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FOREWORD If your CV could speak to the recruiter, it should be saying:

“YES! I AM your perfect match. Pick ME! Pick ME!”

Use Giraffe CVs’ simple seven-step guide to give your CV the right structure, content and fluency of delivery and then let it talk its way into an interview.

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STEP 1: PRESENTING YOUR CV: DRESS TO IMPRESS

As someone who sees a LOT of CVs, I can say with all honesty that presentation is one of the biggest single factors that causes CVs to fail. Dense formatting, format inconsistencies, CVs that look like they could have been knocked up by a teenager in the 1980s (I suspect teenagers these days are a bit more Word-savvy) – these are all big turn-offs for employers. After all, if you don’t put in the effort or don’t know how to present a document that sums up your professional career, what does it say about your quality of work? It certainly doesn’t bode well for the future. So how can you present your CV to avoid the recruiter making quick-fire assumptions about you, your abilities, motivation and potential? The design and format of your CV should make it quick and easy to read, both as a whole document and to skim-read in sections, enabling the recruiter to quickly find the information they are looking for.

TOP TIP: Don’t overegg your format. As they say, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. 

Use neat, consistent and appealing formatting that doesn’t distract from the content.

Use black type and a legible simple font like Arial, Tahoma or Verdana on your CV; they are easier to read than the old fashioned or wacky alternatives.

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Present your skills and experience in well-defined sections which are easy to read, together or individually.

Avoid any layout inconsistencies that will distract the reader from your key messages.

Ensure you present your CV with enough white space to make the document easier on the eye.

Two pages is plenty. It may feel like a tight squeeze for you, but for the recruiter, who has hundreds more pages to read, well presented career highlights are better received than the CV equivalent of war and peace.

Check, check and check again for spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes. A CV with these basic errors can ruin your chances of selection, making it easy for another candidate with similar skills and a word perfect CV to be picked ahead of you.

Although most applications are now by email, if you do need to print your CV, use high quality 100gsm white or off-white paper.

TOP TIP: Make sure your CV file is saved in a format that the recruiter can open. Microsoft Word is a widely accepted standard for a CV. People use different versions of Word, so my advice would be to send, in addition, a pdf file which will present your CV exactly as you have created it.

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STEP 2: READ ALL ABOUT IT: HOW TO WRITE HEADLINES THAT GET YOU NOTICED

Your CV sets the tone for that first engagement with a new employer or client. More than just getting your foot in the interview room door, it starts forming a perception of you as an individual and potential asset in the reader’s mind. One of the main problems I see with CVs is that there are no clear headlines. Often, it is not possible to tell who the reader ‘is’ and where they are headed from a quick glance at the first page – and it should be. In fact, for a busy recruiter it is essential. It is imperative to get the first page of your CV right in order to position yourself in the recruiter’s mind. You are telling your own story, and it is important to tell your story in a way that reflects the recruiter’s needs and interests. Make it easy for them to see who you are, that you are a strong match for the job requirements and that your CV is worthy of a place in their ‘YES’ pile.

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Here are a few strategies which can make all the difference.

HEADLINE The headline is becoming a more popular feature on CVs, both on and offline. LinkedIn, for example, asks its users to add a headline to their online profile, giving examples such as: Experienced Transportation Executive, Web Designer and Information Architect, and Visionary Entrepreneur and Investor. Using a headline at the top of your CV is a good tactic to say confidently who you are. Before the profile, state clearly your professional moniker; an overarching description that confirms to the reader from the outset that it is worth their while to continue reading your CV. Example headlines could read along the lines of Business Graduate, Aspiring Business Analyst or Graduate Researcher. Don’t feel compelled to define yourself by your current job title, especially if it is too specific, simply bizarre or may even be unrecognisable to the recruiter.

