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Writing a CV
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Writing a CV or Resumé (in Dubai and UAE)
What is the point of a CV? To get a job interview, not to get a job. Remember that.
- In this information page, Curriculum Vitae (CV) means the same as Resumé and vice versa.
- Use your first name and family name as given in your passport, in all written correspondence relating to employment in the UAE (including emails). If the spelling of your name gets messed up in official documents, or there is a nickname somewhere, it can create difficulties for you further down the road.
When sending an email application letter and CV
- Write a clear subject line (e.g. Application for Senior CV Writer vacancy from William Shaikhspeare).
- Don't send an email without a subject line.
- Don't send an email with a poorly formatted or vague subject line (e.g. Job application, my CV, job4me, whassup dude?, etc).
- Make sure your email has a clear subject line.
- Write 1-2 short paragraphs as the body of the email as a short version of your application letter. Don't waffle. If it's poor, the rest of your application will be ignored and your email will be deleted.
- Or copy/paste your application letter if it's short (2-3 paragraphs). If it's longer, make it shorter.
- Attach your CV and application letter as PDF documents. Do not attach them as MS Word documents. Especially not .docx documents.
- Do not attach your letter and CV as anything other than a PDF document, unless you are specifically asked to.
- Think about what the recipient is likely to prefer, not what you prefer.
- Finish your email with your full name, and telephone number.
- Don't forget to attach your CV and application letter.
The letter accompanying the CV
Any job application should include a covering letter. It is almost always going to be the first document that gets read (or perhaps just glanced at) so make it a good one. If it's not, then your CV probably won't get read. The job application letter should:
- Be short.
- Be polite.
- Be to the point.
- Be free of grammar and spelling errors.
- Include your most important attributes that are relevant to the job application. Not all of them, just 1 or 2.
- Include your phone number.
- Say what it is that you want at the end (a job interview) - "please contact me at +971-04-0000000 to discuss this opportunity further" or something similar.
- Be signed "Yours sincerely," if you know the name of the person you are writing to. The correct ending for letters starting with Dear Sir/Madam is "Yours faithfully" but don't spend too much time on your application if you do that, it is likely to get binned. Find out the name of the person you are writing to (phone the company and ask them is one way).
If you're responding to a job advertisement, use the advertisement to help you write the letter, referring specifically to the candidate requirements.
Writing your CV
There are numerous books around that will offer Curriculum Vitae (CV) writing advice. One useful book we like (for job-hunting rather than CV writing but has some good advice anyway) is "What Color is my Parachute" (more American in style than British). For English speakers, USA CV style tends to be more sales oriented than UK style (some would say aggressive). Try and find out whether a company is US or UK oriented. Note that due to the multinational nature of companies and employees in Dubai and the UAE, a US company may have UK personnel reading your CV and vice versa. For companies based in Dubai and the UAE but originating from another country, try and find out if there are any formats or items specific to that country which you should use.
Remember that usually the point of a CV is to supply enough information and market yourself sufficiently to get a job interview, not a job - that's the point of the interview. There are many styles and formats for writing CVs. Whatever you decide to follow, it's pointless if the company you apply to doesn't like it. Here's our brief list of suggestions for writing a CV.
A CV is a personal document so although you should write it with the company and job in mind, you also need to be happy with it. Ignore or adapt any CV advice you read to suit your personal taste. But if you get no interview offers, then change something.
- Write your name as a heading. Writing CV or Resumé is redundant - it should be obvious what it is.
- Start with a one paragraph summary of relevant experience, qualifications, abilities. Use positive adjectives like excellent, motivated, dedicated, reliable, etc - you are trying to sell yourself.
- Include personal details such as birthdate (not age unless it is to your advantage to say so), gender, address, telephone number (with international code), website (if relevant - not your facebook page with party photos), email, driving license (if relevant). Some details could go at the end if they're less important, or you want to reduce emphasis. For example if you think age might be a problem (whether young or old), put birthdate at end.
- Nationality is a factor in jobs in Dubai and the UAE. Pay differs depending on passport (and where qualifications came from), preference is given to certain nationalities. For the same job, usually Emiratis and Westerners get paid the most, then other Arabs, while Eastern Europeans, Asian and African nationalities get paid the least. If you have a choice of nationality (more than one passport, or DNA is different from passport nationality) then you may as well highlight the one that could benefit you the most. Or put nationality at the end if you don't want to highlight it. Don't put more than one nationality on your CV. You can clarify things at an interview if necessary.
- Don't say things like "Health: Good". It implies there's a problem. Either say "excellent" or nothing.
- Next section can be either Experience, Qualifications, or Skills / Abilities. The first one should be the one that shows you in the best light. A university graduate is likely to put Qualifications first. A recently released convict would more likely put Abilities first. An experienced professional with little in the way of formal qualifications might put Experience first.
