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The Officer Cadet guide to writing a CV


  • The Officer Cadet guide to writing a CV

    By "Hatchorder" (Ian)

    cv.jpgSo you have found this page because you need a CV that will work? Whether you are a potential Cadet looking for a sponsorship, or a newly qualified Officer, you will all need guidance to produce something that is effective and will do its job & get you in the seat opposite an interviewer.

    You're in the right place for help, but if you came here thinking you would just download a CV and change the name at the top, then you are in the wrong place. I know that companies monitor this site closely and therefore if Steve from SSTG sees the same CV 5 times in a row he is just going to reject you for being lazy and not having the skills you need to communicate effectively - isn't that right Steve?

    If any of you recognise any parts of the following and say "That is my Personal Profile" then you're probably right. I have now done 17 CV's in the last few months, and of those I have helped that have kept in touch I still have a 100% record - 12 from 12! That is 12 people that have succeeded with 12 job offers. One potential cadet got 4 job offers from 4 interviews.

    So why is it so hard to write a CV?

    Because we don't like writing about ourselves or "blowing our own trumpet" - simples! We also have a problem with what a CV actually is and what it has to impart to the reader.

    So before we go into the actual CV writing itself let us look at a few rules to start with.

    The General Rules

    1) Keep every CV separate and tailor every letter and CV. When you save a CV save it with the name that includes the date in reverse order. So a CV saved today 17th September 2013 would be 130917 Ian cv.doc. The reason you do this is so that when you put them in alphabetical order then they will always be in date order. I know you can sort them on created date etc, but it is easy to modify a document and save it by accident and then it is no longer right. If you save them in date order the other way round then 070113 will come before 120712 and after 060712..... See what I mean? If you then tailor a CV for a particular Company (which you should always do) then put their name in the file name as well 130917 Ian Maersk cv.doc. That way you can refer to what you wrote specifically to them if you suddenly get an interview.

    2) Use plain white paper and ensure that the letter and CV are not folded. Use an A4 envelope to post it off. Why? I know a recruiter who used to make a pile of CV's for a job and if there was one in the middle that was folded that made the pile unstable he would pull it out and shred it! He would also do the same with ones that were on anything other than white paper or had fonts that were difficult to read. Before anyone cries "foul" or think he discriminated then you are wrong - it was merely a selection criteria that he applied to all the CV's and therefore was not discrimination!

    So to give yourself the best chance stand out ON paper - don't stand out BECAUSE of the paper, it just annoys people! Forget underlines, forget colours, forget pictures, and use an English Dictionary rather than American in your spellchecker, and get rid of the 'z's in words. Keep getting other people to check your CV before you send it off.

    3) Break the job up into smaller parts so it seems less daunting. Deal with the really important bits first and then put it all together only at the end. This is not a one hour job - it will take days and many reviews and rewrites to get it right.

    4) Use Arial or Tahoma font and ensure the whole letter and CV are in the same font and size.

    5) Black text only and nothing smaller than 11 points, use paragraph spacing of 6 points rather than 2 line breaks between each paragraph, use only Bold and Italic sparingly and borders no less than 1.5cm. If you need more pages then your CV is too long.

    6) Keep it to two pages. Adjust margins to make it fit the pages nicely and page breaks at the end of a section not half way through a paragraph.

    7) You have approximately 40 seconds to make an impression with a CV so start with the basics. Name at the top, do not write Curriculum Vitae (everyone knows what it is), then have your address, phone number and email address on 2 lines max.

    8) Always put a covering letter with it, research the company so you can write relevant information.

    9) And probably the most important rule - "unnecessary words are your enemy".
    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Author of The Little Prince) said "It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away" - perhaps he was talking about the perfect CV?

    So here we go!

    Personal Profile

    This is the most important part of the CV. Remember you have 40 second to make an impression? This is where you do it.

    First of all make up a table. In it place all the adjectives and phrases that are strong and positive that you could use to describe yourself.

    determined disciplined individual caring highly competent
    tenacious work independently leadership sense of adventure
    strong dealing with adversity capable calm and resourceful
    confident high quality standards enthusiastic proven work ethic
    inquisitive maintaining focus team player safe and efficient
    motivated attention to detail teamwork communication skills
    strongly meet deadlines adaptable complete tasks
    organised computer literate balanced problem solving
    dynamic high standards responsible under pressure
    willing achievement of goals excellent
    Some people will say "you have missed out a few words" Good - make it your own and keep changing it. Remember this is your CV!
    For those of you too young to remember, a popular cola in 1974 had an advert that went:

    Lipsmackin' thirstquenchin' acetastin' motivatin' goodbuzzin' cooltalkin' highwalkin' fastlivin' evergivin' coolfizzin' Pepsi.

    For those of you needing a little distraction from this hard work now:

    It was a string of adjectives that made sense when linked together. So now go and create the perfect "Pepsi Profile" using the table above. Remember you want them to be impressed enough in the first 40 seconds to go on and read the rest of the CV. The challenge is you have a 100 to 110 word limit.

