Guest Post: Writing CVs For Third Sector Jobs


Olivia Kane is freelance copywriter and charity enthusiast. She is currently working with ThirdSector Jobs, a leading voluntary sector job listing site.

A lot of people get very upset about having to read bad CVs so it’s probably a good idea to take a look back over yours and check you don’t commit any of the cardinal sins listed in this post.

Every CV is the key to a door. Question is, is it going to fit?

When we were at school we were taught to write CVs, and I suppose we should be grateful though no-one ever taught me to write a CV directed properly for the kind of work I wanted to get into. And actually now I think about it, as a professional writer I’ve done some editing of CVs either for clients or friends and the same mistakes crop up every time. Which are, basically, that people never stop writing the CV their form teacher taught them when they were 15.

So what are the basic errors on a third sector jobs CV?

Primarily, it’s putting in irrelevant information that causes problems. Or writing a CV that’s far too long.

Most people seem to have carried the illusion over from secondary school, that the CV has to perform a kind of ‘on paper interview’ for you. In other words that it should be anticipating and answering questions, sometimes in great depth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. A CV is effectively a list of bullet points, from which your interviewer extrapolates his or her questions. No explanation is necessary beyond a list of the basic facts.

Another thing that seems to creep into most CVs you see for third sector jobs is the idea that a prospective not for profit employer wants to know what you like doing in your spare time. I have no idea where this myth springs from beyond the fact that my teacher told me to put in a ‘personal interests’ section on my CV, and so did my brother’s teacher, and so did my wife’s…

In actual fact, I have barely ever put personal interests down on successful CVs of mine. The only exception being when I have applied for work that directly has a link to things I do in my spare time.

Oh – and references are pointless too. Just indicate that you can get them if you need to. The words “references available on request” save a heck of a lot of space for more important information, plus they show that you are willing and able to prove your worth in this way when the time comes.

Space is a big issue for any CV. Your CV ideally should be two sides of a sheet of A4 and no more. So you need to comb it for all extraneous information, edit it savagely and only ever go over onto a third side of A4 if you absolutely have no choice. And that means you have already tried knocking down the font size and line spacing to the point where your sizing is impractical for a reader.

All CVs should look businesslike, whether they are for third sector jobs or any other form of employment. Pink paper is out, as is perfumed paper or stickers or drawings (unless you are applying for a job as a graphic designer or artist and even here I would be chary of such frivolity). Anything designed to make you ‘stand out’ invariably goes in the bin.

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