Zarah’s 8 top tips for writing a civilian CV

Sam Sowemimo General

No matter what your title or rank, anyone leaving the Forces can feel stumped when putting a CV together for the first time. Zarah, our Employment Consultant based in South Yorkshire, meets many veterans every month and she has plenty of tips for making your skills and attributes shine on paper.

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1.Think about your skills

Start by making a list of all the positions you’ve held (in the Forces and civvy street) and think about the different responsibilities and duties you had for each role. Write down all the skills you needed in order to do each role. If you were deployed, your team, routine or environment might have changed. Qualities like adaptability or working under pressure might be skills worth mentioning.

2. Hobbies and interests

If your previous jobs don’t show off your skills and attributes for the roles you want to apply for in civvy street, think about how your hobbies and interests might help show what you can do. Talking about the things you enjoy doing most, and about what that involves, can be a great way to stand out from other applicants.

3. Don’t waffle

You want the recruiter reading your CV to see the relevant information bouncing off the page. Start your CV with a short profile followed by your career history. Use bullet points to help keep your points short and simple. A concise, well-written CV where the information flows well and key details are easy to find are more likely to grab the recruiter’s attention.

4. Avoid using military jargon

If possible, avoid using language that people who haven’t been in the Forces will understand. In many cases, a company’s HR team will read your CV before the hiring manager gets to see it. If you can’t avoid using acronyms or specialist names, explain briefly what they mean. You could ask a friend or family member who has not served to read it through too.

5. Explain gaps in employment

Civilian employers don’t want to see gaps in your employment record. List your jobs in chronological order, and explain briefly if there are times when you haven’t worked. Raising children, being a carer or working on health issues or personal development are completely legitimate reasons to give so don’t be afraid to say.

6. Keep health information on a need to know basis

Generally speaking, your CV isn’t the place to disclose a health condition unless it particularly relates to the role. When you’re reading a job description, if you have a health condition but you feel you could do the job without it impacting on your wellbeing, then don’t mention it. If you want more advice about when to talk about a health condition, please give us a call. 

7. Try to keep your CV up to date

It’s much easier (and quicker!) to update your CV or LinkedIn page every time you get a new job. There’s nothing worse than leaving your CV for a long time and then struggling to remember what you did in a previous role or the one before.

8. Looking good

Use a font that is easy to read, and big enough to see. You don’t need a fancy margin or design features. Use headings and bullet points to help make your CV clear to read.

More about what I do

At the Poppy Factory, I work alongside a team of Employment Consultants (some are veterans themselves) across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We support unemployed veterans with health conditions to find sustainable jobs that they love. 

We’ve helped over 1,200 veterans find work since 2010 with our award-winning personalised service. Each veteran works with an Employment Consultant on a one-to-one basis at a pace that suits him or her. I like to see it as we form a team.

Together, we’ll work through The Poppy Factory’s 7 steps to employment that starts by exploring different job roles and identifying the support that is needed, i.e funding for training, education and volunteering. The final step continues after veterans start work with our ongoing in-work support that is available for veterans and their employer. That way every veterans transition into civvy street is as smooth as possible.

If you’d like support, register today.

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