    Here are a few examples:

    School leaver potential Cadets
    As a highly motivated, calm and resourceful student my time with Sea Cadets has given me strong teamwork and leadership skills. Inquisitive and determined from an early age with a keen sense of adventure I have gained many qualifications because of my tenacity and enthusiastic approach to the challenges of hobbies and activities. I believe that my mature disciplined attitude to studying, matched with a thirst for knowledge and good problem solving skills will enable me to achieve my lifelong desire to be a Marine Engineer.


    As a strongly motivated, confident and disciplined individual I have always been determined and well organised with excellent leadership and teamwork skills. As Head of House at school, Captain of the swim team and a determined and responsible participant in gold Duke of Edinburgh expeditions I have a proven work ethic capable of dealing with adversity and maintaining focus on the perseverance and achievement of goals. A sense of adventure with an outgoing personality has led me to become a balanced, caring and adaptable individual in a variety of situations.

    Older Potential Cadet
    As a strongly motivated, confident and disciplined individual with an outgoing personality I have always been determined and well organised, with excellent leadership and teamwork skills. A proven work ethic with strong communication skills and initiative developed over 11 years as an instructor has taught me to be a good team player, calm under pressure and able to take control of situations when necessary. Working as a freelancer I learnt the importance of self discipline, self reliance and being able to adapt to different working environments, meeting deadlines and completing tasks to a very high standard.

    A recently qualified Deck Officer
    A confident, strongly motivated recently qualified UK Deck Officer experienced in working as a capable and disciplined individual as part of a highly competent team at sea in pressurised and dynamic environments. Adaptable and enthusiastic with a proven work ethic, high quality standards and a strong sense of adventure I am keen to progress now qualified. Capable of working under pressure dealing with adversity I have developed excellent communication and problem solving skills. Keen and determined to learn new skills and pass them on through calm and resourceful leadership I am looking for an exciting challenge at sea.

    A recently qualified Engineering Officer
    A confident, hard working and safety conscious recently qualified unlimited UK Engineering OOW with a sharp eye for detail and excellent sea service testimonials, I am strongly motivated and a considerate team member. An adaptable, enthusiastic, resourceful and practical individual with a positive outlook, I have developed high quality problem solving abilities and gained experience at working in pressurised and dynamic environments as part of a highly competent team at sea. Keen and determined to learn new skills and pass them on through calm and professional leadership, I am looking forward to the exciting challenges of an Engineering Officer's role.

    Write it, trim it, rewrite it, drop surplus words and get it down to a maximum of 100 words.

    That is the hardest bit over with so stop and have a breather now.

    Now let us look at Work experience.

    List work experience in order of latest first. Important information is the name, dates, job role and a description that is concise and constructive.

    For a student who has not worked full time yet and has only had a part time job:
    Work Experience
    Cafe Seafront, Shrewsbury Jan 2013 - present
    Working as part of a three strong kitchen team it is important that I am dependable and able to get on with fellow workers. Whilst more menial, repetitive and harder work than my previous job it is easier to stay motivated by keeping up morale and injecting humour into the day with the 2 other staff. I have to work quickly and diligently to help with the prompt service and smooth running of the cafe.


    Dalaco Limited September 2011 - Present
    Dalaco are manufacturers of hand made candles and aromatherapy products. My main duties involve the packaging and labelling of all products produced by the company. I work as part of a small team and speed and precision is important. I am also involved in routine servicing of some of the labelling and packaging machinery under the guidance of a team of maintenance engineers. I am sometimes called in at short notice to work additional hours on different shifts.

    For a more permanent job for an elder applicant something like this:

    Bank of Robbin Gits January 2008 - July 2010
    Financial Crime Associate

    This job involved investigating all aspects of financial crime, reporting it to various law enforcement departments and liaising with investigations. As an experienced member of the team I was often responsible for training and passing on knowledge to colleagues.
    • Developed and delivered a programme to help with the training of new starts
    • Achieved professional accreditation in money laundering investigation
    • Organised and took charge of large departmental team meetings
    • Assisted in planning and implementing sponsored charity events in the local community

    For a recently qualified Deck Cadet:

    Ship Safe Training Group July 2010 - July 2013
    Deck Cadet

    Completed a Merchant Navy Training Board training scheme to gain a Scottish Professional Diploma in Marine Operations, an HND in Nautical Science and a MCA Certificate of Competency. I worked as part of a multi-national deck team aboard container ships trading worldwide and assisted the crew with all aspects of running the vessel whilst completing my college reports and portfolio to a high standard. In particular, as part of my college portfolio I completed and implemented passage plans and took charge of mooring operations on numerous occasions.
    • M/V Still Afloat, 75321 DWT Container Ship on Europe Asia run 19/03/2011 - 02/08/2011
    • M/V Rusty Keel, 70123 DWT Container Ship on Europe Asia run 29/05/2012 to 15/01/2013
    • Total sea time 12 months 2 days

