UKH

Format of a modern CV (UK, science/engineering)

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In an idle moment on a midweek evening, I find myself pondering putting a CV together. Belt and braces, get all my ducks in a row etc. 

I last did this "in anger" in 2014 and have long since lost that copy. In any case I am dimly aware that the accepted/desired/expected format/layout evolves from year to year. 

I asked a friend, who recently at least got himself some interviews, to send me his current one. To my eyes, it wasn't nice. 4 pages, 2000+ words, and lots of detail, naming specific products that he worked on as projects etc. Came across as a lot of waffle(*)

I Googled and of course got millions of results, I made a semi-arbitrary choice to just take a look at this site https://www.myperfectcv.co.uk and their layouts make sense to me. Succinct, not bogged down in detail. At the moment I am pretty much following their model. FWIW in my industry, I don't think I need to name the software packages that I've been using, as it's fairly obvious. I think such detail can be asked very quickly at interview or pre-interview stage, and would prefer to keep the CV to two pages. 

However, I HAVE just chosen a template from an arbitrary website and I'd be more than happy to take additional advice from the hive mind here. 

* also this friend has put his work email and mobile number down, plus included personal interests at the end. I had thought that both were a no-no in a CV. Admittedly he was applying for a job within the same company which might also excuse the detail of products etc. 

 SouthernSteve 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Depending on where you are applying you might find that the CV is not wanted. If the employer is trying to be ultra-good about diversity and inclusion they will give you some terribly designed form to fill in so that you are an ageless, genderless entity. They are really horrible to assess.

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I don't think I need to name the software packages that I've been using

Depends on the nature of those software packages. If they are central to an existing engineering process, then I'd be looking for someone with experience of that tool. Or a close equivalent. So I'd explain the task you were performing, and the tool you were using; e.g. "model-based system engineering, using Enterprise Architect/Rhapsody"

In reply to SouthernSteve:

Thanks. OK full disclosure, I AM applying for something and you are half-right - their "advert" does not explicitly state "send a CV" (it DOES explicitly state that they are NOT accepting CVs or cover letters from recruitment agencies) 

They do say a lot about diversity(*).
They offer a specific person to contact regarding the vacancy. 

I thought I might as well get a CV ready, but not send it straight away. Just contact the person and register interest, and tell him I have a CV if he wants to look through it. 

* Another notable difference between the example templates I looked at, and the CV my mate sent me, is that the examples don't give date of birth or age, whereas my mate's did. I would have thought that age should be left out, and the work and education record should give enough of an idea. Omitting age also means nobody gets to be unduly concerned about perceived "gaps in time" IMHO. 

In reply to captain paranoia:

Spot on, there is just one specific package that I was considering naming. 

I do think that using up precious CV space on "experience in MS Office", unless it is a very specific admin, report-writing, project-management or accounting role, seems irrelevant. But again I could be very wrong on this!

In reply to Blue Straggler:

Remember that the purpose of a CV is to get to the next stage in the selection process.

It's not meant to provide everything an employer might want to know before offering a job - that's what interviews and any other stuff is for.

So you need to make sure it's read rather than glanced at and binned - so clear, concise, not cluttered, easy on the eye, containing information that makes them think "we have to interview this candidate" - unless of course the David Brent approach is being used - avoid unlucky people by binning half the applications without looking at them - brilliant 😁

Edit: even if you don't need a CV for this particular job, it's a good idea to always have a fairly up to date one (revise it every couple of years) - this is definitely do as I say not do as I did 👎 - personally I hate the things and hope I never have to do one again. The only thing that's worse is the "competency based job interview" - shudder - otherwise known as (IMO) "how to employ people who can bullshit but can't do the actual job" - or maybe more pertinently "how to avoid employing people who could do a really good job but can't bullshit properly".

Post edited at 21:09
 Si dH 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

This depends where you are applying to. If it a big organisation who are likely to achieve many applications per post and use an HR team to filter them before passing on to management, then I would stick to two sides, keep it snappy and try to think what buzzwords they might be looking for. 

