An opportunity to sell yourself
Despite being highly capable, the blind and visually impaired are often overlooked by hiring managers and business owners. While many people with vision disabilities want to work and value the satisfaction and self-confidence that comes with being employed, because of prejudices held by some employers, they are rarely given opportunities to shine.
For someone who is blind or visually impaired finding employment can be demoralizing and disheartening. However, it does not have to be that way. This guide offers job seekers with vision impairments some valuable information and other resources to help them jumpstart their careers, starting at the beginning – writing an attractive and effective curriculum vitae (CV).
There is no perfect CV, that is why the contents of the ideal CV are determined by the position and the person who is applying. Employers use the information in your CV to decide how suitable you are for the position. That means you should tailor the information in your CV to the position you are applying for.
Curriculum vitae outlines your personal details and your relevant skills, experience and qualifications. It is used to help you "sell yourself" to a prospective employer by highlighting your strengths and achievements. The aim of a CV is to get you an interview.It is important to always have a high quality, current CV prepared, and on hand for whenever a potential employer might ask for one. Most employers will formally require that you submit a CV at some point in the application process. Your CV may be your best opportunity to sell yourself to an employer before an interview. Please keep in mind that you will usually need to adjust your CV to a specific job, rather than sending a generic CV.
Before writing a CV
The first step is to take some time to reflect on who you are, what you can do and more than everything else on what you want to do. Only after having defined your professional objective you can prepare a CV.
In order to reflect on this issue, here are some leading questions:To these general questions, blind-job-seekers should ask themselves a specific question:
- What is my professional objective? What kind of job do I intend to apply for?
- In what kind of company (public, private, freelance …)? In which field?
- Am I interested in just one position or more than one?
- To what measure are my professional and educational experiences coherent with my objective?
- What are the main skills I have developed and can I use them in the profession that I’m interested in?
- What are the difficulties I might have in pursuing the given professional objective in relation to my visual disability?
After answering the following questions will you be able to decide how to proceed with the CV creation:
- Do I need one version of my CV or should I prepare several different documents;
- Which experiences and activities it is important to valorise and decide on the past experiences and activities, which are better not to mention in your CV (including the visual impairment).
Know your legal rights
Whether you are going for an interview or are considering employment in general, it is important to know which anti-discrimination laws affect you and your employer in your country/region. The European Commission is a party of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and has adopted European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 that builds on UCRPD more info: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1137Before getting started let's look at these basic CV writing rules in the next topic...
- CV writing: basic rules
CV writing: basic rules
- A CV should be:
- Short: 2-3 pages maximum.
- Clear, tidy and well-structured: never forget the visual impact; It’s the first thing the recruiter / employers looks at! Furthermore pay attention to grammar and spelling mistakes.
- Logical: make use of different sections and bullet points.
- Coherent: it has to show a continuity between your education and your work experience.
- It has to communicate your abilities in the role you are applying for.
- It has to be written taking into consideration this question: why should we hire you?
- It has to express in a convincing manner not only what you know but in particular what you can do.
If you are visually impaired, especially blind, you must be sure your CV has a nice layout and good visual presentation.
As you have read above, the visual aspect is the first issue taken into consideration by the recruiter during the selection of CVs: you cannot risk not getting the interview or the job just because your CV was visually untidy, unclear and not well structured.
So, ask always to someone you trust (a friend/relative/professional) to check your CV from a sighted point of view and, eventually, to improve it.
Be sure, with the support of your sighted helper, that the paragraphs are written using the same typeface (e.g. Arial).
Also, be sure that the titles of the different main sections (Personal Information, Education, etc.) are always written using the same typeface.
Check that formatting such as bold and italics is correct and required, not accidental.
Asking for support from a sighted person to check the visual presentation of a CV is very important for blind job-seekers but of course it is very useful for partially sighted job-seekers, too. Don’t feel frustrated because you cannot do it on your own. Asking for support is something you are doing for yourself, because it can help you to get the job interview or the job post.
- CV structure: its main sections
CV structure: its main sections
If you are struggling with writing your CV, we will provide a great place to start.
There is no right or wrong way to set out a CV, but there are some standard sections that it should contain. These are:
- Personal and contact information
- Personal profile/statement (optional)
- Education and qualifications
- Professional experience
- Other working experiences / volunteering / hobbies
- Languages Skills
- Technical and computer skills
Which is the information that you need to provide in each section of the CV?
Section 1: Personal and contact information
Should contain your personal details, including:
- phone number,
- e-mail address; use a professional e-mail address (preferably name.surname@...)
- professional social media (e.g. LinkedIn) when providing social media credentials choose carefully what you want to share!
- date of birth*, a date of birth is no longer needed, owing to age discrimination rules (refer to your national practice whether to include your date of birth into a CV)
- photo is only essential for jobs such as acting and modelling, otherwise it is a matter of choice. Whether you should include a picture of yourself depends on the position you are applying for and the company offering it. If you will attach your photo, make sure you will look professional.