TOP TIP: Avoid tongue-in-cheek descriptions like ‘Technical Evangelist’ or ‘Director of First Impressions’– the reader may not take them in the spirit intended and just think you have an overinflated ego. One approach to writing a headline is to take an objective look at what you have achieved over your career to date and use this insight to define yourself. If you’ve worked in roles as a receptionist, office administrator and clerical officer (in the days when that was a popular job title), you could consider describing yourself as an Office Support Professional, for example. A simple way to position yourself as a ‘fit’ for the role is to describe yourself in the terms used by your target employer. If they are seeking a Business Development Manager, but your current role is actually Head of New Sales, I don’t see it as a problem to describe your role using their language. You can reflect their terminology in your headline and profile and reference your actual job title in your Experience section.

TOP TIP: Your most relevant experience, qualifications and skills must feature on page one of your CV. The harsh reality is that it is likely to end up in the bin if it does not grab the reader’s attention within the first few seconds.

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PROFILE Include a targeted, concise and well-written profile to illustrate your skills, experience and future potential to prospective employers. This paragraph should sum you up as an individual, detailing what you have to offer and what motivates you within your chosen career. Your CV profile should leave your target employer with no doubts about who you are and what value you can add to their organisation. A punchy and well-written profile at the very start of your CV will summarise your value proposition in a nutshell – the kind of job you do, the breadth of your experience, key qualifications that will stand you apart from others, the industries you serve, the key skills you use to perform these roles – these are all things the employer will want to know. They can be wrapped up in five or six sentences at the top to let the recruiter know that you meet their criteria. As a starting point, try the following exercise. Set your CV to one side and sit with a friend or family member, someone you feel confident and comfortable with. Set a five-minute limit and describe to your companion the key points that encapsulate the value you can add to your target organisation. Talk from the heart about your experience and skills – you may be surprised at what you come up with. Whatever you say can be refined to serve as your CV profile, allowing you to quickly and clearly sum up what you have to offer a target organisation.

TOP TIP: There is no set formula for the perfect profile, but originality and sincerity are certainly key ingredients. Make sure your profile reflects you as an individual and that you are comfortable speaking the words, as well as presenting them in a written format. If you believe in your words then you have a good chance of others believing in you.

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KEY SKILLS I recommend using a Key Skills section immediately after the Profile, incorporating snappy two- to three-word bullets which describe the transferable business skills (New Business Development, for example), rather than soft skills (Communication Skills), you can bring to your target employer. This section, which can be skim-read very easily, is a godsend to the recruiter who needs to quickly locate the words that enable them to tick, tick, tick the boxes.

TOP TIP: Talk the recruiter’s language in terms of keywords. Your key skills should ideally reflect the skills outlined in the target job advert, description and person specification.

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STEP 3: TARGET YOUR CV FOR EACH OPPORTUNITY

Many people are guilty of using just one CV for all opportunities. This use of a ‘onesize-fits-all’ generic CV can be likened to wearing your little black dress for every party. Although undoubtedly classic, the LBD is not always enough to make you stand out. The most important thing to bear in mind when writing any CV is that it needs to demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the role. Imagine the recruiter sitting with a checklist in one hand and your CV in another.   

Is it clear what your objective is in submitting the CV? Does your CV make it easy for them to tick off their list? Does it demonstrate you are able and willing to do the job?

In the same way that you would make an effort and dress appropriately for a special occasion, you need to dress your CV to match employers’ expectations. This will optimise your chances of success. If you write your CV with the recruiter’s needs in mind, you will be one step further to ensuring your CV is shortlisted. Targeting your CV pays dividends. If you make the effort to show how you match the role requirements, this will be much appreciated by the recruiter and will definitely increase your chances of selection for interview.

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TOP TIP: Write your CV with your target audience’s needs in mind. Adapt the format, layout, content and key messages to reflect the interests and mindset of the person likely to read it. Tailor your CV and cover letter to each position you apply for, so your documents are relevant to each job and interesting to each target employer. Read the job advert, description and person specification then go to some lengths to show how you are the ideal fit for the job, with your most relevant experience, qualifications and skills for each particular opportunity featuring on page one of your CV. So don’t make the recruiter work to envisage how your skills and experience could be appropriate for the role. Show them a picture of someone who is ideal for the role, one they simply must meet. Someone who is their ideal match.