- Job Experience should be chronological. Start with the most recent job (usually - start with your first job if you think it will be to your advantage to do it in that order). Highlight dates if you have been in steady employment. Make dates more discreet if you have been job hopping and highlight job titles instead. Don't leave gaps, don't say unemployed. If you have been unemployed, put a heading that says Study or Skills Development for that period (even if you did nothing, you at least thought about what to do to improve yourself). Include contact details for the companies you worked at. Don't state salary details or reasons for leaving (they can be discussed at the appropriate time if appropriate).
- After the first section, add remaining sections (Experience, Abilities, Qualifications) in whichever order you think is most suitable - relevant to the job you are applying for.
- The last section can be miscellaneous information such as hobbies and interests. Don't include high-risk injury-prone activites (or ones that are perceived as such, such as base-jumping). Do include activities that are charitable in nature, and/or indicate teamwork. Try and give the impression of a well-balanced person. Remember that this section is probably not going to get your CV into the "accepted pile" if it isn't there already, but could easily get it rejected if it's borderline.
- Some CVs include details of references that can be contacted. Put these at the end.
Salary information on CVs and application forms
It's common for new employers to want to know your last salary. Essentially, it's none of their business, they should offer to pay you what you're worth to them, not what your last employer thought you were worth. However if you say that then it is unlikely to help your case, especially if you say it on your CV or in an application form. So do one of the following.
- Don't write any salary information in your CV or application letter (desired or historical).
- On application forms, write N/A (for not applicable) if you think it won't jeopardize your chances of getting an interview, otherwise put what you think you were worth or what you want, after all that is the point of the question as far as you're concerned.
- Some jobs have a fixed pay structure so then what you write or say is less important, but don't assume it's as fixed as an employer says it is. Sometimes it's possible to negotiate your way to a higher position on whatever salary scale they have (but this is best done after a job offer is made and before you accept it).
Reasons for job termination on CVs and application forms
It's normal for prospective employers to want to know why you left your last job. And if you got sacked because you were useless, you should be able to understand why an employer would want to know that. If you don't understand why or don't understand why you got sacked, you really should figure that out before applying for another job - it will be more useful to you than reading a thousand job application guides.
However, the point of a job application is to get an interview, not a job. So therefore, keep reasons for leaving previous jobs to yourself as much as possible. If you state them on a CV, no matter how positive or justified they sound, you cannot predict how the person reading your CV will react, and it is almost impossible to give a job leaving reason in such a way as to enhance your CV. At best it will remain neutral (for example completed contract), and often it can be seen negatively.
For job application forms where you cannot avoid giving a reason, either put "contract completion" (or similar), or "moved to new company" (or similar). The point is to keep it as neutral as possible.
Some CVs are written in a chronological style with an emphasis on the sequential nature of employment, and incorporating Experience, Qualifications, Abilities, Employment all in historical order based on jobs. This is quite common and you may prefer that style.
Remember the following when writing your CV
- Use a word processor and spell checker. Don't hand-write your CV (or application letter) unless it is specifically asked for. If it is, assume hand-writing analysis will be performed on your CV and letter, so before you write it go and learn what your hand-writing is likely to say about you. If it indicates you are mentally unstable or have criminal tendencies, either change who you are, or your handwriting, or ignore the request and type it anyway.
- Use A4 or US letter sized white paper when printing, and make sure the print setting matches the paper size you use. A4 is the more common format in the UAE.
- Use Times New Roman 12 point font for printed CVs, or at least a serif font. If your CV is available online, use Verdana or Tahoma 12 point, or at least a sans-serif font but edit your page so that the printed version uses a serif font (print this page to see an example). Don't use Comic Sans or any other fancy artistic font. You are in the business of applying for jobs, not creating artwork for a gallery. Exceptions perhaps if you are applying for a job as a clown or court jester.
- CV should be 1 or 2 sides only, unless there is something extra specifically requested - a long list of publications for a senior university professor for example, and even then, consider submitting that as an appendix with only the most relevant 2 or 3 included in the CV.
- Don't reduce the font size to squash more stuff on your CV, remove less relevant information.
- Find someone competent to check your grammar and spelling.
- Companies use CVs as a filtering mechanism. Not to find good job candidates, but to filter out unsuitable candidates. That's the goal. What happens though is that unsuitable CVs, not candidates, get binned.
- Large companies with Human Resource (HR) departments often have people with very little direct experience of the jobs they're screening for. They'll be operating from a checklist. Try and figure out what is likely to be on the checklist and make sure your CV has lots of items that fit, so you can get past the screeners.
- If you're responding to a job advertisement, the list of candidate requirements provides you with a handy checklist so make sure they're covered, and easy to find on your CV.
- The best CVs and accompanying letters, not the best candidates, get interview offers. Did we say that already? Ah, it must be important then.
- Long CVs don't get read, and usually get tossed out.
- CVs that stand out because of color, font, style, size are more likely to get binned than read. Exceptions perhaps for jobs in advertising, or art-related jobs.
Note, this is not a comprehensive example, just one idea to get you started. There are many many resources out there with better examples - go to a library and look at a few books, or buy one or two. Or search online but there is a lot of random noise out there choking up the good stuff.
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Last update Thursday 31-Jul-2014
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