Section 2: Personal profile / statement
A personal profile / statement introduces you as an applicant. It takes a form of a paragraph that outlines your key strengths, achievements and goals. In just a few sentences, you describe:
Who you are, what do you have to offer and what your ambitions are.
Example I am an energetic and enthusiastic person who enjoys a challenge and achieving personal goals. My present career aim is to work within IT because I enjoy working with computers, I enjoy the environment and I find the work interesting and satisfying. The opportunity to learn new skills and work with new technologies is particularly attractive to me.
Section 3: Education and qualifications
This is the section, where you show your academic accomplishments. Since your most recent school or academic programme is most relevant, start there and work your way back.
In no more than three bullet points, you can list your most significant results such as your average grade, your most relevant courses and other achievements you think could be valuable for your CV.
Example Education and Training
2009 – 2013 BSc Computer Science (Hons) Aston UniversityRelevant Modules:
2007 – 2009 BTEC National Diploma in IT Hall Green College
- 1st Class Degree with Professional Placement
2000 – 2007 Bournville Secondary School
- Professional and Social Aspects of Computing (73%)
- Data Modelling and Database Systems (59%)
- Understanding Information Systems (93%)
- Grade Achieved: Triple Distinction*
- 8 GCSEs at grades A*–C.
Section 4: Professional experience
The work experience section should contain your:If you are a first-time job seeker, you can showcase your skills for example in creativity or project management. Mentioning activities or achievements will let the employers know that you really stand by your claims.
- internships and any previous relevant work.
Clearly state your job title, responsibilities and primary tasks. The more specific you can be about what you did the better. Sort your bullet points by relevance with the most relevant at the top.
Example Employment history
Jun 2008 – Present IT Manager MaplinsOct 2003 – Jun 2008 IT Support Officer Ladypool Warehouse Ltd.
Jan 1999 – Sept 2003 IT Admin West London Council
- Mentoring and training new IT staff;
- Researching, installing and configuring new computer systems;
- Keeping up to date with the latest technologies.
1996 – 1999 Various jobs Retail (sectors)
- Provided extensive IT support to internal and external stakeholders;
- Installed and configured computer hardware operating systems and applications;
- Monitored and maintained computer systems and networks;
- Produced Requirements Documentation (diagrams and workflow);
- Maintained the computer network and information systems.
Section 5: Other work experience / volunteering / hobbies
In this section, mention all activities in which you were involved outside your education or previous work environment. They could be connected with:
- voluntary work,
- peer mentoring,
- student representative bodies,
- sports, culture etc.
Including them in your CV could matter a great deal, especially when looking for a job as a first-timer. It can help you enrich your CV and making it more attractive for a future employer. If there are many candidates running for the same position, it could definitely put you at an advantage.
This tells the employer a lot about you, what you enjoy, what skills have you developed outside your studies, what your interests are. You can list as many activities as you like so long as they show you possess skills your employer will find relevant. Again, use bullet points to indicate what you have done and learnt.
Note: mentioning your hobby of photography can be useful for a graphical designer, not for an administrative employee! So, mention only hobbies you consider relevant for the job application.
Section 6: Languages
For each language you know, indicate your level in written skills and speaking skills. Mention the courses you attended and certificates you got (mentioning the name of the institution, which organised the course and the mark you got). If you mention your language level using the CEFR for Language scale, don’t forget to explain it (not all employers are aware of this EU-standardization).
Example Spoken and written proficiency in French. This language was practiced and improved during six-months Erasmus exchange programme in the university of Grenoble (Fr); Very good spoken and written skills in English. 2012: “FCE - First Certificate in English” issued by Cambridge University.
Section 7: Computer / technical skills
Mention all your skills and knowledge related to ICT. You can also add certificates e.g. ECDL.
Example Advanced level skills in Microsoft Office Suite, basic HTML programming.
Section 8: Additional information
It is an opportunity for you to provide some personal background to help employer understand what kind of person you are. Consider carefully what you choose to share! In this section you can also state your availability for travelling, transfers etc.
At the end of your CV, don’t forget the date, your signature and always remember to send an updated CV! If required by your country legislation, mention the authorization to the treatment of personal data in the respect of the EU regulation about data protection before the date and your signature.
- Different types of CV and when to use them
Different types of CV and when to use them
Type 1: Chronological CV
A chronological CV focuses on presenting the candidate's experience on an employer-by-employer basis, with the job posts being listed in reverse chronological order.
Chronological CVs should also contain a brief personal statement at the front, which sets out the key skills and strengths of the candidate. This is the most common type of CV.
How to structure a chronological CV?A chronological CV typically uses the following structure:
- Personal Details (i.e. name and contact details)
- Personal Profile
- Career History in reverse chronological order unless you are a graduate or you have very little work experience, in which case, it may be best to start with your Education and Qualifications
- Education and Qualifications
- Extracurricular activities
Advantages and Disadvantages Advantages (+) Disadvantages (-) Particularly useful for those applying within the same industry as it will demonstrate your career progression. If you have gaps in your employment which you would rather not highlight, a chronological CV will make them more obvious. It is the favourite format for most employers, who simply want to easily identify the roles and responsibilities in each job. If you are changing career direction, a chronological CV may not be so relevant to a recruiter who will be more concerned about the transferable skills that you are bringing rather than the detail of your experience in an unrelated sector. If you do not have many achievements or significant highlights across your career, taking a job-by-job approach can detail your main responsibilities and take the emphasis away from key achievements which is more expected in a functional CV.
