This blog is a space for me to write about the things I’m thinking about. Over the past month, there has only been one question on my mind – how do I write a sparkling CV? My job is to market products and services through writing, but ironically when it comes to penning words about myself I am always completely stumped!
Your CV is arguably one of the most important documents you will ever produce, and yet it is one of the most difficult to get right. It needs to look professional, be easy to read and show off the best of the skills and experience you have accumulated over the course of your career; otherwise you’re selling yourself short. Here, take my golden advice, hot off the press (oooh, aren’t you lucky)…
Get the basics right!
Everyone approaches CV writing in a slightly different way, but there are some common sections that you won’t get very far without including. Make sure you’ve ticked off the essential parts that make up a detailed CV: personal statement, contact information, education and qualifications, work history and experience, achievements, relevant skills and hobbies, and references.
There are plenty of free templates online that can help you to structure your CV in an accessible way, so there is no excuse for poor formatting. Keep it simple and order your CV in a logical manner – your name and contact details should be the first thing the recruiter sees. You might consider bullet pointed lists and short sentences to make your CV easy for recruiters to scan for key skills. And remember – it is good practice, and easier in the long run, to review your CV regularly, ensuring you are adding any new work history that may be relevant in future job hunts.
Avoid the predictable!
Let me guess, you’re a hardworking, motivated individual that works well within a team? There are plenty of tired buzzwords that HR managers will be sick and tired of seeing over and over again! Anyone can write ‘enthusiastic’ or ‘organised’, but the experience, qualifications and achievements listed in your CV should really make these attributes self-evident!
There’s no use in simply printing your day-to-day responsibilities onto a page – it’s time to sell yourself! Think about what you’re proud of having achieved at work, or something you have done that has had a positive impact on company objectives. Showcase periods where ideas were created and targets exceeded, because explaining how you have contributed positively to a business is a more effective way to demonstrate your skills and expertise.
Your CV is supposed to help you form your future; it is not a place to dwell on bitterness or negativity. Avoid criticising past or present employers, and do not mention any difficult periods in your career history. Stay positive, always!
At the end of the day, your CV is a sales document that will be up for judgement each and every time it is submitted. If you can’t be on your own side, how can you expect others to be? Your CV is your opportunity to show recruiters what you have to offer, so don’t downplay your achievements or experience. Whilst your CV is not the place for lies, it isn’t the place for modesty either. You need to show faith in yourself before any employer will.
Check, check and check again!
For certain positions, you could be one of 100’s of applicants. When faced with so much competition, you really need to go the extra mile to make sure your CV is free of silly mistakes. It could be the difference between receiving an interview and receiving a rejection letter!
If you’ve spent a lot of time looking at and working on the same piece of writing, it can become harder to recognise any silly mistakes you’ve made. This is where your family and friends come in – hand over your CV to someone else to give it a quick read, check for any errors and provide any feedback.
Before sending in your CV, make sure it is free of sweeping generalisations that are difficult to back up. Check your CV and make sure that you can confidently explain each claim you have made about yourself or your performance before sending. It can be tempting to stretch the truth or embellish your achievements, but you’ll only end up being caught out when an employer checks your background and references later down the line! The last thing you want to do is secure an interview, only to be asked about something you have falsely claimed to understand. You’re wasting the employers time and your own this way, so keep it honest!
It’s a CV, not a novel!
You might be keen to cram in as much of your work history as possible, but less is usually more. There’s no need to list job roles from 20+ years ago for five pages. If your employment history dates back a long time, then you have the advantage of being able to select what is most relevant to the job you’re applying for – make sure you get it right! The general rule is that your CV should be no longer than 2 pages, unless you’re applying for a high level role.
Along with irrelevant work experience, you may want to ditch the thesaurus. It’s important to demonstrate professionalism in your CV, and your language can go a long way towards achieving this. But overusing long words and technical jargon can sometimes have the opposite effect. Stay on the safe side and stick to what you know.
While we’re at it, ditch the less-than-professional email address. I’m looking at you,email@example.com! (And you in the back, firstname.lastname@example.org!) Silly email addresses may raise eyebrows and give everyone a giggle, but it won’t do much for your long term employability prospects. It only takes a few minutes to create a new, more appropriate email address – and it’s free. Get on it!
Finally, it goes without saying, but comic sans isn’t acceptable in any context! Unless you’re applying for a job in the creative industries, eccentric designs, stylistic fonts and bright colours are often unnecessary.
It’s your CV, not your Instagram account!
Unless you’re seeking work in modelling or acting, the recruiter doesn’t need to see what you look like and it may actually hinder your application for them to do so. Judging by appearances is basic human nature – we shouldn’t do it but we do. So including a photo of yourself is going to create an immediate first impression on the recruiter that they will not be able to ignore. Don’t take that risk – put the selfies away!
You’re applying for a job, not a new follower. Unless you’re applying for a job in social media marketing or the like, social media links aren’t going to prove relevant or useful to a recruiter. If anything, drawing attention to your opinionated blogs, gym selfies and drunken tweets will encourage unhelpful judgements about your character. The only useful social media channel to include may be your LinkedIn profile.
Make the most out of interests and hobbies!
Describing your love of origami in extensive detail may not be the best approach to take on your CV when applying for a job in finance. Make sure you’re listing the interests that show off relevant skills and knowledge, rather than passive hobbies that are irrelevant to the job. For example, you might have managed your school newspaper or coached your local football team. Hobbies that demonstrate leadership and responsibility are even better!
Optimise and tailor your CV!
When you apply for a role online, more often than not your CV will be scanned by software before human eyes ever see it. Recruiters will use keywords to scan CVs for particular skills, experience and qualifications. Think about the words that may be used for the job you’re applying for (the job description will help!) and include these words in your application where you can.
In addition; it might seem obvious, but don’t rely on one CV! Tailoring your application to each job role will go a long way in showing employer you have a good understanding of the role in question and have made the extra effort to impress. And they don’t have to be big changes – try rearranging your work history for each job, to make sure that the first thing recruiters see on your CV is what is most relevant to them! Additionally – research the company! Understanding the values, objectives and goals of the company you are applying to work for will help you tailor your CV to their requirements more effectively.
Don’t be disheartened!
You might find that you CV is failing to be shortlisted. If this is the case, don’t give up! It may be worth speaking to a careers advisor, or getting in contact with the recruiters in question to ask for tips and advice. Seeking constructive feedback is the quickest way to make improvements to your work.
You’re not the first person to be writing a CV, and you certainly won’t be the last. There’s nothing wrong with taking a look at how other people have approached their CV. Reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of other peoples’ CVs can help you identify what you need to add or improve in your own.