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CV tips

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​When you apply for roles within a charity you will usually have to submit a copy of your CV. It’s the most important document you have to show your experience to date. For this reason, it’s vital that this gives a truly coherent overview of what you have achieved, as well as your main skills and your education.

It also needs to be written with your audience in mind. The reader could be someone less familiar with your role, such as someone from within a recruitment team; or it could be the hiring manager who will most likely know more about your role but not necessarily the nuances of your role within your current organisation. Income targets are a great example of this. £100k raised in fundraising income for a £1million charity is very different to £100k raised within a £5million charity for instance.

Make this document the best it can be; spend time on it and tweak it as you take on new responsibilities, undertake more training and development, or add in new skills.

Here are our top tips on how to write a brilliant CV:

Think like a writer – make every single word count

A key element to remember when you write a CV is that it shouldn’t be longer than three pages at the maximum. For individuals who are less far through their career, it’s a good idea to stick to two page. There is also an imperative to ensure that the whole document is engaging, and makes an impact, so make every word count! In addition to making every word count you also need to use space wisely.

A useful format to stick to is the following:

  • Name, address, email address and telephone number

  • Profile

  • Work history

  • Education

  • Training and Development

Name, address, email address and telephone number

This sounds so obvious, but double check your contact details. If you’re uploading an application to a portal, which is often the case for charities, this will be the only way for the recruitment team or hiring manager to contact you. Additionally, it makes a much less than good first impression if there are inaccuracies here.

Finally, double check that your email address is appropriate for applying for a job.

Profile

This should be concise, the best representation of you, your career aspirations, and your reasons for wanting to work in the charity sector.

It’s the first thing that a prospective employer will read about you so it’s important to spend time getting it right. Think like an architect and use space wisely; this section should be a maximum of a two to three-line paragraph in total.

On your CV, your achievements, responsibilities etc. in previous roles will largely remain unchanged but your profile should be tailored to each role you apply for. You shouldn’t use the name of the charity you are applying to in the profile section as it’s about you but it should reflect your reasons for wanting the role you’re applying for.

Here's an example profile for someone applying to a new business role:

“I am charity fundraising professional with eight years’ experience gained within corporate fundraising. My experience includes a mix of new business and account management across COTY, CRM, sponsorship, and strategic partnerships. As I continue my career, I’m keen to specialise in new business fundraising.

I feel privileged to have been instrumental in developing and delivering income generating partnerships of six and seven figures which have contributed to the work of charities whose work I am passionate about. I’m very motivated by continuing to develop transformational partnerships in a senior new business role.”

The golden rules of your profile are write, read, stop, and repeat. It’s an ever-changing part of your CV.

Employment history

Keep this in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent role first.

This is the section that will take up most space and is your opportunity to outline how skilled you are for a role through your experiences and your achievements. A solid format to stick to is as follows:

  • Dates including months – if still working for your current employer include “Present”

  • Employer

  • Job title

Short, one or two-line overview of your role.

Key responsibilities

  • Using bullet points outline the main elements of your role  

Key achievements

Once again using bullet points, outline achievements and include specific figures and information. For instance: “led on the successful COTY partnership application with Morgan Stanley worth £1million for the charity over three years. I led on all elements of the process from initial research to pitch and staff vote, which we won with 20% more votes than our competitors.”

Some tips to remember are:

  • You should include most detail about your most recent and most relevant roles

  • Double check dates and include the month you started and left a role

  • Don’t include salary information or reasons for leaving each role

  • Use bullet points and keep the language concise

  • When applying for fundraising roles it’s vital to include your figures, as well as income targets to give context to how much you have generated

  • Look out for tense usage – often when you update your CV you will add in your most recent role and edit some less relevant information from your previous roles but keep the rest of the document the same. If you do this, make sure to go back through your last roles and change tense from present to past

  • Think as though you are speaking to HR as they will often be the initial contact for your CV and may be responsible for providing a long list of applicants to a recruiting manager. Remember that they might not be as knowledgeable about the role you’re applying as a potential line manager. So use language that reflects the job description where possible, and outlines your role clearly.

Education

Following your work history, it’s a good idea to include education. You don’t have to include dates if you’d prefer not to but do include the institution and your qualification including your grade. This can include university education as well as qualifications such as GCSEs or O’Levels and should also be in chronological order.

Qualifications and Training

This is similar to “Education” but should detail qualifications and training that you have attained whilst working. Do use the date of the course or the award here and list the name of the course and training provider in chronological order.

Interests

It’s up to you whether to include an “Interests” section and it often can depend on space as it’s less relevant information than everything else. It is quite a nice way to round off your CV though and to give some more flavour of who you are and what you enjoy. If you do decide to include this section, then try to steer clear from the generic and ensure that it’s interesting and gives some insight into who you are and what you enjoy doing in your spare time.

Final points

  • Don’t use a photo on your CV – this is important from an equality and diversity point of view, and also wastes space

  • Get yourself an editor! Use a fresh pair of eyes once you’ve finished the document to avoid mistakes. Preferably this will be someone who understands your role as they can then spot any omissions that you might not meant to have made.