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STEP 4: SHOWCASE YOUR EXPERIENCE FOR OPTIMAL EFFECT

When writing your Experience section, it is essential to look objectively at what you have achieved, draw out the skills that are relevant to your desired job or sector, and present your message in a clear way to maximise your chances of selection. Your Experience section can be used to outline all paid or unpaid work experience which may be of interest to a potential employer.

GET THE ORDER RIGHT As a general rule of thumb, your experience should be outlined in reverse chronological order. For each role, outline the year dates of your employment, your job title and the organisation you worked for. Make sure your dates stack up, and explain any gaps in a concise and factual way. Leaving information gaps can result in the reader guessing at a whole range of explanations, with ‘detention at Her Majesty’s pleasure’ among the possibilities that spring to mind. With a pile of applications to evaluate, recruiters are likely to discard any CVs that raise questions and hint at issues, in favour of those that read like an open book and tick all the boxes.

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A good way to draw the reader’s attention to your most relevant experience, the experience that best matches the requirements of the target job, is to present this experience on page one of your CV. You can call it out in a Relevant Experience section, with Other Experience to follow. This tactic can make all the difference to whether your CV gets through the initial screening process.

TOP TIP: Break your experience down into relevant and other work experience, with relevant experience featuring first on your CV. So if your last relevant role was a few years ago, and you’ve had other jobs in between, you could present your most relevant experience up front, on the first page, making sure the recruiter sees it first and foremost.

HIGHLIGHT RELEVANT EXPERIENCE Any work experience (paid or unpaid) will boost your CV if it is of interest to a potential employer. You can use voluntary experience to illustrate transferrable skills which will be useful to your target employer, even if it is not directly relevant to your chosen field. Within each role, try to illustrate key competencies such as customer service, team work, communication and interpersonal skills, organisation, time management and the ability to learn quickly and work hard. Your CV will be more compelling if you can evidence your claims with specific examples of what you did and the benefits of your actions. If you lack relevant experience, then you can use your Experience section to draw out your employability and transferrable skills of interest to your target employer, even if these are not directly relevant to your chosen field.

DEMONSTRATE HOW YOU ADDED VALUE Your Experience section should clearly identify the value you can bring through tangible results and quantifiable achievements, rather than dull descriptions of duties. Your experience, even if not directly relevant, can be used to show how you used your initiative; examples of successfully handling pressurised or difficult situations; dependability; and your ability to adapt and react to changing environments. You can outline key achievements to illustrate key competencies such as customer service, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, organisation, time management and the ability to learn quickly and work hard.

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Talk about what you achieved rather than your team as a whole. Some people have a tendency towards expressing their achievements within a group context. Your CV is not the right place for this behaviour. Your CV is your place to shine, for your skills, qualities and individual achievements. So please don’t credit others on your CV; just state what you have personally achieved, truthfully, clearly and succinctly.

TOP TIP: Make sure that your accountabilities and deliverables are factual, concise and clear for each of your roles, and also that you are confident discussing each point at interview. Make your career achievements SMART wherever possible – Specific, Measurable, Action Orientated, Realistic and TimeBased – detailing, for example, the amount of money you saved, the size of budget you handled, the number of clients you served, over what specific time period and with what benefit to the organisation as a whole. For instance, it’s easy to state you have experience in sales, but employers will take more note if you say you were responsible for a 10% growth in overall sales over a sixmonth period.

TOP TIP: If your most relevant experience relates to a role from a few years ago, a good tactic is to imagine that you are actually still in that role and draw on that positivity to make your skills and achievements stand out loud and proud.

USE RECOGNISABLE JOB TITLES If any of your job titles have been very specialised or specific to your organisation, consider using a more generic and recognisable job title in its place on your CV. Many recruiters are scanning CVs using specialist software which picks up on certain keywords, so it is important to reference those keywords.

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EMPLOYER DETAILS Many people feel the need to go into the nitty-gritty of each and every company they have worked for, detailing the size of company, industry, services and even turnover. If the company is big enough, chances are that the reader may be acquainted with their name and reputation, but they won’t yet be acquainted with your name and reputation. Use the valuable space on your CV to describe yourself and your achievements, not the companies you have worked for.

