Your CV should be a concise, factual account of your education, experiences and skills that make you the perfect candidate. It is a key piece of your marketing material, which along with your cover letter, will promote you to the organisation in the same way that a product advertisement highlights features and benefits to you as the customer.
With estimates suggesting employers spend < 30 seconds reviewing your CV, like an advert it’s important the message is clear and they can quickly see you are a strong candidate who meets their criteria. So your CV will either persuade a recruiter to put you through to the next stage of the selection process or it will quickly consign you to the “Reject” pile.
There are a number of things you can do to make sure your CV is read and really sells you in
the best possible light.
Your CV needs to look good and be easy to read
If it looks professional, well organised and tidy, you are already on the right track!
1. There are a number of CV templates available and, while these can give you ideas, it’s important to make the CV unique to you. A cut and paste effort will be immediately visible to an experienced recruiter.
2. Make it visually appealing, which means clear and readable type fonts. If it is too small, it just won’t be read. Ensure that the margins and paragraphs provide white space. There’s nothing more exhausting for the reader than being faced with a two-page CV that has been squeezed onto one page by minaturising the whole thing!
3. Try adding a line to break up the information under Education, Work Experience etc. and keep the structure simple and clean, clearly signposting the different sections.
4. Ensure that your dates are aligned, are on the same line as the name of the organisation or education establishment, and are preferably justified to the right margin to make it easy to read across to see when and how long you were there.
5. And it goes without saying that you should check spelling and grammar again and again, until you are 100 % certain that it is correct.
Your CV needs to be tailored to the role and the organisation
Does this mean you need to amend it for each application? Well, the answer is of course “ Yes”!
1. Start by doing your research and ensure you know about the role, the organisation and the sector. Read the job description and person specification thoroughly and jot down key skills, knowledge or experiences that are mentioned as “essential” or “desirable”, so you can reflect these in your CV. Spend some quality time reviewing their web site to get a feel for the language they use and their organisational culture. Keep updated with relevant sector news, sign up to email alerts or RSS feeds, follow the employer on social media sites, attend employer presentations and speak to them at careers events.
2. Once you have done your research and know what they want, you can describe your education, work experience, extra-curricula activities, voluntary positions and internship experiences to show you meet the requirements and to demonstrate your relevant transferable skills. Use their language and style if you can, but beware copying chunks of text from their web site.
3. You may want to avoid the standard headings of Education, Work Experience, Voluntary Experience and Extra-curricula Experience, to bring together specific relevant experiences from your background. For example, if the employer is looking for “research” or “finance” experience you may want to have a heading specifically highlighting the “Research” you have done, or group together all your finance related activities under a “Finance Experience “ heading.
4. Try to avoid waffle or generic clichés such as “Hard-working team player.” “Innovative forward thinker.” Instead prove that you are hard working by describing a piece of work that demonstrates your motivation to go beyond what is expected, or explain your role in a specific team achievement.
5. Avoid unexplained jargon too, if you want the recruiter to understand what you mean.
Your CV needs to have impact
As with any product an organisation will only pay for you if you deliver value or results!
1. Use positive, strong action orientated verbs at the start of bullet points. Where possible use the past tense to show you have the required skills for the role and have actually achieved a demonstrable outcome or result. For example, if the employer is looking for communication skills, begin your sentence/bullet point with the action verb ‘communicated’. If they are looking for liaison skills use ‘liaised’. If they need leadership skills, use ‘led’.
2. Think about the things your have done that made you proud, or that really made a difference, or had a specific impact, and make sure these clearly stand out in your CV.
3. Quantify results, outcomes or inputs if you can. E.g. How many students did you mentor? How much money did you raise? What was the impact of your efforts on a specific project such as “Engaged stakeholders from across the organisation to design and implement an improved Customer Relationship Management process that resulted in a 30 % increase in sales enquiries”
“Stress test” your CV to see if it works
Share your CV with colleagues or family and ask them these questions!
1. Is it a true picture of you?
2. Does it show your transferable skills through your experience
3. Has it emphasised the knowledge you have gained throughout your education
4. Does it sell your strengths, qualities and achievements?