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Getting started as a translator

Joe SSprecher5 June 2019

Katie Hill | Translator, French and Greek to English, at Translation Pod

Visit Katie’s LinkedIn profile

Everything you need to know about getting started as a translator

My name is Katie and I’ve been working as a freelance translator since 2011, after a brief stint in ad sales. I mainly specialise in marketing translation from French and Greek to English. I also offer subtitling and copywriting services to a variety of international clients, including Netflix, Sephora and Watsons (the Asian equivalent of Boots).

One of the things I love most about my job is the range of different projects I get to work on. I might be translating a brochure for a French architect one day and subtitling Greek corporate videos the next.

Some of my projects last for weeks (like subtitling TV series or translating children’s books), while others are short and have to be delivered on the same day (like press releases, websites and magazine articles).

Warning: this isn’t a standard nine-to-five job, and if you like having a routine, it might not be the career for you! But if you’re curious about different industries and want to use your language skills on a daily basis, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never look back.

How do you get started?

The translation industry can be quite competitive, especially for popular language combinations like French or Spanish to English. It’s also tough to break into when you don’t have any experience. So, how do you get started?

Firstly, think about the type of translation you enjoy doing and research companies and organisations that might need your services. How specialised you are is entirely up to you.

There is an argument for focusing on a particular field, so you can develop your knowledge and become an expert. On the other hand, working in different areas helps to diversify your income and stops you becoming too niche. It depends on the volume of work you get, but also on what you find most enjoyable.

Once you’ve decided, I would recommend contacting someone who is already working in the field you’re interested in. This is something I did when I first went freelance and it was incredibly useful for getting practical advice. It was also helpful to get feedback on my translations from someone more experienced.

You can search for people online (through platforms like UCL Alumni Online Community, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and also sign up for mentorships like the IOL mentoring scheme.

How do you find jobs?

There are several ways to do this: you can set up profiles online (linguist directories through the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting are a good place to start), sign up with translation agencies or contact potential clients directly.

Make sure you send your CV to the right person at the company or agency you want to work for (vendor managers, talent managers, content managers, editors, people who are responsible for communications and publications etc.).

There are also specialist websites like ProZ, Translators Base and Translators Café, which can be useful early in your career. The translation jobs advertised on these websites offer comparatively low rates, but it’s a great way to get started. You can also find a list of translation agencies to apply to.

What skills do you need?

  • Language skills (understanding the source text is vital, but also being able to conduct business in your second or third language – most of my communications with clients in France are in French, for example)
  • A flair for writing and confidence writing in different styles (persuasive, informative, authoritative)
  • Curiosity and good research skills
  • Time management (you have to be comfortable working to tight deadlines)
  • Technical skills (particularly for subtitling, but also for translation software)
  • The ability to be objective about your work
  • An understanding of different approaches to translation

Whichever specialism you choose, you’ll need to use CAT tools (Trados, MemoQ, Wordfast etc.) for commercial translation. Translation agencies often require them so they’re a useful investment.

You can download trial versions and sign up for free training online. You can also get hold of software at a discounted rate through Translator Group Buys on ProZ.

Do you need any specific qualifications?

My MA in Translation has been invaluable, not just in terms of developing my practical skills but also in shaping the way I think about translation and giving me the confidence to turn it into a profession. Aside from the knowledge and skills you gain, a postgraduate degree or a professional qualification like the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) gives you credibility and makes it more likely that someone will hire you.

However, you can develop the required language and translation skills through living abroad, and you can always gain qualifications later in your career. If you have a BA in languages or you’ve mastered a second language by living in another country, you have the skills necessary to start work as a translator.

How do you stand out from the crowd?

Specialist knowledge and additional skills will definitely give you the edge, like copywriting, editing, search engine optimisation (SEO), desktop publishing (DTP), content management systems (CMS), film editing, voiceover, coding and software development, campaign management and social media expertise…

If you’ve picked up any relevant skills through jobs or volunteer work, make sure you highlight these on your CV and online profiles. It may even be worth investing in some professional training (I’ve taken courses in copywriting and SEO).

More unusual language pairs will also get you noticed (I get contacted most often about translations from Greek, for example).


It took me a long time to establish myself as a translator – much longer than I thought! If you struggle to find work in the beginning or things don’t quite go to plan, don’t be disheartened. It’s all part of the process and every experience (good and bad!) will contribute to your future success as a translator.

