In the UK today, over 40,000 people have careers in health and safety, while several hundred thousand people work in health and safety worldwide. In such a big field, there is inevitably a very active and competitive job market, with a number of health and safety recruitment agencies specifically recruiting people for health and safety jobs abroad and at home…
While gaining the right health and safety qualification is vital, the next step to making the most of these health and safety opportunities often lies in the most simple – and sadly most frequently neglected – job-hunting skills. This post focuses on the art of writing a great health and safety CV, paying particular attention to the three ‘c’s: Clarity Conciseness and Consistency.
Make your CV easily readable and space it clearly with distinguishable section headings. It is highly recommended to aim for 2 to 3 pages in total, as you want to make the document useful not only to those who want an in-depth and detailed history but also to those who are likely to just skim-read your CV to get a general idea of your suitability. Unfortunately some HR departments and secretaries will barely look at the CV but rather scan it electronically for key words, so it is important to make sure these are in there and used as clearly and regularly as is appropriate. This is not always the case of course, so it is important for it to be coherent too, especially for when it is put forward to interviewers at the next stage.
Once your CV is complete, ask a friend to read it, as a second pair of eyes can identify areas of difficulty that may be clear to you but not to others. Between you, you may be able to remove clichéd buzz-words, unfamiliar abbreviations and filler phrases and settle on a tone that is polite and respectful. Unless informed otherwise, it is not always safe to assume that the first person to read your CV will be an expert in the industry.
When writing your CV, keep in mind that it is the very first impression that you will be giving to a potential employer. You may have many interesting skills or achievements from your career, but it is important to identify those which are relevant and noteworthy over those which are standard and emphasise them accordingly by relating them back to the job description if possible. The content should also be relevant to the job for which you are applying. Read all the information you have about the role thoroughly so you know it inside-out and then tailor the information in your CV accordingly, emphasising relevant skills and experiences and omitting irrelevant information such as jobs that are entirely different from the one you are seeking. However, don’t dismiss seemingly mundane tasks too readily. If they are integral to the day-to-day functioning of the company, try to relate that.
Your CV is a means to getting the interview, not to getting the job straight away, so give enough information to capture their attention and give them questions to ask in your interview. Once you have the interview, you will be able to go into greater detail in the areas where they want you to do so.
Consistency in writing style and presentation are important. Do not use too many differing fonts and spacing styles but aim for clear simplicity. It is also best not to depend on colour to distinguish sections or heading as not everyone uses a colour printer or photocopier. Instead you can embolden or underline headings or make the font slightly larger, but try to keep these stylistic techniques to headings only, otherwise they begin to lose their distinction. Check and double check your spelling and grammar, both with the program’s spell-checker and yourself. If you can find someone to proof read your CV as well, even better, because there is no excuse and mistakes will make you look careless or unintelligent to the employer.
Above all you must remember that the picture of yourself that your CV paints must be accurate and relate to what the interviewer sees and learns of you in the interview. If you have oversold yourself in your CV, it may be painfully obvious to the interviewer and they will dismiss you in their minds before the interview is even over. Underselling yourself will lose you the interview in the first place.
This article was kindly provided by Shirley Parsons Associates – specialist recruiters for the health and safety market.