and have managed to upsell on the latest lager even if you may have taken away some vital skills – if you’re applying for a placement in radio, they want to know about all the radio experience you’ve done… ‘and if you haven’t, you need to get that experience,’ he said.
Think of the hundreds of applications they’re going to be looking at – don’t waste their time by making them read a paragraph about waitressing before they get to the juicy radio experience. DON’T WAFFLE! I repeat, don’t waffle.
“I have two CVs, a retail one for when I was the deputy manager at Poundworld which doesn’t mention radio at all, and then a radio one,” Adem admitted.
It’s not uncommon that you might be working a job in an unrelated field while you’re applying for work experience, but the CV you used for that job isn’t going to be the same CV as you will use for your potential first career break. It just isn’t. Personalise your CV for each employer, making sure your passion for that brand and industry comes across instantly.
Don’t drastically change the whole CV for each job, but be conscious that it should be tailored to that particular role, industry and employer.
Adem spread out all the CVs on the table in front of us and asked us which stood out the most. We all pointed to the same one: a bold CV with teh applicant’s name slightly larger at the top in a red font, and the lines that separated her experience were red too. It wasn’t too much, it wasn’t over the top, but it wasneat, engaging and yet still formal.
Formatting and layout is important, and Adem addressed a few issues that cropped up across many of the CVs: “Use bullet points rather than describing in a paragraph what you did in your role. Don’t leave big gaps on the paper – use the space efficiently and avoid white space; but don’t overcrowd it and cram it all in.”
Ideally, Adem said one page is sufficient for a CV, and to only use two pages if it is all relevant to the job role. Past three pages is a no-no.
Although we focused on CVs, they ran through some quick tips on getting radio experience that could do wonders for your CV:
- Get in contact with student radios. You can contact your local university even if you aren’t a student as they will still welcome your help.
- Hospital radios are a great way to get experience as no one’s going to say no to free help.
- Community radio stations are usually low-staffed and would also benefit from volunteers which will give you hands-on experience.
- This doesn’t mean you have to do it full-time – offer your services for a couple of hours on the weekend, and more in the future if you’re up to it.
- Reapply for work experience, even if you don’t get it the first time. Adem applied four times for BBC’s Radio 6 before he was accepted – but make small changes to your CV each time.
With additional research and comment from Elena Cotton.
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