With the average time spent looking at a CV from an employer being between 5-7 seconds(!) making a quick, lasting impression has never been so necessary.
Ensuring you have a well-formatted, articulate CV is the first step when it comes to looking for your next career move. A strong CV is paramount in aiding you to be noticed as it’s the first impression you make on a potential employer. It is also the make or break between being successful in gaining an interview or being just another rejection to add to the list.
Below are a few tips on how to help your CV stand out.
- Personal Details: Start with your name, professional title, location and contact details. Ensure that your number is up to date if you’re updating your CV – you don’t want to miss out on any calls! If it’s relevant, you could also add a link to your LinkedIn or blog. It is advised not to add a picture of yourself to your CV as your experience should be what draws your potential employer in. Also, if you do include a photo; you’re providing information that shouldn’t contribute to the hiring decision such as appearance, ethnicity etc.
- Personal Profile: This should come next, this should be a short snippet to hold the reader’s attention and should summarise your key skills and convey career aims.
- Core Skills: Bullet point your core skills which you believe will help you stand out from the crowd. These could be a mixture of transferable and niche skills.
- Employment History: Depending on how long it’s been since you’ve been in education, determines whether your education history comes before or after the employment history. If you’ve only recently left education, it would be best to put this first to let the employer know. However, if you’ve been working for a while, put this first with your most recent job posting at the top working your way in reverse chronological order to the first job you had OR the first most relevant position, if you feel that your CV will be especially long; should you include everything.
- Education and Training: Like your employment history, this should start with your most recent and work your way back.
- Languages: If you speak more than one language, make sure to include these and also how proficient of a speaker / writer you are. This way, should there be any roles that require a language speaker, any potential employers can see this information clearly. If you are specifically looking for a language speaking role, it may be worth putting this information within your personal profile as well.
- Interests: Including your interests on a CV is a bit like Marmite – some either love to include or not and it’s the same for employers. If you feel like you have room at the end of your CV, you could use this space to include interests that are relevant to the role. For example, if you’re applying for an Accounting role, you could use your interests section to explain how you attend relevant seminars in your spare time to enhance your knowledge.
1) Pay attention to your personal profile
This is the first thing that potential employers look at when viewing your CV. It needs to be clear, concise and straight to the point, with enough information that the reader can get a feel for who you are and what you do without giving them too much to read – no pressure! Aim for around 100-150 words for this.
Focus on who you are, what you can offer that other people cannot and where you would like to see your career take you (within reason). You also need to make yourself stand out from other applicants, anyone can talk about what they can bring to the company but you need to be able to sell your skills, experience and abilities and need to be able to make these shine. To do this, you could use examples of where these skills have been used and benefited or, a particular moment within your career you feel you provided pivotal help or support.
When taking a look at your CV, be critical of how it looks; almost as if you were a potential employer taking a look at it for the first time.
Does this layout make sense?
Have I made the most of all space available without looking cluttered?
Should I really use that font?
Do I get a clear understanding of what it is I do?
If the answer is no to any of these, try moving things around or changing the text size or font. If you’re struggling with how it looks, there are plenty of free CV templates available online which you could try out.
3) Tailor your CV to each application
There is definitely no such thing as a generic CV, so don’t be lazy and take the ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to applying for your next career move. Just because you know you’ll be great for the role, doesn’t mean the Hiring Manager does. You’ll want to tailor your CV so aspects of what you’ve done marry up with the expectations. You don’t have to re-write the whole CV each time you apply for a new role, but if you’re open to a couple of career avenues it would be worth having two or three versions of your CV that apply more to those chosen.
4) Don’t leave gaps
If you’ve got gaps in your CV, don’t just leave these blank – let the reader know why there’s a gap or what you got up to within this period. Did you have a couple of months of travelling? Let the reader know, should you be lucky enough to secure an interview this could be a great talking point!
Check, check and check again! Poor spelling and grammatical errors can seriously put off future employers from taking you any further in the hiring process. If you’re not certain that you’ve spelt everything correctly, get someone to proofread it for you. There is also a great (free!) Google extension called Grammarly where you can either copy and paste whole documents into to proof and grammar check. Also, if typing on any Google tab; it can also proofread this for you too.
6) Use keywords
If you use niche IT packages within your current role, make sure to include these. If employers are looking for a specific IT package or CRM experience, they will more than likely use this within their searches when looking for CV’s. By ensuring to include these specific keywords, you have more of a chance of someone finding you if your CV is on a job board.
7) Don’t lie
Everyone must lie about their experience on their CV, right? Wrong.
Lying about your education or experience is a big no-no and can lead to serious trouble if found out. Imagine getting all the way to the interview stage and getting quizzed about the information you’ve lied about to then not be able to answer questions and stumble through trying to blag yourself out of the situation – awkward!
8) Finally, don’t give up!
You put all your experience into your CV, get friends and family to proofread and finally get to a stage where you feel that your CV portrays you perfectly, how could they NOT want you? Unfortunately, knockbacks happen. According to Robert Meier, President of Job Market Experts “98% of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening and only the “Top 2%” of candidates make it to the interview”. You have to keep persevering. If you feel like your not getting much response back, take another look and make a couple of tweaks and above all, don’t lose faith in yourself. Take regular intervals applying for positions to give yourself a break as it may just be the current market.