Writing an Effective CV

The term 'Curriculum Vitae' (CV) is derived from Latin and translated means "the way your life has run". In simple terms, a CV is a personal statement outlining your life from an educational and professional review. The idea of a CV is to get you an interview and your foot in the door, not to get you the job. Your CV should reflect your occupational and educational life and be relevant to the position you are applying for. Think of it as a personal marketing platform to sell/promote yourself to a prospective employer. When constructing your CV bear in mind that potential employers will only spend a mere 30 - 60 seconds reading your life history. Evaluating your own skills, achievements and personality is one of the most difficult hurdles and is the first step in the CV writing process. We recommend you review the section Self Assessment before writing your CV.
CV Structure and Format
Keeping your CV concise and to the point is a difficult task. Selecting a comprehensive structure and format will help you to achieve this. There are many layouts to choose from, and they vary from country to country; the example layout below is typical for the European Market:
  • Name/Contact Details - display a permanent address, home phone, email and mobile. (Note: if a graduate remember to give a permanent address of a family member and your term time address)
  • Personal Details - include your Date of Birth, Nationality and Marital status. (Can be placed at the beginning or end of the document.)
  • Personal Profile - highly recommended to grab the reader’s attention, it is a key selling point. Ideally this should be punchy, precise and no more than three, 15-word sentences. E.g. ‘A Senior Interpretation Geophysicist with 10 years E&P experience.’ We recommend you review our example profiles.
  • Academic Qualifications - you should list higher education in order of highest level first, i.e. MSc first. Include details on your final year project, i.e. dissertation, thesis.
  • Work Experience - List in reverse chronological order. Include dates, job title/position and company name. As well as writing a brief overview of your job, try and incorporate your responsibilities and achievements.
  • Computing Skills - list all geoscience and general software applications used, hardware, operating systems, databases, etc.
  • Additional Skills - Industry Knowledge, Technical, Commercial, Managerial, Analytical, Languages.
  • Publications - If you have a large number of publications, you may want to combine topics and list the topic and number of papers written/presented.
  • Personal Interests - keep this limited but consider what it says about you… eg. are you a team player or an individual?
  • Society Memberships - List the most relevant.
  • Referees - optional but recommended, use 3 maximum. Ensure at least one is an existing or previous manger – provide details on company name, job title and telephone/email. Graduates should list at least one academic referee.
Selecting a CV Format
There are several different formats, the most common are listed below. Choose one that is suitable for your own career history or the job that you are applying for.
  • Chronological – Details your work history in reverse chronological order. It shows no gaps or changes in your career and is useful to display a continuous work history that is related to your next job opportunity.
  • Functional – Highlights certain skills, achievements and responsibilities rather than listing your work history. It is ideal for career changing, periods of unemployment, redundancy or illness. Also useful if you have repetitious job titles.
  • Targeted – A one off CV targeted for a specific job or vacancy. It concentrates on your potential and what you are capable of. Unlike chronological and functional formats which focus on past work history, this type can be used for specialised positions.
CV Presentation
The quality and presentation of your CV is vital when selling yourself. The appearance of your CV is an indication to a prospective employer of the type of person that may be working in their environment. There is no exact format for compiling a CV, but the following guideline is a sure fire way to avoid yours being rejected.
The Good CV…
  • Is no more than 2 pages max - long CV’s are regarded as time wasting. (If you have an extensive work history, use no more than a maximum of 4 pages.)
  • Clearly states who you are, where you have been and what you have got to offer. Don’t hide your name with your personal information, put it in bold at the top of your CV and in a minimum of 12-14pt.
  • Looks attractive - is well laid out, structured and easy to read.
  • Include a catchy Personal Profile to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Use bulleted lists - short and concise points are clean and informative.
  • All relevant work experience listed - make sure its written in reverse chronological order
The Bad CV…
  • Avoid excessive references to “I, he or she” - Alternatively write “Employed as a Seismic Interpreter with 6 months practical experience in …..”
  • Check for common spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors. Have someone read your CV, spouses and colleagues know your strengths and weakness and are often more than willing to criticise.
  • Don’t draw attention to any negative descriptions - the idea of a CV is to sell yourself.
  • Try not to highlight gaps in your work history – this might cause the reader to have doubts/questions about you. It is easier to discuss these details face to face at an interview.
  • Avoid listing too many interests and personal information - think about what it is relaying to the reader.
And The Ugly CV!
  • Avoid excessive use of CAPITALS, underlining, bold and italics, large fonts - NOT VERY USER FRIENDLY
  • Don’t write long sentences, paragraphs or ramble - aim for concise information, less text is easier to read
  • Make sure it’s not disorganised and unstructured - don’t make the reader switch back and forth between pages
  • Avoid too many graphics, colours, rigid formatting
  • Embedding photos - different software might distort your appearance – so be careful
The cyclical nature of the Oil and Gas Industry means that it is unlikely you will have a job for life. Therefore, your CV should be a dynamic report continually modified to reflect your latest skills and achievements. It needs to be immediately at hand for any new opportunities, enabling you to secure your ‘perfect job’!

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