Jobs and opportunities through UCL Careers

Chloe JAckroyd31 October 2018

If you are looking for a job, internship or other work opportunities then browse the main UCL student job site at myUCLCareers. This is a UCL Careers website where employers advertise positions when recruiting UCL students, recent graduates and researchers.

There are over 16,000 opportunities each year on myUCLCareers, so if you want to make sure that you don’t miss a relevant work opportunity then sign-up to receive daily or weekly vacancy digests by email. You do this by updating your profile in myUCLCareers and you can refine what you see and receive.

Please visit our website for all other careers service information.


UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Themed Week 2018

Chloe JAckroyd23 January 2018

Are you interested in working for the charity and not for profit sector? Not sure what roles there are and where to start?

UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Themed Week 2018 is starting on Monday 29th January: your chance to meet charity professionals and discover what jobs you can do.

The week’s events are open to students and recent graduates from all degrees. Click on the event titles below to book via myUCLCareers.

Careers in Campaigning, Policy, Public Engagement and Fundraising

Monday 29th January 2018, 6 – 7.30pm
Would you like to discover more about the amazing work of charities and NGOs and what makes them tick? Then don’t miss our panel event where you will learn about the wide range of functions within a charity and jobs available, directly from the people doing them.

Charities attending include Sustrans, Age UK, Rethink, Wellcome and Shelter.

Get into the Charity sector: Careers in Operations, Programmes and Research

Tuesday 30th January 2018, 6 – 7.30pm
Have you considered a Career in Operations, Programmes or Research within a charity or NGO? Then come along to our panel event to gain an insight from the professionals talking about their experience of the sector and top tips for following in their footsteps.

Charities attending include The Challenge, Crisis, The British Heart Foundation and GreenShoots Foundation.

How to Market Yourself in the Charity Sector Workshop with Unlocked Graduates

Do you want to find out how to market yourself in the charity sector? Do you want to better understand the processes used by charities and find out what they typically look for? Then come to this workshop conducted by Unlocked Graduates!

N.B. Please note that unfortunately there is no wheelchair access to this venue.

For further details and to book a space click here.

Charities Link Up – Meet the Employers

Thursday 1st February 2018, 6 – 7.00pm
This is great chance to meet with people working in Charities and NGOs. Come along to have an informal chat about the work they do, gain advice on how to get involved in the sector plus find out what opportunities they have.

Charities attending include:

  • Friends of the Earth
  • Think Ahead
  • RedR UK
  • ReachOut
  • JAN Trust
  • Macmillan Cancer Support
  • Holy Cross Centre Trust


The 2017 Global Citizenship Employability Programme is fast approaching!

Chloe JAckroyd23 May 2017

gcep digital screen

The 2017 Global Citizenship Employability Programme is fast approaching, and we are really looking forward to welcoming students from across UCL to the two week programme!

Here are 3 main things we hope you will gain from the programme, and 3 things you could do before you start on the 30th May.

Three things you will gain from the programme:

  1. Have the opportunity to gain an in depth look at your own values and, strengths and start making plans for the future, supported every step of the way by the team at UCL Careers. It can be human nature to put off making decisions when don’t know where to start: this programme will give you a framework to explore your thoughts on employability.
  2. Practice with real life employers, before the “real” thing. Applications, Assessments and Interviews can be scary things however prepared you are. The Employability programme enables you to practice in a safe environment, gaining useful feedback that you can build on.
  3. Develop your ideas on Global Citizenship: what does it mean to you and how might this impact your future career decisions.

Three things to do before you start. If you have time, the following areas would be useful before you come on the 30th May:

  1. Check out our Employability Moodle, which is full with loads of information to get you thinking about Global Citizenship.
  2. Start thinking about what you would like to get out of the programme.
  3. Make sure you have paid your deposit! As places are confirmed on a first come first served basis, you will only be able to attend the programme if you do this before the places run out. You will receive your deposit back if you attend at least 70% of the programme.

In the meantime, if you have any questions please do contact UCL Careers careers@ucl.ac.uk or drop into our offices on the 4th floor of the Student Central building!


Summer Internship Opportunities Exclusively for UCL Students

Chloe JAckroyd8 February 2017

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UCL Careers Summer Internship Scheme

We will be advertising paid summer internship opportunities exclusively available for UCL students and graduates to intern at London-based Small – Medium Enterprises (SME).