TOP TIP: Adding a hyperlink from the name of each employer to their website makes it easy for the recruiter to find out more about the companies you have worked for, without taking up premium space on your CV.

NOT TOO MUCH AND NOT TOO LITTLE Give your target the amount of information they require – not too much and not too little. Your CV needs to provide just enough information to show you are an excellent match for the role and target organisation, enticing them to want to meet you in order to find out more. Information overload is a CV turn-off, and the reaction is likely to be a ‘sigh’ or even worse a ‘tut.’ So, play to your audience and give them what they want.

TOP TIP: Don’t include reasons for leaving any of your previous jobs in your CV. Although honesty is the best policy, you should leave explaining this until you are asked. This information doesn’t add anything to your CV; it can come across negatively and can take up valuable space which you could be using to sell your key attributes.

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STEP 5: SCHOOL OF LIFE SCIENCES OR SCHOOL OF LIFE – HOW TO PRESENT YOUR EDUCATION

WHERE SHOULD YOUR EDUCATION SECTION FEATURE? If you are a seasoned professional, details of your education and professional training should come at the end of your CV. If you are a new or recent graduate, your focus to date will have been primarily your education and so you will not be expected to have an extensive work history. Therefore, unless you have been employed in a relevant role since graduating, it is advisable to detail your academic history and qualifications directly after your profile section. Similarly, if you have just completed professional training which will enable you to change the focus of your career, you may wish to present your education on page one of your CV, or at least mention your training or qualifications in your profile.

TOP TIP: Relevant professional qualifications can be flagged on page one by including letters after your name or by highlighting your professional development in your profile.

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HOW TO PRESENT YOUR EDUCATION SECTION List your school, college or university, years of attendance, degree title and relevant modules. If you haven’t yet completed the course, indicate when you are due to finish the course. Summarise older qualifications in a similar manner, however, avoid listing GCSE subjects and grades; it is sufficient to indicate that you have, for example, nine GCSEs including Mathematics and English. Whether you should include academic grades on your CV depends both on what the grades were, whether your grades were consistently excellent and how relevant your grades are to your target role.

TOP TIP: You will give a better impression of your academic qualifications by simply stating you have 3 A Levels rather than A Level History (C), A Level English (D) and A Level Geography (E). At this stage, your target is to be asked to an interview. You need the reader to be interested enough to want to meet you, and as such it is important that your CV does not rule you out. I often find this with Bachelor degrees: recruiters may make the decision to cull their enormous pile of CV applications by ditching those with a lower second class degree (2:2) or ‘Desmond’ as it is sometimes affectionately known. The exceptions to this rule would be if all of your grades are consistently fantastic or if you have been specifically asked to include your grades by your target employer.

TOP TIP: Don’t include primary school education or the fact you were a prefect on your CV, unless you’ve really got nothing else to talk about.

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HOW TO DEAL WITH UNFINISHED COURSES Clients often ask whether they should include incomplete courses or qualifications on their CV. The answer is sometimes yes and sometimes no. By omitting several years of your life history, you can leave a telling gap; sometimes it’s best to outline simply and clearly that you studied two out of the three years of your degree course and be ready to explain what happened at interview. In many cases, an individual’s consequent professional experience is much more valuable to employers than an unfinished qualification. Don’t necessarily feel that you should try to edge this experience under the carpet. Honesty is the best policy, and this experience is part of your life’s rich tapestry.

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STEP 6: ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: BE UNIQUELY YOU An additional information section can be used to outline skills, experience and memberships not covered elsewhere in the CV. Languages, IT skills, professional memberships and relevant interests can be covered in this section.

LANGUAGES TOP TIP: Languages can set a candidate apart from his or her competitors. If you speak other languages then it is worth pointing out that you are bi-lingual or even multi-lingual in your profile, then also featuring your languages in your Additional Information section.