If you are applying for a role where you have specialist expertise and the number of qualified candidates is likely to be very small then I would worry less about the above and focus more on making sure it's a well written summary of your most relevant experience and demonstrates the behaviours and skills they are looking for, without worrying whether it goes over on to a 3rd side.

In either case, if it's a large organisation with an HR department, then if possible try to make polite, non-pushy email contact with the recruiting manager to let them know you are intending to apply and (in a sentence or two) tell them your key experience. If you do a good job of your email and they're struggling to find a good candidate they might ask HR to look out for your CV (I have done this in the past.) This reduces the chances of you being filtered out. It may not be possible, but as a last resort it is often possible to guess someone's email address in a big company if you know their name, and if you don't have quite the details you need but do so for another manager in that organisation, you could always ask them to forward your email on to the right person.

Some organisations like you to fill in a specific application form and don't need a CV, so check this for your preferred employer before spending time on it.

Post edited at 21:06
In reply to Michael Hood:

> unless of course the David Brent approach is being used - avoid unlucky people by binning half the applications without looking at them - brilliant 😁

"The round filing cabinet" :D 

In reply to Si dH:

Thanks. THIS is the current case:

> If you are applying for a role where you have specialist expertise and the number of qualified candidates is likely to be very small then I would worry less about the above and focus more on making sure it's a well written summary of your most relevant experience and demonstrates the behaviours and skills they are looking for, without worrying whether it goes over on to a 3rd side.

I am just drafting it now and it's gone to a third side but I can go back and make my verbiage a lot more concise. 

> Some organisations like you to fill in a specific application form and don't need a CV, so check this for your preferred employer before spending time on it.

I am spending time on it now, just so I have it to hand. Not labouring over it for hours tailoring it to anything too specific. Cheers  

 jethro kiernan 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I’m redoing my CV and I’m trying to remember what caught my eye when I went through CV’s

Certainly for me having several CV’s is useful, that way you can keep it short a sweet and adjust the relevant info to highlight what is important for the job your applying for.

for instance I might be going for a supervisory/management role so rather than  just say I supervised such and such a project, give some detail that puts it into perspective 

i.e supervised 50+ riggers, pipe fitters, scaffolders, electricians and mechanics executing 50,000 man hours on engineering upgrades. This gives perspective to your ability. 
Fine tune this level of detail for the specific job.

CV reading is harsh, it takes less than 10 seconds reading for you to end up in the no pile.

I've used these guys for my last CV

https://novoresume.com/gb?noRedirect=true

Post edited at 21:15
In reply to jethro kiernan:

Oh sure, having said in my reply to Si DH that I am not currently labouring over tailoring it to a specific application, I am aware that this is something one should be facilitating. In this case, the tailoring is sort of looking after itself as I am putting it together with just one potential application in mind (and both myself and the vacancy seem to be fairly niche although they may be looking for greater experience of team management that I can offer, and I can only big that up SO much)  

In reply to jethro kiernan:

> I've used these guys for my last CV

Do people really use all those colours and busy formatting and photos?! 
The guy can find me on LinkedIn easily enough which I must also go and pimp up. And connect with him  

 wintertree 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

It sounds like a low volume of applicants are likely, so it's not a case that an admin person or a piece of software is going to be binning 95% of submissions.   So don't worry about hitting some magic formula of words / box ticking.

It sounds like you need to communicate your key skills and experience relevant to the very specific role.  

It's a chance to put across that you are a clear, concise and precise communicator.  Which are exactly the sorts of thing that are likely to matter if this new role would include customer training and initial troubleshooting (local and remote) of the complex kit.

I'd consider a couple of micro-case studies where you resolved a particularly difficult install or customer problem - just a sentence or two.

  • Highly experienced at remote trouble shooting
    • e.g. Figured out customer X wasn't getting data because the interocitor was reverse biassed by following a methodical set of diagnostics

There's no harm in doing a CV needed or not, as it's always a chance for reflection and introspection, and who knows where that ends up.

 jethro kiernan 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The format I used was not that busy it does mean you can get quite a bit of info onto the front page, if people need more info they will ask if they think your suitable, the key is to generate that initial interest.