“I didn’t have any defined expectations, but I really didn’t expect to have such a wonderful time. I was/ am so happy to go in to work every day because I really loved the company atmosphere, and really respected and got on well with my co-workers. I feel like I wasn’t treated like an intern or the youngest member of the team (which I was), but was given responsibilities and respected on an equal footing. I learned a lot of things that I had no real comprehension of before the internship. I genuinely feel like I was helping out as well.”
Vesa Popova – UCL BASc Arts and Sciences – graduating 2018


In association with Santander Universities, we are providing subsidised funding for internships, paid at the London Living Wage, across our summer scheme.

The subsidized funding will support the training allowance for UCL students or recent graduates to work as interns with small-medium-sized businesses for 6 or 8 weeks full-time during the 2017 summer vacation period (June – September).

Internships will be available in a range of sectors including:

  • Consultancy
  • IT/tech
  • Engineering
  • Arts/Culture
  • Life Sciences/Health
  • Finance
  • Social Sciences/Media

Applicant Eligibility

You will need to be eligible to work in the UK full-time during the internship. If you are on a visa, your visa must cover the full duration of the internship.

Please note: UCL Tier 4 Postgraduate (Taught and Research) students are not permitted to work in excess of 20 hours per week for the full duration of their degree programme. This includes the summer vacation period. UCL is unable to issue a visa for the Summer Internship Programme therefore UCL Tier 4 Postgraduate students are not eligible for this scheme.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure they are eligible for the scheme and comply with UCL sponsorship duties and visa regulations before submitting an application. It is the responsibility of the business to check their intern’s eligibility to work in the UK taking into account the above regulations.

The Timeline

  • Internships will be advertised on the UCL Talent Bank website from mid-February to Friday 31st March.
  • You will need to submit your CV, and a tailored cover letter online for each application you make.
  • Follow us on social media to hear about each role as it goes live Twitter and Facebook search: UCL Careers
  • Each employer will receive a shortlist of the best applications for their role. They will then invite UCL students and graduates to interview.
  • Prospective interns should know if they have a place on the scheme by mid-May, so please bear this in mind when making vacation plans.
  • Once the employer has made an internship offer and you have accepted that offer, UCL Careers will send both you the intern, and the employer, an agreement letter each to fill in and return to UCL Careers.
  • Funding for the internship will not be released to the organisation until we have these completed letters returned.
  • Internships will commence as follows:
  • 6 weeks starting 12th June and ending 21st July 2017
  • 8 weeks starting 12th June and ending 4th August 2017
  • 6 week starting 10th July and ending 18th August 2017
  • 8 weeks starting 10th July and ending 1st September 2017

Get involved and get that internship!

  • Prepare: Keep an eye out for our CV and cover letter writing workshops at the end of February, as advertised on our Careers Essentials webpage: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/essentials
  • Perfect: When you know which internships you want to apply for, you might want to book in for an Applications Appointment to make sure your application documents are competitive with other applicants’.
  • Apply: Register on our UCL Talent Bank website with an up-to-date CV.


If you are already in contact with a small-medium-sized company who is hoping to offer a summer internship to you, which would benefit from some financial assistance, please encourage them to contact us by sending an email to Laura: l.radford@ucl.ac.uk

The proposal form we will ask all companies to complete about their vacancy will ask the question of whether they already have a student or graduate in mind to hire. If the company and the internship proposed meet our criteria, the internship will be reserved funding without having to be advertised.

Lastly, if you know of an organisations who you feel would be interested in participating in this scheme, please direct them to further information for employers here: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/careers-employer-engagement/2017/01/09/ucl-careers-summer-internships-scheme/



UCL Careers Essentials – New for 2016/17

Chloe JAckroyd3 November 2016

Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 13.29.24 A series of lunchtime talks and experiential workshops providing insight, advice and interactive opportunities to engage with all aspects of careers management and navigating selection processes no matter where you are in your careers thinking.

From understanding the graduate job market to career decision-making; mock aptitude tests to interview success; finding and funding a PHD to getting to grips with Linkedin and social media – the programme aims to equip you with the essential know-how to begin to move forward and engage more confidently with ‘Finding your Future’.

