Step 4 – Getting a Job when your Autistic: How to write a Good Curriculum Vitae CV/Resume

What is a CV

A CV is an abbreviation of Curriculum Vitae which basically means “course of (one’s) life.”  In the US it is called a resume.  In brief it outlines your qualifications, experience, skills, qualities, references and personal details so a potential employer can quickly scan over it to see your suitability for the job you’re applying for.

Not all jobs require a CV as some request an application form instead (which is the topic of my next blog).  It is very easy to think of a CV as a document that is created and only changed every few years to include your updated qualifications and experience.  But you will often find that if you tailor a CV to each job you apply for, you will get a higher chance of success.

It is also worth noting that you can send your CV to many different places and not get any replies.  It is really important that you do not let this affect your confidence or your self belief in being able to get a job.  There have been many studies showing that your chance of getting a reply are very low when sending out CVs even when it is applying for specific jobs that are advertised.  For example, on the University of Kent (2018) website it shows that the most graduates send out 70 CVs and only get a reply for 7 of them.  Out of those 7 replies 3 or 4 of them are only kind rejections.  It also shows that out of 25 applications you are likely to only get one that leads to an interview.

It is very easy for someone like us with high functioning autism/Asperger’s to take this rejection personally.  I know I certainly have done in the past, and to be honest I have certainly given up far too easily on applying for jobs when I should have certainly kept trying.  The best advice I can give, regarding job applications, is that you shouldn’t let rejection put you off applying for more jobs.  Keep trying and never give up until you become successful.  By all means question yourself as to why you may not have achieved success after many attempts; as this may help you to tweak you CVs, application forms, get more experience, higher qualifications, help from others such as careers advisers, which will all improve your chance of success, but never give in.

Good Tips to Follow

Although there are no particular formal rules to writing a CV there is a lot of information about good practise.  Of course, like everything in life, there are times when the general rules don’t apply but on the most part they do.

  • Make the CV fit on a maximum of two pages and if you can make it fit onto one. When a company advertises for a job they could easily get 100 people applying for 1 position which means they need to go through 100 CVs.  They often quickly scan each CV for relevant information, otherwise it will turn a job that will take them an hour into a job that could take them a day.  They put the good CVs in one pile (which might be 10 out of the 100) and then discard the rest.  They might be kind and reply to the 90 unsuccessful applicants but most of the time they don’t want to spend the time it would take to write the letters, put them in envelopes and the cost of posting them out.  So for the most part, if you are unsuccessful, you don’t hear from them again.
  • Use a font that is large enough to read but not too large that it takes up too much vital room. I find a font size of a minimum of 10 and a maximum of about 12 is about right.
  • Make the use of heading and sections for each type of information you’re writing about such a heading and a section for your qualifications.
  • Put your qualifications in order of more recent at the top and the same for your experience. As employers like this particular order to pull out your most recent and usually most relevant information.  Again this rule may be broken if you tailor your CV to a particular job type  and you may put your relevant work experience in one section and your other work experience in another.
  • Only include the most relevant information as you will not have the room to put all about your life on this two page document. Things you can leave out are: your photograph (unless they ask for it), your primary school, if you have got a good set of GCSEs perhaps do not mention the lower grade ones and your hobbies unless you feel your hobbies relate to the job and could improve your chances of getting a job.  As one example if you are applying to be a gym instructor it would be good to include all your hobbies that are related to keeping fit and exercise.
  • Tailor or target the CV for each job you are applying for. When applying for a particular job the employer will often ask for the skills and qualities that they require so writing about how your meet each of these is an excellent start.  If you include a brief personal statement this can also be written for the specific job you’re applying for.  This really stands out to a potential employer and gives you a much better chance than if you send out a generic CV (which means the same CV for every job without changing it).
  • A really good website that shows how to tailor a CV to a given job type or to high light your greatest strengths with a number of good examples is careers website Prospects (2018)

 Mistakes People Make on Their CVs

There are many mistakes that can be made when writing a CV and sometimes often simple errors can be the difference between getting to the interview stage or being unsuccessful.  Some of the most common mistakes are below:

  • Making mistakes with spellings and grammar.
  • Spelling a company name wrong or their details such as address.
  • Making the CV too cluttered in an attempt to fit too much onto the one or two pages you have.
  • Not being formal enough and using terms such as slang or informal words.
  • Telling lies about qualifications or work history.
  • Hobbies that are not relevant to the job.
  • Unexplained gaps in your past such as missing out a year when you were not employed or in education – you should include this but be creative on how you explain what you did without lying.
  • Including a non-professional email. An email that is your name is fine but having something like PaulZombieSlayer@hotmail.com will not make a good impression.
  • Not formatting your CV correctly which basically means not using good headings for main sections, bullet points and not being consistent with how you set it all out.
  • Using fancy colours, images and patterns such as borders are not required for nearly all CVs.
  • Using cliché words like flexible, good time management skill, good communication skills and being a team player. It is much better to give personal examples instead.  For example instead of writing you’re a team player you can say something like “I recently worked with the marketing department to develop and launch our company’s new website.”
  • You don’t need to use the title Curriculum Vitae as the employer will know what it is from the format of the document. It is much better to use your name as the main title.

Should you Declare You Have High Functioning Autism/Asperger’s 

There is no clear right or wrong answer to this question.  I believe that a CV should only outline the positives that you can bring to the role and you are selling yourself based on all of your best aspects.  Even though there are many positives to being high functioning autistic, and only a few negatives, most people who are not autistic don’t have a full understanding of how we are and unfortunately view autism to be a negative trait.

There are some employers that are very forward thinking with employing people with a wide range of disabilities though and would probably give you a fair shot if you had the right qualifications and experience and may even take into consideration our differences when it comes to the interview stage which could be really beneficial.  But when looking at the statistics, that I have outlined on previous blog posts, that people with high functioning autism/Asperger’s have a much lower chance than the rest of society at securing a paid job (whether this is part time, and much rarer for us full time).  I believe that not all, but a lot of this is down to prejudice and not understanding autism fully.  Therefore, if you are not sure about the company and their stance on employing people with autism it might be best to not mention it at this stage.  But it is entirely your choice.

For me I have never had to mention it as I was not diagnosed with autism until my adulthood.  I have told my current employer about being high functioning autistic and I would seriously consider telling future employers.  But this aside I don’t think I would put this information on a CV, but I would consider adding this if there was a tick box on an application form.

CV Templates

It is quite time consuming to start a CV from scratch so here are a couple of really good links that provide CV templates you can download for free and then put your own details in.

https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/cv-writing-tips/cv-templates

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/cvs-and-cover-letters/example-cvs

Links

Monster (2018) https://www.monster.co.uk/career-advice/cv-writing-tips/cv-templates

University of Kent (2018) https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv.htm

Prospectus (2018) https://www.prospects.ac.uk/careers-advice/cvs-and-cover-letters/example-cvs

 

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