In reply to wintertree:

You are Exeter from This Island Earth and I claim my five pounds 😃

In reply to wintertree:

> I'd consider a couple of micro-case studies where you resolved a particularly difficult install or customer problem - just a sentence or two.

> Highly experienced at remote trouble shooting

> e.g. Figured out customer X wasn't getting data because the interocitor was reverse biassed by following a methodical set of diagnostics

Would you put those into a CV? I thought one would normally put them into whatever the next stage is.

> There's no harm in doing a CV needed or not, as it's always a chance for reflection and introspection, and who knows where that ends up.

Yes that is another goal of this “exercise”, thanks 😃

 wintertree 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Would you put those into a CV? I thought one would normally put them into whatever the next stage is.

Normally I wouldn't, but from what you've said your stuff is pretty niche, technical and specific.  When I read "X years of experience doing Y" on a CV it's just so much noise - what does it even mean?  Perhaps you're in an unusual position to be able to give something tangible that's genuinely compatible with the new organisation's brief - perhaps not.    

> You are Exeter from This Island Earth and I claim my five pounds 

I like to think I cut a jib like Morrow, but my knowledge of the device extends back to my early Asimov collection.  

> Yes that is another goal of this “exercise”, thanks

Good luck - a lot of career/life reevaluations going on this last year I think.

 Ben Bowering 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The format in your link is on the right lines but a more important consideration is to tailor your CV to the job description. A frustrating high proportion of CVs I have assessed recently for engineering roles didn't specifically highlight the required or desirable skills and experience listed for the roles we were trying to fill.

If the job description asks for x, y and z, make it easier for the potential employer by explicitly stating your skills and experience in/of x, y and z. It will be received positively by both the HR and management who won't necessarily have a deep (or any!) understanding of x, y and z and by the technical team leads who are presumably busy if they need new recruits. 

Be consise and succinct - waffle stands out on a CV like a bad fart in a lift. Stick to the two page rule and remember that 'I did xyz' packs much more punch than 'I worked on a project that included xyz'. 

Edited to add: good luck! 

Post edited at 22:04
In reply to thread so far:

Thanks for all the great answers so far. Was my assumption that you don’t put age/date of birth on there, correct? And leave out “personal interests” at the basic CV stage?

I’ve also assumed that unless still in your twenties or very early thirties, “Education” can be simply your degree(s) - subject, graduation year(s) and university. No waffly detail unless you got distinctions? 

 Si dH 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Would you put those into a CV? I thought one would normally put them into whatever the next stage is.

If you have genuinely good examples, for a specialist/skilled role like you have said it is, you should definitely put them in.  As part of this when I said "focus more on making sure it's a well written summary of your most relevant experience and demonstrates the behaviours and skills they are looking for".  I would emphasise the word "demonstrate" - if you can describe specific task(s) you did successfully that really hot the spot, that's much better than just saying you did a job for five years and loved working as part of a team and being creative, etc etc.

In reply to Ben Bowering:

> The format in your link is on the right lines but a more important consideration is to tailor your CV to the job description. A frustrating high proportion of CVs I have assessed recently for engineering roles didn't specifically highlight the required or desirable skills and experience listed for the roles we were trying to fill.

> If the job description asks for x, y and z, make it easier for the potential employer by explicitly stating your skills and experience in/of x, y and z. It will be received positively by both the HR and management who won't necessarily have a deep (or any!) understanding of x, y and z and by the technical team leads who are presumably busy if they need new recruits. 

> Be consise and succinct - waffle stands out on a CV like a bad fart in a lift. Stick to the two page rule and remember that 'I did xyz' packs much more punch than 'I worked on a project that included xyz'. 

> Edited to add: good luck!  