Talks and workshops titles will be repeated on a regular basis in the Autumn, Spring and post-exam season. Please register to attend using the links below. For more information and to register to attend – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/essentials

Essentials Programme

Improve your CV
7th November 1-2pm,
repeated 21st November 1-2pm

Did you know that the average employer can spend less than 30 seconds assessing a CV? Is it true that some employers ignore personal profiles? Should a CV be more than just a life history of everything you’ve ever done?

Find out how to market yourself effectively in a UK CV in this interactive session. We’ll simulate a CV sifting exercise allowing you to ‘sit in the recruiter’s shoes’ and assess multiple CVs under time pressure. Understand how to create a strong first impression, keep the reader’s interest and make your evidence ‘relevant’.
Book Now

Application forms, cover letters and supporting statements
10th November 1-2pm,
repeated 22nd November 1-2pm

Do companies use ‘killer questions’ to sift out weaker candidates in application forms? Does a recruiter pay more attention to a CV or cover letter? What’s the difference between a ‘functional’ and a ‘narrative’ personal statement?

In this interactive session, we’ll review motivation and competency-based application answers, assess sample cover letters and personal statements and get an insider’s view on what recruiters are really looking for.
Book Now

Succeeding at interviews
17th November 1-2pm

Did you know that most interview questions are predictable or that what you say can be less important than how you say it?

If you’ve been invited to an interview, you’ve already impressed but for most, interviewing is a daunting experience – so how can you navigate interviews successfully?

Find out how to prepare ahead for the types of questions you can expect, create a strong first impression and learn answering strategies for motivational, competency and strength-based questions. We’ll critique videos of graduate-level interviews and get inside the recruiter’s head to understand what they’re really looking for.
Book Now

To register and find out about future Careers Essential events – http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/essentials UCL Careers

Getting the job you deserve through resume tailoring

Weronika ZBenning19 May 2016

Guest blog post by Volen Vulkov of EnhanCV

What’s Resume Tailoring?

It’s been about 2 years since I founded Enhancv, an online resume platform. And as a given, I’ve seen and critiqued countless resumes. One of the biggest misconception when it comes to resumes is that “one size fits all.” You sit down for half an hour, craft a resume, send it off to 30 different companies and then play the waiting game. For a week. Then two. Maybe even four, before you realize that you’re not getting a response. Why, you may ask in anguish. Well, that’s because your resume isn’t meant for ANY of the jobs you applied for. The resume describes your experiences, but it doesn’t say what exactly you’re offering THEM – which is, after all, what the whole recruitment thing is all about.

Why should I tailor my resume?

Two main reasons – First of, ATS is the gatekeeper to the recruiter’s inbox. Companies tend to receive over 1,000 resumes per open position. Imagine having one HR, 3 open positions, and 3,000 resumes to scrutinize. That’s pretty much nigh-impossible – and that’s where the ATS comes on. The ATS, which stands for Applicant Tracking System, is used to set up certain criterias, such as years of experience, location, etc. Then, it scans your resume to see whether you pass the bill. Say, whether you’re in a nearby location, or if you have the needed years of experience. The most-used criteria are as follows: location, education, experience, skills, and GPA. So, your resume can be the most amazing thing the recruiters ever seen, but unless the ATS agrees, no one gets to see it.

Even if you get somehow get past the ATS without optimizing the resume, there’s still the recruiter to impress. See, in most cases, recruiters don’t want someone who’s looking for some random job that pays the bills. They want someone who cares about where they’re going to work, someone who’s actually passionate about their field. It’s really easy to differentiate a tailored resume from a general purpose one. One opens doors, the other slams them in your face.

So how do I tailor my resume?

Glad you asked! The first step is to find 2-3 companies you’d enjoy working at. Not just the celebrity companies everyone keeps talking about – the fact that they’re all over the news doesn’t necessarily make them perfect for YOU.

Then, you need to learn as much as possible about the companies (For this, you can use Glassdoor.com, or the company websites). What’s their culture, for example? Are they a laid-back startup, or a conservative multinational corporation? Each has separate values & beliefs, and each is looking for a different type of person. For the first case, a personal, customized resume can do wonders. For the second, it won’t get a second glance. Instead, you’d need a standard, black and white resume with a rigid structure. Or, you could figure out who’s the HR. What kind of a person are they, what do they value, and how, exactly, you could impress them (you can either Google them, or check out their LinkedIn profile).

