Make your CV stand out - Top 10 Tips
Your CV is your first chance to impress a prospective employer, so the presentation is really important. On average, recruiters only take 8 seconds to decide whether or not to keep a CV, so it has to impress them straightaway.
Your CV is like a shop window; it displays your wares to shoppers as they scoot past. So how do you make them stop? And how do you turn half-hearted window shopping into something more committed? Follow these ten tips to ensure yours stands out from the crowd:
The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. It doesn't need to include every detail and should never be more than 2 pages long (two sides of A4 paper). Remember recruiters spend an average of just 8 seconds reviewing a CV - if you send them an encyclopaedic rundown of your career to date, they won't find the information they want. Keep it punchy, to the point, and save the details for the interview.
Note: If you need to shorten your CV, include only the last five to ten years' experience, or select the qualifications and experience most relevant to the job being advertised. So delete anything that could detract from your application, such as temporary work in a different sector, or unrelated skills. If you've had a series of very similar jobs, avoid repetition by grouping the most relevant workplace skills into your skills section, then just listing employers (or temp agencies) with the dates.
All jobs are different, and so are all employers. Don't send the same CV to different employers. It's important that your CV speaks directly to the job, addresses criteria, and above all else is relevant to the position and employer's needs. Take the time to adapt your CV to suit each individual vacancy. Research the company and use the job advert to find out exactly what the job requires and then tailor the CV so that it focuses more on the skills and experience you have which match the job you are applying for. Think about what you can offer the employer and write your CV from their point of view, working out what you can bring to the role to solve their business problems.
Note: Keep a copy of each CV and where you send it so that you don't forget what you have written when you get to the interview!
For some vacancies, employers receive dozens of applications. They simply don't have time to read them all, so they often weed out poor applications by looking for spelling errors and other obvious mistakes. Don't rely on your computer's spellchecker as they often use American spellings and won't tell you if you have used the wrong word if it is spelled correctly. Always check the CV yourself very carefully and ask someone else to proofread for spelling, grammar and punctuation for you as well - it is easy to overlook your own mistakes.
It's OK to highlight your good points and play down your bad points on a CV, but don't tell lies - especially about qualifications or work experience. Employers are likely to check the facts or you may get caught out at the interview stage, so if they think you have lied you will stand absolutely no chance of getting the job. Even with things like hobbies and interests, it's best not to lie or exaggerate on your CV - it will be embarrassing if they start asking you about it at the interview if you're not able to answer - just be honest!
Gaps make recruiters suspicious - if they spot something's missing, they're unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you've been out of work, put a positive spin on it - For example, you may have spent the time developing new skills, travelling around the world, doing practical courses, care work for an elderly relative etc.
Don't just write a long list of what you have done. Make life easier for the employer by highlighting the important parts. Provide concrete examples to prove your qualities. Show what you've accomplished and focus on career successes rather than job descriptions. Find examples where you took action to solve a problem, and describe the results of this action. Did you increase sales or win new business? Cut costs or save money?
Note: back up your achievements with numbers and figures to quantify your impact. For example when writing your work history, don't just tell the recruiter you increased sales; tell them you increased sales by 70% over a six month period. Action verbs such as 'increase', 'expand', 'manage' or 'deliver' create powerful images which sell your results.
Don't assume a recruiter will see the connection between your experience and the job: use a brief and strong personal statement or profile that highlights the very best of your abilities and how this makes you the ideal candidate for the job. But remember it is not a wish list and should be backed up by evidence further on in your CV.
You should update your CV regularly, regardless of whether you're actively jobseeking. Every time something significant occurs in your career, record it so nothing slips through the memory sieve.
Spend some time formatting your CV. Make it easy for the employer to see you as a strong candidate by putting key information in the top half of the first page or first page. Use bullet points and keep sentences short. Leave plenty of white space around text to make sure the layout is easy on the eye. The CV must be typed, not handwritten, using only one easy to read font like Arial. Avoid lots of colours and different type styles - keep it clear, simple and consistent! It should look clean and tidy with no frills. If you are printing and posting your CV, stick to good quality white paper.
It's important you include appropriate terms and buzzwords used in job advert or person specification, these not only help align your skills and experience to the job requirements, but will also ensure that your CV is picked up in databases that recruiters will use to filter CVs when searching for candidates.
Note: however be careful with abbreviations, acronyms, slang phrases and other things that the interviewer may not understand. Remember that the person reading your CV will often be a Human Resources Manager who deals with many job applications - but is not an expert in your particular field.