Good stuff. I deliberately drafted “I worked on a project that included xyz” so that I would have some easy cannon fodder to go back and delete on second draft. If I start concise, and it gets long, it becomes harder to delete stuff 😃

Post edited at 22:26
 Si dH 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Degree - I would put down a 2.1 or 1st if you have it. Some people will assume otherwise if you don't say anything. Not sure year is very important.

As for age - it's five years since I was last assessing many CVs so things might have changed, but I don't remember seeing one without any indication of age. The vast majority give it away anyway with dates of qualifications of course. Obviously it can't be part of the selection process, but I think it makes people feel more comfortable if they know roughly what to expect when meeting someone for an interview. No strong opinion.

 Ben Bowering 23 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Yes to all three assumptions

In reply to Si dH:

> Degree - I would put down a 2.1 or 1st if you have it. Some people will assume otherwise if you don't say anything. Not sure year is very important.

It’s “otherwise” 😃 but I do have an M.Sc and “four years as postgrad researcher” which anyone with their wits about them will correctly identify as “Ph.D dropout” which I am totally open about 

In reply to Blue Straggler:

Personal interests are usually on there, but if they're stamp collecting or attending BNP rallies you're going in the bin.

3 even 4 pages is ok if you have a lot of career to cover. For a new graduate it's taking the piss.

For a technical role, where scientific documentation will be expected from you, producing the CV in latex (or at least not in times new Roman 12 pt with random MS formatting) can go a long way with some people. Some don't care, some see it as a big plus. HR/recruitment won't know the difference though so it won't help you until later on.

 Dave B 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Additionally, Linked in profile, if you don't have one.

Depends on the industry, but often used in some. 

Post edited at 07:02
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Don't forget to make sure you've got something on social media that's thoroughly reprehensible, easy to find, and obviously identifiable as you.

In reply to Blue Straggler:

I have no idea how many people I’ve recruited, certainly into the hundreds, longlisting, shortlisting and interview panels.

The vast majority of applications fail at the first hurdle because of the cover letter. It needs to describe succinctly how your experience and skills match the Person Specification. Best done point by point. There’s a scoring system which gets you though to the next stage based on this fit. If a panel is dealing with a lot of applications, there isn’t time to deep dive into CVs which are often lengthy, so the cover letter is critical for the shortlist ranking.

Next, is a 1 page executive summary of your career placed at the front of your CV. Bullet points. Again, make sure it’s edited to fit with the person spec. This page has a good chance of being read. Keep it concise.

From what I’ve seen, straightforward bullet point information organised into clear sections. Discursive essays seem to have little impact and even less reading in reality. 

In reply to SouthernSteve:

> Depending on where you are applying you might find that the CV is not wanted. If the employer is trying to be ultra-good about diversity and inclusion they will give you some terribly designed form to fill in so that you are an ageless, genderless entity. They are really horrible to assess.

"Hilariously" after all this CV work I have now seen that at this point, what you describe seems to be exactly what they are going for. I had previously missed this, as it was a rather small generic "Apply for this Job" button right at the bottom of a longish job description AND "contact person X for enquiries about the vacancy"
This takes you through to a registration thing for a "job portal" (third party software) where a multi-page form begins.
I shall look at it later today. There was also a rather longer description which suggests that this one is not for me, but hey why not practice going through the process eh. No harm can come of it. 

 SouthernSteve 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

If you do get the job, based on that expect unconscious bias training. A societal issue that such training can only scrape the top off, but really interesting in places.

Some companies were using computers analysis for their first level of selection, but I have heard that some have backed off now – fooled by extroverts and disregarding introverts. A new discrimination!

 Offwidth 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

At my old place the forms were just dreadful because of HRism but you could tell who gave a shit or not and tried to work within that. The people on the ground usually want someone who can do the job well and fit in with the systems and people. Hence, never miss an opportunity to talk in advance if there is one on offer (or sometimes even if there isn't)!

It's sad to say only about a quarter of the thousands of academic application forms I had to shortlist from were of a basic standard we would have advised to our students: clear, concise, most relevant experience first and carefully proof read. Relevant specialist software packages would be normally be in and GCSE's out (unless stated as essential, as English can sometimes be). 

