PR & Communications CVs - Simple Dos and Don'ts

If you're looking for a step by step guide to writing a great PR & Comms CV (together with a template you can adapt), click here.

This companion article takes a more light-hearted look at a few things you should and shouldn't do, and also offers advice on formatting.

Your CV will typically receive 30 seconds of initial attention. Follow these rules to make sure that you make a good impression fast because otherwise, it'll be on the reject pile within those 30 seconds.

Please DON'T...

Don't include 'skills' that even office juniors have

So you can use Microsoft Office, Word, Excel, Outlook? Do you know how to 'surf the web'? You can 'get by on a Mac'? Well done, but I already assumed that you could, in much the same way that I assumed you can read your emails and write your name!

Don't refer to yourself in the third person

This isn't your biography. You didn't hire a ghostwriter. You will probably sound weird.

Don't use cliches to describe yourself

Do you describe yourself as a 'team player', a 'multi-tasker' or a 'hard worker', or that you are 'detail-oriented'? Please don't. Instead, I'll just take it as read that you're someone who is prepared to muck in and who can do more than one thing at a time, even if it's hard work or complicated!

Don't have an 'Aims' or 'Objectives' section that refers to getting a job

There's no need for this; I already know you want a job!

Don't include a personal photo

When it comes to your CV, a picture isn't worth a million words. You're not a struggling actor, and I can see what you look like on LinkedIn. I prefer to evaluate a person based on their experience and achievements first.

Please DO...

Do write a covering letter for each job you apply for. Make sure this includes at least one key achievement, why you are applying for the job you're after, and how the attached CV shows that you can do it.

Do link to your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blog etc

If you are in PR you must have at least one professional digital presence (LinkedIn is mandatory), but the key word here is PROFESSIONAL. So, for each social profile, you want to include, ask yourself the question: 'Is this about work?' If the answer is 'yes' include it. If not, then ask yourself this: 'Is this likely to impress a potential employer?'

Do appear to have a personality

You're going for a job that requires some creative spark, so show that you are human! Here's a recent one that I liked: "I'm a fan of Excel spreadsheets, and love explaining them to people who hate them. I also like magic, breakfast potato tortillas, dogs, Monty Python and The Simpsons, and I'm good at ping pong."

What Else?

Just one thing really: Keep It Simple, Stupid

'K.I.S.S.' is a famous saying in sales, and it applies to your CV too. So, don't use any kind of 'design' or formatting that makes your CV hard to read. Good design may sometimes involve thinking 'outside the box', but a weird layout that is hard to follow will always have me thinking 'inside the bin'.

  • In most cases, your CV should be no more, or less, than two pages.
  • Organise your CV with clear headings and space between different sections, and use short paragraphs and bulleted lists.
  • Avoid coloured text - stick to black and white, as this is easiest to read. Your CV might still be photocopied or faxed too.
  • Don't overdo bold type, underline or other font styling, and avoid fancy borders.
  • Never use more than three fonts, and stick to simple fonts - why do you think newspapers use them? Text is for reading. And PLEASE don't use small font sizes.
  • Only use abbreviations that are very well known.
  • Make sure your experience runs in date order and that each position runs underneath each other naturally as we read not side by side.

Finally, use a spell-checker (make sure it's set to English spelling) and then also check, double-check and then get others to check what you've written by hand. Computer spell-checkers can sometimes make mistakes, and simple mistakes can cost you that job!