Once you already know the ins and outs of the company, it’s time to take a look at the job offer. No, not the usual 5 second glance and a prompt email. You have to actually READ it.

First of all, you need to ask yourself whether you’re qualified for the job. If it requires 10 years of marketing experience and you have 2, it’s obvious you shouldn’t even bother with it. On the other hand, if they’re asking for 5 and you have 3, you should still go for it. The years are estimates, and not concrete. You can be better at a job with a year of experience VS someone who has 5, if you’re passionate and determined enough.

Then, you need to figure out what relevant experience do you have (this, specifically, applies to most university students). This doesn’t strictly mean field experience. Any kind of experience that’ll be useful for the specific job will do. Let’s say, you’ve worked 16 / hours a day in a restaurant to pay your tuition. That means you’re hardworking, and willing to do what it takes. What kind of an employer wouldn’t want someone like that?

Once you’ve got all that figured out, it’s time to start working on the resume. Do mention the following:

  • Relevant information. Are you familiar with software & tools the company employs? If not, you probably should read up on them. Ever worked in a similar field? If the jobs in marketing and you’ve done it as an extracurricular, it’s something that should be mentioned.
  • The same keywords as in the job description. Most companies rely on applicant tracking systems to filter through the candidates. So, if they’re looking for a) a marketer b) with 5 years of experience, and c) located near London, you need to mention all three, otherwise, the resume gets to go on the bottom of the pile.
  • Traits that would be relevant for the job. Say, you want to work in a startup. Resilience and determination is the way to go here. 16 hour workdays with low pay and high risk aren’t for everyone, after all. Do make sure not to use buzzwords without backing them up, however. That’s probably one thing recruiters hate the most – a resume littered with “power words.” Communication skills! Team player! Etc. None of those mean anything unless you back them up with experience.

Once your done with the resume, go through it again. Ideally, what you want to see is a picture-perfect example of a person working in the company.

If you’ve got all that covered, then it’s time to wrap it all up and send it in!


Believe in Yourself! Martial arts and the attitude of success with job applications

ManpreetDhesi15 October 2015

I know what you’re thinking. What do martial arts have to do with job applications?

This is not about extra curricular activities (well I do mention that later). It’s about what you can learn from martial arts and how you can use this information to approach job applications in a healthier way!

Practising the philosophies of martial arts may help you overcome that initial dread of filling in the application form.

Both ‘practices’ have a lot in common. Both seek to project a positive self-image of confidence and strength.

Application Form/FlickrApplication-Glasses-Pen – Creative Commons/Flazingo Photos/Flickr.com

The Martial Arts Way

If you’ve trained in a martial arts class, you’ll know that negative thinking leads nowhere. The only way is up and forward when faced with physical and mental challenges.

Believe in yourselfnever give up – is not only the principle; it is the essence of martial arts practice and the only way to progress to higher levels of achievement.

Go to any traditional martial arts class and you’ll see it’s also very performative. The practitioner performs specific set movements or ‘forms’ through positive and focused mental effort.

Martial arts teach you to become comfortable with your physicality and accept what you can’t control. The dread of getting hit in sparring for example, becomes insignificant when it actually happens. There is a complete acceptance of consequence whilst simultaneously strategising one’s next move. This attitude of accepting reality for what it is and moving forward despite the consequences is a useful trait to practice and cultivate, and may well help you push past the initial disappointment of not getting through to an interview.

The amount of energy and focus you invest in your application is proportionate to how much you desire that particular role. So, why not fully accept that you have chosen to write this application and win or lose you’re going to put your best foot forward, because in the end, you will not be in control of the outcome. Turn that dread into confidence and the quicker you can complete the application!

The application and the importance of attitude

A viewer of martial arts thinks, “Wow”, “Amazing”, “That skill!” Aren’t these the reactions you’d wish to evoke in an employer?

To induce this effect applications should reflect candidates who believe in themselves and appear confident. “You’re number one” my instructor always says. “Not two, not three—number one!”

You have to be number one when conveying information about yourself in applications. A lot of students fear coming across as arrogant rather than confident but this only happens if you write in a way that expresses you’re better than someone else.

“The successful warrior is an average [woman or] man with laser-like focus,” says Bruce Lee. You think only of yourself and your progress. Time thinking about the strength of the competition—the other applicants, is wasted energy you could be using to win!