Post edited at 10:19
 gethin_allen 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> It’s “otherwise” 😃 but I do have an M.Sc and “four years as postgrad researcher” which anyone with their wits about them will correctly identify as “Ph.D dropout” which I am totally open about 


An MSc isn't a terrible thing. In my experience, the MPhil is the worse looking degree as I've only ever seen them awarded to people who have completed their 3+ years PhD time and then submitted only to be bumped back at viva for not having enough to make a PhD. Not even a case of major corrections and resubmission.

 wintertree 24 Feb 2021
In reply to SouthernSteve:

> Some companies were using computers analysis for their first level of selection, but I have heard that some have backed off now – fooled by extroverts and disregarding introverts. A new discrimination!

There an emerging trend for using “AI” to screen candidates in American tech businesses.  Cant see any accidental discrimination coming out of that.....

In reply to Blue Straggler:

In the UK, the traditional CV is chronological, starting with one's education and qualifications and then working forwards through one's work experience to the present-day. This gives gives prominence to one's academic qualifications and buries one's last work experience right at the bottom. 

In the US (where CV's are called Resumes), they do it the other way round, working back from the last job, so that one's recent experience and performance are what immediately catches the eye. If one is straight out of university, one's academic experience and qualifications rightly come to the fore, whereas if one has thirty years of post-university experience, one's academic qualifications are relegated right to the end of the resume - and will be merely glanced at. 

I think the US format is far more user-friendly and practical than the traditional UK one. (I say "traditional" because I don't actually know what is the current norm in the UK, and would not be surprised if it has gone the US way.)

In reply to John Stainforth:

Thanks John. The expected format in the UK has been the same as what you are describing as "US format" for my entire working life (circa 25 years) and most probably extending back further than that.  

In reply to gethin_allen:

> An MSc isn't a terrible thing.

Oh...I didn't mean to imply that it was! Does it look like I did? If so, then perhaps my communication skills are not as strong as I thought! 

 tlouth7 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

One thing I have learned from a number of job changes is that it is worth sticking a note on your CV saying that you have a UK passport and clean driving licence (if you do). This demonstrates right to work in the UK which they have to check, and lots of employers want to know that you can drive yourself to meetings.

I flipped mine around after the employment section became longer than the education section. As the employment section grows I will shrink the education section to keep it all on one page:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FsFicnw1h6NQeJPOAdLEEyvYSN66Yygt/view?usp=sharing

 gethin_allen 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

The way I read it was that you'd started a PhD program and then abandoned it and completed a MSc. but I now see that this wasn't the case.

It's not a terrible thing in my opinion if a PhD candidate decides after a short while that they aren't keen to spend the next 3-4 years finishing it. 

Post edited at 12:07
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> This takes you through to a registration thing for a "job portal" (third party software) where a multi-page form begins.

> I shall look at it later today. There was also a rather longer description which suggests that this one is not for me, but hey why not practice going through the process eh. No harm can come of it. 

Cumbersome job portals often ask a lot of detailed questions going back a long way, and are very time-consuming. I suspect they put a lot of applicants off, so if you can be bothered with it then you're already competing against a reduced number of candidates. I'd recommend that you save your answers in a spreadsheet or similar to make it quicker to complete the next one, rather than digging out dates from old training certificates etc every time.

In reply to Thugitty Jugitty:

> I'd recommend that you save your answers in a spreadsheet or similar

Also for when the cumbersome job portal goes "fszt" and you've just lost the last however many minutes of careful composition with the best phraseology that you're never quite able to recapture from memory.

In reply to gethin_allen:

>

> It's not a terrible thing in my opinion if a PhD candidate decides after a short while

4 years short enough?

In reply to tlouth7:

> I flipped mine around after the employment section became longer than the education section. As the employment section grows I will shrink the education section to keep it all on one page:

This is pretty typical of the format of the ones I'm sifting through right now. Won't go far wrong with that.

Edit: And it's how mine looks too, other than I have a 3-liner at the top saying what I am and what I'm good for.

