Regardless of where you are applying for a job, your CV is the single most important weapon in your armour. This is especially true if you are applying for a job with an MP. Unlike starting a career with a bank or with a council, there is no human resources department to handle the recruitment process. It is often down to the office manager or researcher to go through the CVs and make a decision about who to put through to the next stage (the MP probably wont see your CV until the interview ). It is unlikely that whoever is making a decision will read through every word on every CV – they will skim read and look for reasons to take the application seriously. Given the already considerable pressures on a researcher’s time (and the fact that a typical job in Parliament will easily attract between 150 and 200 applications), your CV has to stand out. Style and Layout
- Make it visually appealing. Use a professional font; make sure you have a organised layout; and ensure that the text is justified. Content trumps style – however, if your first impression is a poor one it is difficult to recover.
- Make good use of space and ensure that your CV is no longer than two pages. Do not have one and a half pages, or two and a bit as it looks unprofessional.
- The first section is important. This is your chance to make an immediate good first impression and give your potential employer a reason to continue reading. A section entitled ‘Career Objectives’ gives you an opportunity to write a 30-50 word sentence that outlines who you are and what you want to achieve. For example: “Motivated and conscientious graduate with extensive experience of…. With a strong academic background and keen interest in…”
- In that first part include a ‘Key Strengths’ sub-section. Here you can bullet point 3 (at most) unique selling points that demonstrates why you would be good in this role. For example: “Strong writing and research skills developed through…”
- It is a good idea to split your employment history section into two parts to emphasise relevant experience (entitled ‘Political Experience’ and ‘Further Experience’ for example). However, if you have very little political experience, this could be counter-productive.
- Ensure that your CV is personalised and tailored to the MP that you are applying to work for. This is crucial – no-one wants to read a generic CV you have sent to every MP. You have to demonstrate that you have understood what the job entails (by closely examining the job description) and highlight your relevant experience.
- Do not cram every little detail about every job into your CV. You need to be selective and highlight the things you have done that will be beneficial to the job you are applying for.
- Ensure that there is a clear reason for everything you have written and make sure you demonstrate why it is relevant. For example, if you have spent a year teaching English overseas, make sure you say what you gained from this experience and how it could help you if the job you are applying for.
- Maximise the impact by using adjectives – for example, “excellent communication skills,” “strong research skills” and “effective organisational skills.”
Get a Second Opinion Writing a good CV is fundamental. Unfortunately, every person you ask will give you different advice and every employer will be looking for different things. As a result, the above tips are based on my personal experience and cannot give you any guarantees. Despite this, getting a second opinion is always a good idea.
- Ask a friend or relative to read through your CV. There comes a point when you have spent so much work on it that the words merge into one. Another person will be able to spot mistakes that you may have made.
- If you are doing (or have done) an internship with MP, ask someone in the office for their opinion on your CV.
- If you are still at university (or even if you have graduated in the last couple of years) make sure you speak to your careers advisors. Twelve months after graduating from Lancaster University, I contacted the careers centre and they proof read my CV and offered valuable support.
- If you have applied for a job and been unsuccessful, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback on your CV. It is unlikely that you will get a detailed response given the amount of applicants, but some will be able to offer it and it will be invaluable to you.