IT SKILLS List all of the systems you use; they may be important to your target employer and differentiate you from other candidates. If you are a technical whizz, then consider breaking this section down using easy-to-read headings, e.g. Operating Systems, Applications, etc.

PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS Professional memberships can be used to demonstrate your commitment to your industry, your desire to keep abreast of changes and best practice, and your ability to build and leverage a relevant network of contacts.

DRIVING LICENCE Including details of your driving licence is only really relevant if your target role involves driving - for example, warehousing and logistics roles or field sales roles where your ability to get yourself around is key to the role.

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HOBBIES AND INTERESTS I am often asked whether it is appropriate to include hobbies and interests on your CV. If you are a school leaver, recent graduate or young professional who needs a bit of ‘padding’ to enhance your CV, then maybe. If you have a lot more experience under your belt, then hobbies and interests should only be referenced if they are relevant to your career or if they add a genuine ‘interest’ factor to your CV. I recently worked on a CV for someone who was a keen photographer, and this was featured under Additional Information referencing an up-to-date online portfolio of his work.

IRRELEVANT INFORMATION (OR WHAT NOT TO INCLUDE) Avoid including irrelevant details such as your height, weight, date of birth, gender, marital status, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

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STEP 7: OTHER POINTS TO CONSIDER WHAT’S IN A NAME? Avoid writing “Curriculum Vitae” at the top of your CV – it is obvious to employers what the document is, therefore you won’t need to state the obvious. Instead, replace this with your name in a larger font. This will help the recruiter to remember it. Some of my customers have asked if they should use their abbreviated name on their CV; for example, Nick rather than Nicholas. I always advise using your professional moniker, the name that you are most comfortable with in the workplace. Whether it’s the long or short version, as long as you are consistent, it won’t matter. As a general rule of thumb, leave middle names out though, it just adds something else to read, something else to remember.

CONTACT DETAILS Your personal contact details should follow this before going into the main body of your CV.

TOP TIP: Present contact telephone numbers in the correct format. For example, a London telephone number would be 020 XXXX XXXX, a mobile number would be 07840 918980, and a Maidstone number 01622 355748.

TOP TIP: Consider replacing your email address with something more grown up if your current one is silly, wacky or just plain inappropriate. It’s important to give a professional impression from the outset.

OBJECTIVE Outline in one or two lines your objective for applying to the target organisation in the context of your overall career ambitions, skills and experience. Including an objective can sometimes be limiting on a speculative CV, in that it may rule you out for opportunities in wider roles or fields. However, if you have a structured career path or are certain about your career goals, then it can add focus to your CV.

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MEET LIS McGUIRE, FOUNDER AND CV WRITER AT GIRAFFE CVs Hello, I’m Lis McGuire, professional CV writer and founder of Giraffe CVs. My CV writing journey began when I started searching for my first job in London in 1997, following my graduation from the University of Liverpool. For a graduate applying for their first ‘proper’ job, the market seemed tough, even then. I persevered, tailored and targeted my CV, and three months later, I gained employment with Frank Smythson of Bond Street, court stationers and purveyor of luxury leather goods. Though I didn’t think of it again for a few years, my own graduate job search, which happily ended in a role I will remember for the rest of my days, did in some way set me on a journey to a job I love above all others.

THE TORCH THAT LIT THE FLAME A few years after leaving university, I started work for French Thornton, a niche London-based management consultancy. A key part of my role was in tailoring the team’s CV for presentation in proposals, and I played my part in securing new contracts with diverse new clients. The partners agreed to sponsor me to study for my CIM Certificate in Marketing and, not long after I started my course, one of the founding partners gave me Charles Handy’s The New Alchemists as a Christmas gift. Inside he wrote: I was inspired by his message, and though I didn’t think of starting my own business for another few years, you could say it was the torch that lit the flame.