    For a recently qualified Engineer Cadet

    Trinity House September 2011 - March 2014
    Engineer Cadet

    Completed a Merchant Navy Training Board scheme to gain a Foundation Degree in Marine Engineering and an MCA Certificate of Competency. I worked as part of a multi-national engineering team aboard a variety of ships and assisted the crew with all aspects of running the engineering department whilst completing my college reports and portfolio to a high standard.
    • NLV Aground, 6367 GRT, 5760 kW Light and buoy tender (DP2), W-rtsil 8L20 main engines with Rolls Royce Aquamaster propulsion units - July 2013 to August 2013
    • MV Beach Hopper, 12456 GRT, 8790 kW, Luxury Cruise Ship, Crossley 2 stroke trunk piston main engines - May 2013 to June 2013
    • THV Flashing, 4639 GRT, 5124 kW, Light and buoy tender, Ruston main engines with D.C. propulsion - March 2012 to June 2012
    • Total sea time 4 months 24 days

    Always talk about achievements - never "responsible for". Responsible for does not mean you actually achieved anything! For example Hitler was responsible for turning around the German Economy in the 30's, his achievements were very different!

    Next you need to put down qualifications, again in reverse order.

    For school leavers applying for the first time:

    High School, Manchester August 2006 - Present
    Currently studying A Levels in:
    Maths Predicted B Physics Predicted C
    Chemistry Predicted D
    AS Levels in:
    Maths B Physics B
    Chemistry E Biology C
    GCSE's in:
    Maths A English Language A
    English Literature B Physics B
    Chemistry B Biology A
    IT B History B
    French C RE C
    For a newly qualified Officer:

    Warsash Maritime Academy 2011 - 2014

    Foundation Degree in Marine Engineering. 76% Average grade
    Officer of the Watch Unlimited COC including all required STCW 95 certificates:
    • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting
    • Training in Advanced Fire Fighting
    • Certificate of proficiency in Survival Craft & Rescue Boats (other than fast rescue boats)
    • Personal Survival Techniques
    • Tanker Familiarisation
    • Certificate of Proficiency in Medical First Aid Aboard Ship
    • Personal Safety And Social Responsibilities
    • ENG1 (exp: 24/05/2014) & C1/D US Visa (exp: 02/09/2022)

    Royal Court School, Worcester 1993 - 2000
    • A Levels in Maths (A), Physics (A), Chemistry (C)
    • 9 GCSE's at grade C or above including Maths and English
    • Completed Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award expedition
    • House Captain in Upper Sixth year
    • Awarded school colours for rugby

    Do you see how newer experiences supersede older ones? Once you have your CoC then you're A levels and GCSE's only need mentioning if you need to conserve space. It is the same as you get more experience at sea. Your profile changes little but your experience does. If you are a qualified Engineer looking for a Junior Engineers post then you do not need to put in all the roles and responsibilities that you have. They already know what you have done in general. However, if you were looking to go ashore you need to mention the different skills and roles of the job.

    Finally Hobbies and interests.

    If you put down chess as a hobby, make sure you can play! I had a friend that, if people put chess on their CV, he would set up a board with that day's chess problem from the newspaper set out. He would then tell people he would want them to look at the next move for white at the end of the interview and discuss it. He never did, but those that lied performed badly in the interview because they were thinking of how to get out of the dilemma at the end. He could not play chess either, but that did not matter a) he was the interviewer and b) he never told them he could play!

    Below you will find two sample CV's that have been saved as PDF's. By all means download them and use them as a template to create your own (You cannot cut and paste from them), but whatever you do put in the hours to make your CV both individual and strong.
    Finally ,check it, check it, check it and then get someone else to check it. Make sure it is perfect before you send it.

    Sample School Leaver Cadet CV.pdf

    Sample Qualified Cadet CV.pdf

    So - do you like the look of the CV Steve? I hope it improves the quality of the applications that come across your desk from now on. Heaven knows - I have seen enough shockers to know when a good one appears!

    Good Luck everyone.



    There will be some people who do not like my approach or disagree with it. That is fine. Please understand that this is all my opinion and based on my experience over 26 years of employing people and helping people write their CV's as well as my experience as a Deck Officer in the Merchant Navy. My results are positive and speak for themselves and therefore I am happy that the advice I give will help many people produce a CV that is far superior to anything they had produced before.

    Copyright "Ian (Hatchorder) 2013". Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ian (Hatchorder) and the Officercadet website with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by CharlieDelta; 5 August 2021, 03:41 PM.

    • endure
      endure commented
      Editing a comment
      Hatch hasn't been around for a while.

    • NonKadetski
      NonKadetski commented
      Editing a comment
      Hmm... :/ Is there anyone else who might be able to look over my stuff before I send it off? I've shown all of this stuff to two 6th form head tutors and they've never helped with Merchant Navy applications before, so they were a little stumped. I just want to be sure.

    • RIchard91
      RIchard91 commented
      Editing a comment
      Hi Ian

      I very appreciate your post and I have fully followed your guide when created my CV. However, a personal statement is what required the most by sponsoring companies. Is there any page consisting information on an ideal personal statement in this forum or elsewhere that I can have a look?

      Thank you.
    Posting comments is disabled.



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