Students often worry about what they lack compared to other candidates, rather than focusing on what they already have and could cultivate further. Eg. join the Economics and Finance Society if you want to demonstrate your drive and passion for finance-related roles. Learn a language, self-taught or through the university, if your dream employer has preferences for bilingual or multilingual staff.  Your aim is to project an image of their ideal candidate: an individual they invest and believe in to do a good job. The operative word here is ‘do’ – it is recommended that 70% of your application form answers reflect action words. The employer will measure your ability to contribute positively to their organisation by learning about how you performed in your past experiences. Show them how by what you did (think achievements) and don’t talk vaguely of roles you performed.

What do all world champion martial artists have in common? Discipline! Build confidence in areas you need improving for a particular role, turn perceived weaknesses into strengths and work hard to attain new levels of success, which you can then reflect in your application form. This is the martial arts way. Believe in yourself!

“Choose the positive. You have choice – you are master of your attitude – choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”

– Bruce Lee

But what does it mean to Believe in Yourself?

You engender a positive spirit and meet challenges with courage whether you’re faced with a invitation for interview or a rejection – you persevere like martial artists: when they get knocked down they stand back up and keep going, changing movements, learning new techniques. Martial artists don’t do the same thing expecting the same result. Adapting to the situation is therefore key. In a similar vein, having a flexible approach to writing your application and whatever its outcome will build and maintain self-belief—in being able to keep going, keep applying, despite challenges.

Martial arts usually involve a system of grading in which each student strives for their next belt. This means having a goal is crucial in cultivating an attitude of success as it keeps the practitioner focused. What is your career goal? Make it visible and it will motivate you further.

Here’s an idea: make a quick list of the top ten values you live by. These can include anything from Integrity, Open-mindedness to Health and Education. This will immediately reinforce your sense of self and boost esteem. Traditional clubs run their classes by precepts and tenets; core beliefs which students respect and uphold, further implanting a strong resolve. Rob Yeung, Business Psychologist and writer of job application and interview books insists that simply reminding yourself of your key values is like an “instant espresso shot of confidence”.

Even better, spending a few moments visualising your future – imagining and feeling successful – influences the outcome of your actions. Positive visualisation is no secret in competitive sports and a vital tool for martial artists; creating and practicing imagined combat situations and visualizing success nurtures the belief to win. It’s all part of that healthy habit that martial artists have of ‘training the mind’.

The great news is that, like other skills, self-belief can be practiced and mastered.

Conquer lingering anxiety by thoroughly researching your field, your future job role and the company you’re applying to before beginning your application. For the martial artist, studying your opponent during a fight is essential in knowing where the weaknesses and strengths are. Preparation comes before success.

If this still isn’t hitting home then try out a martial arts class and see how the philosophies and practices blend into other areas of your life, bringing you a renewed sense of faith in yourself. (Not a bad thing to put on your CV either!)

Still struggling with your application? Don’t forget you can book an appointment and have one of our Application Advisers check it for you before you submit.

– Payal Patel, Application Adviser, UCL Careers

Write a Damn Good CV: Use the rules of fiction to sell yourself on paper!

ManpreetDhesi29 September 2015

As a seasoned Applications Adviser, I’ve seen countless CVs from students and graduates – some good, some bad. Who am I kidding? Mostly bad.

“What do bad CVs look like?”

Aimless. Poorly marketed. A document detailing work history; a list of roles or tasks performed under job titles, small fonts, perhaps a generic and often unnecessary career profile – and no personality. Verdict: just a record of characterless details unlikely to get the employer’s attention.

“So what’s a good CV?”

I hear you ask.

Let’s first understand the point of your CV!

The purpose of writing a CV is to get you to an interview. The CV is your marketing ploy to marry you to your dream job. It’s the professional representation of you, which demonstrates the value you’re going to offer to the company or organisation.

Think about a character in your favourite book. For example’s sake, let’s choose Harry Potter. Imagine the story taking a different turn – he never had that scar on his forehead, he was nobody’s ‘chosen one’. Not a great tale here then! Similarly your CV is a thrilling version of your story – you need to be the ‘hero’ they’re looking for.

Harry has a lightning bolt shaped scar as part of his personality trait that makes him special and stand out. What you’re essentially doing on your CV is re-presenting yourself as the character the employer is looking for.

To find out which personality traits to convey, look to the person specification outlined with the job’s description.