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THE STORY BEHIND THE SPOTS My decision to set up on my own came once I had my first son. At that time, I was working for CH2M Hill and commuting to Earls Court, London, from Maidstone. I loved my job, managing the production of sales proposals, and yes, you’ve guessed it, tailoring the CVs of global staff to meet the needs of each specific opportunity. However, with a two-hour commute door-to-door, it just wasn’t feasible to continue, so I decided to leave my job and start up on my own. I had written CVs throughout my working life: team CVs for consultancy staff; CVs for inclusion in $multi-million proposals; and CVs for friends who asked me for help. Making this into my own business seemed a logical next step. I’m often asked ‘Why Giraffe CVs?’ I always thought an animal name would work as animal names have character, are easy to remember and they encourage customers to connect. Drawing inspiration from my son’s nursery wallpaper, I considered Lion CVs, Elephant CVs and Zebra CVs. Though Zebra CVs nearly made the grade, I liked giraffes better and Giraffe CVs was born. This turned out to be a great decision. Many of my customers are drawn to the website because they love giraffes – giraffes have personality. Every week, a new customer will ring me and the first thing they say will be ‘I need a new CV’ and the second will be ‘I love giraffes’.

AIM HIGH, STAND TALL AND GET SPOTTED My ongoing mission is to deliver interview-winning CVs for individuals at each and every stage of their careers, and I take immense pride in writing targeted CVs which get results for clients from a wide range of roles and industry sectors. I strive to offer a highly personalised service, and work with clients on a one-to-one basis to achieve the best possible results. It is incredibly rewarding to witness the individual success of those who strive to improve their career prospects through hard work, training, seizing opportunities and, of course, a great CV. Following my loyal customers’ progression has been a real pleasure, and each new promotion and career move has resulted in repeat business for Giraffe CVs.

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WHAT CUSTOMERS SAY “Having just finished my first year of university I was seriously struggling to find a job. I've always found that once I get an interview things tend to go well but coming across on paper is very difficult. That's where Lis was an incredible help. I sent her my old CV and, following a phone conversation where we discussed my experience in more detail, I was presented with two absolutely fantastic CVs. I felt as though I was reading about another person! The beauty of this service is that Lis understands how to present your experience in the best possible light while still being honest. I applied for a job that evening and was called in for an induction the next day! I'm now very happy in my job and it's lovely to know Lis is on hand to help should I need to change my CV in any way. I didn't know much about CV services before this experience but Giraffe CVs were friendly, efficient and extremely effective and I'd recommend the Graduate service to anyone.”

Sophia Crebolder

“I originally met Lis six years ago when she designed my CV. I have been going back to her ever since as she creates a masterpiece in one hour that would take me a full week! Lis uses her experience to put so much detail in such a professional manner onto two sheets of paper. Your input is always incorporated until you walk away with a CV that you are happy and confident with. The CVs have always resulted in me being invited to interviews, which is ultimately the desired outcome. I could not recommend Lis highly enough.” Jo Edwards-McCabe UNLOCK THE SECRET OF WRITING A GREAT CV IN 7 SIMPLE STEPS

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WHAT NEXT? Thank you for reading Giraffe CVs’ ‘UNLOCK THE SECRET OF WRITING A GREAT CV IN 7 SIMPLE STEPS’. So now you have the seven simple steps to writing a great CV, and an armoury of top tips on what to include and what not to include to maximise your chances of securing an interview.

> ORDER A CV If you feel that you need further support to produce an interview-winning CV, why not consider one of Giraffe CVs’ affordable and effective CV writing packages? Visit http://www.giraffecvs.co.uk/cv-writing-services/ to order today.

> CONNECT If you’d like to ask me anything or find out more CV writing tips, please tweet @GiraffeCVs, circle +Lis McGuire on Google+ or like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/giraffecvs

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CONTENT RIGHTS The rights in material on this eBook are protected by copyright and you agree to use this eBook in a way which does not infringe these rights. You must seek prior written approval from Giraffe CVs before you can copy material from this eBook, and in any event this will be limited for your own private or domestic purposes, and not for any commercial or business use.

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Write a GREAT CV in 7 simple steps  

Unlock the secret of writing a great CV in 7 simple steps. Professional CV writers, Giraffe CVs, share inside secrets, tips and advice to e...