What does it take to be a successful PA? Superb organisational skills, attention to detail and the ability to provide top quality support? Definitely. All important competencies without a doubt. On the skills side are usually included strong diary management skills, ability to communicate with internal and external stakeholders, managing records and arranging corporate events.
As the job requires strengths in these areas, so your CV should embody them as much as possible. This will help to demonstrate your capabilities to a recruiter or a hiring manager. If you can create a CV that does this well enough the chances of being called for interview are that much higher.
It is vital to get the structure and format of your CV right because it will help to demonstrate your great organisational skills and attention to detail. As a tip, aim for concise, neat and uncluttered.
Calibri, Tahoma or Arial fonts are all ideal, as they read well in both hard and soft copy – important as your CV will probably be read on computer and printed out for the interview. Font size should be either 11 or 12. Avoid using too many colours and steer clear of any tables. These can be distracting and often get lost in translation when printed out.
Describe your jobs in reverse chronological format – most recent first and work backwards. Include your dates of employment, job title and company name. Then in bullet form describe your principal activities, concentrating on those that are relevant to a PA – diary management, event organising, liaising with internal and external parties etc.
Elaborate on the description of your activities so that it is more than just a list. Remember that you will be competing with tens or even hundreds of other candidates, many of whose experience will be very similar experience to yours. Therefore you must personalise your experience. You can do this by providing some detail around your role. For example:
“Provided international diary management to a senior manager – regularly booking flights between three European countries, arranging foreign currency and dealing with conflicting and ever changing priorities.”
In this way you will give the reader a much better idea of what your role actually involved.
This should include the titles, institution and years of attendance. If you achieved good grades you can also specify these, but if not, it is preferable to omit. For example:
B.A. (Hons) degree in English and Psychology
2009 – 2012
Salisbury High School
2003 – 2009
A Level in English
7 GCSEs including English and Mathematics
In this example the student received an honours degree but did less well in A Level and GCSEs.
This is a useful section to include relevant skills such as IT, languages, shorthand or typing. Opt for a format that is clear and provides the information to the reader without any difficulty. For example:
Excel Intermediate – incl. pivot tables and vlookups
Word Intermediate – incl. graphs and tables
PowerPoint Intermediate – incl. slide animation
French Intermediate – incl. with suppliers at May Ltd.
Spanish Conversational – incl. welcoming guests at ABR
Touch-typing Advanced – 75 wpm
Shorthand Intermediate – 50 wpm
Once your CV is complete, read it at least twice and then give it to someone whose level of English you regard highly. Ask them to identify errors and for their opinion of the clarity and structure. This will help you to ensure your CV reads well to a fresh pair of eyes.