The Making of Harry Potter/Dave Catchpole/Flickr.com

The Making of Harry Potter- Creative Commons/Dave Catchpole/Flickr.com

Make sure the first page mirrors most of the essential skills and qualities they’re looking for

Damn good CVs are selected in a matter of seconds. On first glance show the employer that you’re their ‘chosen one’. Highlight those qualities preferably on the left hand side throughout the page; bolding, italicising or underlining are all good ideas. Bullet points down the page before key words are also quite effective.

Write out your work history in terms of relevance

A good story is a page-turner and begins with a bang. At this point you can choose to tease the employer with an overview of your ‘hero’ qualities and your experience in the same battlefield, but this must be credible and works well if you have a certain amount of years experience within that field.

Write what you have achieved backed up by facts and don’t bore the poor reader with generic features: ‘dynamic’, ‘hardworking’, ‘enthusiastic’ – these words are penned to the point of extinction and are meaningless without proof. A good idea is to bullet-point your main achievements being careful you’re always mirroring their person specification.

Create titles such as ‘Relevant Experience’ or be even more specific to the industry you’re applying: ‘Publishing Experience’, ‘Finance-related Experience’. This is followed by ‘Other (or Additional) experience’.

Show don’t tell

I love this element of fiction. It separates the bestsellers from the worstsellers.

In the case of CV writing, you could say ‘Sell don’t tell’. To sell yourself on paper means to present a professional version of yourself that proves you’re the ideal candidate. Write not only of the skills you’ll bring to the job but of the value you will add if hired.

The CV demonstrates not only that you can perform the job to a high standard but that you will deliver results as shown by your past experience.

In this sense employers don’t want to see a list of the tasks you performed in your previous experiences, they want to see what you achieved, to this end you could begin your bullet points with phrases such as ‘Raised customer satisfaction by…’ or ‘Supported 5 team members successfully by…’ even ‘Completed group project ahead of time…’ Compare that with ‘Involved customer service…’ ‘Working in a team to…’ and ‘Duties included managing a project and meeting deadlines’. Clearly the first lot of examples makes for an interesting story and presents a character worth putting your faith into.

Bestselling writers always think from the reader’s perspective

Put yourself in the employer’s shoes and imagine assessing the CV from their perspective. You know what the employer is looking for – the blue print of their hero is on the person specification. In a ten second glance does your CV portray this character? It doesn’t take long for a reader of fiction to move on to the next book if it’s devoid of interesting personalities.

Create suspense for the reader to turn to the next chapter

Let’s say the final section of your CV is the end of Chapter One. Chapter Two is the interview. For employers to further your application to the next stage, they need to feel that you’re a character worth investing in. We wouldn’t invest in Harry Potter if we didn’t think he had the ability to vanquish Voldemort. We put our trust in him because we were made aware of his perseverance and personality.

To conclude your CV with a heading such as ‘Interests and Activities’ is a good way to showcase your intention and character traits. After all, the employer wants to know if you’ll be a good fit into the team and it’s a great section to illustrate your values – hopefully these match the objectives of the company or organisation too.

Don’t just write Travelling, Playing football, Calligraphy, Photography. There’s no credibility here. Treat each passage, each sentence and word as a step in the ladder to your ideal destination. Like fiction, provide details and build a world that a reader believes in. For example, ‘Travel: extensively journeyed through South East Asia, recently visited Paris.’ Equally you could use this area to reflect again key attributes listed in the employer’s specification. ‘Meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures: travelled to South East Asia and Europe within the last year.’

If you play a sport write how often you train and for how long you’ve been playing, e.g. ‘3 years playing football, training twice weekly.’ The same goes for other hobbies and be specific about them explaining your interest, ‘Digital photography: undertaking an online course.’ This shows commitment and dedication—virtues in the workplace.

Are you commercially aware? What reflects this? Perhaps you’re subscribed to relevant newsletters, magazines and journals that show you’re keeping up-to-date with news and changes in the industry.

Aim for writing succinctly holding back just enough detail so the reader will want more.

Suspense is about engagement as it is about leaving an air of mystery. ‘There is definitely something about this person. I want to meet her face to face.’ Meeting you in person will solve that mystery.

All great books have that page-turning quality; all you must do is follow the rules of fiction!

Come and get your CV checked by one of our Application Advisers.

– Payal Patel, Application Adviser, UCL Careers