Post edited at 13:58

Thanks again to everyone who has posted, it's been really helpful. I am getting towards finishing a format I am reasonably happy with. 

As alluded to by wintertree, this sort of exercise is recommended even if you are not jobhunting. It can give you a bit of focus, and is an opportunity to reflect on whether you are valuing yourself correctly etc. 

 SouthernSteve 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

These academics are always recommending reflection!

 wintertree 24 Feb 2021
In reply to SouthernSteve:

Ex academic!  Following some reflection...

In reply to Michael Hood:

> Also for when the cumbersome job portal goes "fszt" and you've just lost the last however many minutes of careful composition with the best phraseology that you're never quite able to recapture from memory.

HOW DID YOU KNOW? Are they all deliberately designed to do this?! This one (whose existence simultaneously negates the need for this thread and my CV, AND makes me glad I've made one!) is awful at many stages which I won't bore you with, but yes it did go "fszt" at one point. It's kind of good, it's making me slow the process down. 

 antdav 24 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

4 pages and 2000 words! The majority of that wouldn't even get a cursory glance with most recruiters.

1 or 2 pages is more than enough even with 30 years experience.

What I find when reviewing CVs for engineering positions is they are typically full of the factual experience, "used software package to design widget" and this is repeated a dozen times in different projects or companies. What I want to read is what the person really achieved, "designed a new widget which improved reliability of product by 20%". The former is a checklist, the latter makes me want to delve deeper on that project, I'll invite them for an interview.

Engineers are much more comfortable at the factual side of a CV and not good at selling themselves.

In reply to antdav:

I thought it was more or less a golden rule that a CV should not be more than 2 sides (so it can be printed if necessary on two sides of one sheet of A4)

In reply to antdav:

> 4 pages and 2000 words! The majority of that wouldn't even get a cursory glance with most recruiters.

The CV in question looked awful to me on Tuesday and looks even more awful now that my initial opinion of it has been reinforced by comments on here. It’s literally horrible to glance at, and worse when you actually read it. He’s bullet-pointed stuff like how he is friendly and approachable, and describes the type of angling he enjoys, in “personal interests”. To his credit he does also describe specific quantifiable achievements although arguably in far too much detail. 

 Richard Horn 25 Feb 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I would recommend doing your research and cherry pick relevant career details / experience for the job position in question, there is nothing wrong with customising a CV for individual applications. If your CV is short/snappy (2 sides) so the reader can quickly pick up that you are relevant for the position then you should get to interview (in engineering there is a paucity of relevant candidates right now...), and as soon as your foot is in the door then the CV is irrelevant from that point onwards.

Long CVs with entire career histories laid out in detail bug me, it hints at a bit of lazyness / ineptitude about targeting information for the viewer. If it gets to interview I will guaranteed ask about a project 10 or 15 years old, and its surprising how often the answer is that the candidate says its too long ago and cannot remember the details...

The interview is much more important - be very sure to research the company who is interviewing you / their products etc, so even if you are unable to answer technical questions in the interview you are able to open a discussion about the specific field in general and how your experience is relevant, interviews are much more comfortable if they are a discussion rather than an exam type q&a.  Also make sure you are personable (i.e in a good mood), maybe its an urban myth, but I heard that an employer will make a decision within the first 3 or 4 minutes of an interview, and thats mainly based on whether or not they think they will get along with you. It rings true for me, if someone is going to be part of a team, then being able to get along, social interaction / awareness of how their work will influence others in the team is as important as their technical skills.

In reply to Richard Horn:

Thanks Richard, I agree with your points and they echo my limited experience. My CV has run to three sides but it is 14-point Tahoma font with larger headers (e.g. Work History) and sub-headers (e.g. each company name), and generous indents on bullet points. Not a densely packed single-space Times New Roman size 10. It's less than 500 words at the moment. 

The standout point for me from your post is "once your foot is in the door, the CV is irrelevant". Seems obvious when it's written out so starkly but it's easy to overlook. 

Luckily for me I can remember details of the interesting and successful projects I've worked on  


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