Type 2: Functional CV
Unlike a chronological CV, a functional CV places the emphasis on your skills and expertise rather than the chronology of your employment to date.
Although not generally the preferred choice by most recruiters, some senior executive positions would require that a functional CV accompany a chronological one so that their key skills and achievements can be clearly identified.
How to structure a functional CV?
A functional CV typically starts with a personal profile, which highlights the achievements, skills and personal qualities that you possess.
This is then followed by a succession of sections, each relating to a different skill or ability. These should be ordered in decreasing order of importance.
Instead of focusing on any particular job, you should describe your experience in its entirety. Since you are not detailing any specific role, this means you can include any skills or experience gained in voluntary or unpaid work.
Advantages and Disadvantages Advantages (+) Disadvantages (-) If you have changed jobs frequently, or your experience is a combination of seemingly unrelated posts or if you have several career gaps, a functional CV will help place the emphasis on what you have to offer as a whole rather than your career progression. Most employers do not like this type of CV as they prefer to clearly see what the candidate has done and it also raise questions around whether the candidate is trying to hide something. If you do not have much work experience, you may struggle to highlight achievements in a separate section.
Type 3: Combined CV
A combined CV follows both the chronological and functional format, which makes the CV slightly longer than normal. However, it does offer the best of both types of CV and is becoming a more popular structure to use.
Advantages and Disadvantages Advantages (+) Disadvantages (-) Perfect format if you have a strong career progression with many achievements Lengthier than a functional or chronological CV so may put off some employers Enables you to sell your strengths as well as your experience Not suitable for those with little experience or achievements Not suitable for those with employment gaps
Checklist of skills
In order not to miss on any of your skills, we have prepared a short skills checklist to help you recognise your skills and include them to your CV.
Skills with individuals
- Deal with costumers
- Manage and supervise individuals
- Delegate work to others
Skills with groups
- Communicate to small groups
- Lead seminars
- Perform or entertain people
- Persuade a group
- Take part in group debates
- Brief a team
- Chair meetings
- Manage or run a budget
- Spot potential markets
- Develop a new business
- Design a marketing campaign
- Look after customers well
- Promote or sell by telephone
- Develop new sales initiatives
Skills with information
- Research a topic
- Gather information by interviewing people
- Check information for errors/proof read
- Analyse information
- Organise or classify data
- Retrieve information
- Write reports
- Manual dexterity
- Washing/cleaning or preparing
- Setting up or assembling
There are some words that stand out on a CV, which are often called buzz words. The following work areas and associated words may help when putting together your CV:
- Coping with routine: conscientious, consistent, controlled, coped, dealt with, efficient, managed, performed
- Working with others: advised, co-operated, counselled, facilitated, guided, managed, negotiated, participated, presented, supervised
- Achievements: accomplished, achieved, co-ordinated, created, developed, formulated, revitalised, recommended
- Problem-solving: implemented, improved, instigated, interpreted, initiated, inspired, introduced, investigated
- Initiative: created, designed, developed, devised, directed, established, formulated, innovated, motivated, negotiated, organised, originated
- Further tips to write a good CV
Further tips to write a good CV
The order of the sections mentioned in the previous paragraphs, as well as the titles of the different sections, can be used as a template to prepare your CV.
- Be brief and concise, 2-3 pages is enough;
- Use bullet points and very short paragraphs;
- Use a regular character set such as Arial, it is pleasant and easily readable.
- Last, if you find it suitable, you can customize your CV by putting a small picture of yourself on the first page (optional, we suggest adding your picture only if required in the job advertisment).
CV & visual design
Even when using a template, you can still make changes to ensure your resume stands out. The best visual design for your CV depends on what industry you are in.
The decision whether to put your CV in the YES or the NO pile is usually made in the first thirty seconds. That is why you should bare two things in mind:
- It should be easy for your employer to skim through your CV.
- The most important information should stand out from the rest.
After writing... some leading questions to evaluate your CV!
Is it clear and readable?
Is the written CV suitable for the job vacancy / the sector for which I’m applying?
Does the CV highlight enough of my skills and qualities taking into consideration the position for which I’m applying?
In addition, if you decide to mention a visual impairment in the CV you could ask yourself: is my visual condition seen as a strength or does it appear as a weak point?
Get Feedback from Others
As stated at the beginning, ask someone who does not have a visual impairment to review your CV for formatting and other issues such as grammar or spelling mistakes. This can be helpful to any person developing a CV, as they are difficult documents to perfect.
To conclude, we strongly suggest job seekers with a visual impairment to seek contact with career counsellors or job coaches within their own country. These professionals can provide help with identifying and selecting realistic professional objectives, and they can provide sighted help when drafting a CV.