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Top 10 Tips for your Return to Work CV

If you’re thinking about returning to work this year, you may be wondering about updating your CV and how best to go about this. Getting started can often be the biggest hurdle, particularly if it has been a while since you last updated your CV and you are struggling to reconnect with your professional self. These tips will hopefully make the task ahead more manageable and enjoyable!

Getting started

1. Chronological CV

We’d recommend a reverse chronological CV which shows your career trajectory from what you’ve done most recently, over a functional skills based one. Your goal is to make the recruiter’s job as easy as possible to follow your career. If they need to work hard to piece together dates and work experience, they may lose interest and you may not get past the 1st hurdle.

2. Achievement and evidence based

Your CV should focus on your actual achievements and what you delivered in each role rather than read like a list of responsibilities. The recruiter will be looking to see the value you delivered so any evidence of your achievements will be useful to highlight e.g. % cost savings, improved efficiencies, £10m project managed on time and to budget.

3. Clear and succinct

Maintaining the recruiter’s interest is key so keep your CV to 2 pages. Avoid tables or photos, to ensure that you can upload it easily to any online platforms. Your aim is for your CV to be clear and succinct with bullet points pulling out the key info, rather than long winded paragraphs of text. It should also be written in third person.

4. Tailored CV for each role

Once you’ve created your template, you’ll need to tailor your CV for each role you’re going for. Pull out the key words in each job ad and ensure that you’re mirroring them in your application as well as highlighting your key relevant strengths and skills. The more targeted your CV, the higher your chance of getting through to interview.

CV Structure

5. CV heading

Briefly detail your name, email address and LinkedIn URL. Most recruiters will look you up on LinkedIn if your CV is of interest, so including your profile will give you an additional opportunity to impress! You don’t need to include your date of birth or home address, though including the city where you’re looking to work may be helpful in recruiters matching you online to an opportunity.

6. A professional summary

This is your opportunity to pack a punch and impress! Your summary is a paragraph of narrative and should capture the depth and breadth of your key strengths, skills and experiences across your career. You should include your years and fields of experience along with well-known companies you may have worked for as well as specific headline achievements relevant to the role you are applying for. Your professional summary will help you tell your career story – the threads that make up the narrative of your career and the key information you want to get across. This is important in your CV, but will also help you think about how you may want to introduce yourself professionally in networking conversations and in interview.

7. Key skills and experience

One way to highlight your relevant skills, strengths and experience and make your CV leap out, is to include a key skills section beneath your professional summary. You could include 5 specific skills and bullet point your relevant experience against them. This could also be a good place to highlight any relevant transferable skills gained during your career break which would be valuable for the role.

8. Career History

As you list each of your roles, consider what your purpose was in each role, what you undertook and what you achieved. Demonstrating what you did through the lens of your achievements will highlight the value that you added.

9. Positioning a career break

Our key message with a career break is not to hide it or apologise for it! Where you’re applying for returner programmes, recruiters will want to see evidence that you’ve had a career break, so it’s important to make sure it’s detailed on your CV. You would simply include it as your 1st entry under your Career History. If your career break activities gave you valuable relevant transferable skills, then detail them here. If not, just include the dates of your career break, and skip straight to your last professional role.

10. Education and Interests

Focus on your most relevant qualifications, including your degree and any relevant professional certifications. Showcase interests that highlight transferable skills or competencies or anything impressive that would capture the reader’s attention!

Updating your CV can feel a little overwhelming. Chunk each section down into small manageable tasks, maybe one section each day, to help you make progress. Once you have your template to work from, applying for future roles will become a lot easier as you’ll just need to tweak and tailor for each job.