Top CV Tips
Everyone has their own way of putting together a C.V. but there are some essential do’s and don’ts which every good candidate should be aware of.
Writing a good C.V. is more than just the amalgamation of your working history and potential employees need to be able to get the grasp of the real you that they will be employing. Check out the articles for more help…
1. Show what makes you unique
For every job you apply for you could be up against hundreds of other candidates so you need to make sure you stand out. Employers don’t just buy skills, they buy solutions, so show how can you make the company money and how can you resolve the problems that they have.
When a company is determining how to advertise their products to consumers, they focus on its unique selling points – the things which make the product different from any other. It may be that it is smaller, lasts longer or tastes better than its competitors. The same principle applies to you when you are applying for a new job.
You need to think about your unique selling points (USPs). What is the one reason that an employer should hire you above all other candidates? What can you bring that is unique or added value to the position/company? What skills and experience do you have that will meet their needs?
Employers can receive hundreds of applications for each vacancy, so it is important that you make your application stand out and get short listed for an interview.
Here are a few ways to help you to identify your USPs.
What are your skills?
Put yourself in the shoes of your clients or colleagues. The image that you have of yourself may differ from the image that you project and you may find that a skill that you excel at but consider to be routine, is highly regarded and desired by others.
What’s your benefit?
But employers don’t just buy skills. They buy solutions. So how can you make the company money, how can you save the company money and how can you resolve the problems that they have?
For instance, perhaps you are a project manager with a number of skills including software, hardware and management. Great! But that alone won’t help you to stand out from every other project manager applying for the same position who has the same skills.
By thinking in more depth about your skills and abilities, you may realise that you are especially proficient at solving complex problems. So your USP is something along the lines of:
“Seasoned project manager who excels at identifying and solving problems“
Add strength to your skills
However, that is simply a feature. Now a benefit needs to be added to this USP.
Sticking to the project manager example, calculate how much money you have generated or saved your organisation during your employment. In this scenario, you may have saved your employer money while working on product implementation. Your USP thus becomes:
“Seasoned project manager who excels at identifying and solving problems and has saved my employer more than £300,000 while completing in excess of £1 million worth of projects during the past 3 years.”
Now the employer can see that they will get return on their investment if they hire you.
Think about what the needs are of the employer and how you can provide the solution. Don’t list your USPs; sell them by demonstrating your experience or success – anyone can have ‘strong organisational skills’, but not everyone can give examples of instances when they have successfully implemented these attributes.
2. Keep it error free
It’s deceptively easy to make mistakes on your CV and exceptionally difficult to repair the damage once an employer gets it. As well as checking your spelling and grammar, make sure your employment dates match up and that you’ve provided the right phone number and email address.
Ensuring that your C.V. is error free is easier said than done but by following a few simple steps you can avoid falling into the classic traps…
Using fluffy lines like “Seeking a challenging position that offers professional growth.” doesn’t really give your reader anything to go on. Give them something specific that focuses on their company’s needs as well as your own. “I’m looking for a challenging entry-level Marketing position that allows me to contribute my skills and experience to fundraising for a Charity.”
Breaking the two-page rule
2 pages of A4 is more than enough room to persuade your potential employer that you’re worth contacting for an interview. They’re busy people and don’t have time to read five or six pages of your career history. Use lots of white space to make it easy to read, make all your sections stand out clearly and only include information that will get you the job. Less is often more.
Unless you’re going for a design role, layout should always be second stage to the content of your CV. If your CV is wall-to-wall text featuring five different fonts styles and sizes you’ll give the reader a headache. Black and white text on a clean design is all you need, so don’t overdo it. Show your CV to several other people before sending it out to check they don’t turn their heads in disgust.
Spelling and grammar
Even in roles where writing is not necessarily a key skill, poor writing shows a lack of care, which no Manager will want in their team. Never trust a computer’s spell checker and always get someone else to read through your CV to spot any errors that you may have overlooked. Grammar can be tweaked by reading a piece out loud – if it doesn’t sound correct, then it probably won’t read very well.
Whenever you try to develop a one-size-fits-all CV to apply for lots of vacancies, you almost always end up with something employers will ignore. Each employer is looking for a CV and cover letter that applies to their role and as all roles are different, you should make small adaptations so that it matches their specific requirements. Show that you understand what it is they want you to do.
Highlighting duties Instead of achievements
Rather than copying the responsibilities from your old job descriptions, try and find ways to show what you actually achieved whilst you were there. Not all roles have KPIs that are quantifiable, but no company would have employed you to just sit there – you must have had some impact in the business. Think of time-saving activities, new procedures, successful campaigns and increased sales, giving percentage increases wherever possible.
Writing lots, but saying nothing
Why use 20 words when 5 would do? Employers aren’t looking for you to explain everything you’ve ever done, just a few of the key elements that will persuade them you can do the job. Grab their attention with bullet points rather than long sprawling sentences.
Leaving out information
Whether it’s by choice or just forgetfulness, some people leave previous jobs off their CV meaning a gap in employment. It’s better to not let your employer guess what you were up to as they will always think the worst. Even if you weren’t working, there may have been transferable skills you picked up that will help your chances.
“Good communicator“, “Works well in a team“, “Committed” – without any hard evidence of these you might as well write “Blah, blah, blah“. If you’ve worded the achievements in the rest of your CV well, the fact that you have these skills will already be evident. If you feel you must use these phrases, at least try to link it to something you’ve done such as “Used my communication skills to build and retain a substantial client base.”
Incorrect personal details
Not getting any calls despite your perfect CV? There may be a very simple reason for that – you’ve written down the wrong phone number! This is less of a problem now email is the common form of communication, but check your .com isn’t a .co.uk and your address isn’t the flat you used to live in. On the subject of emails, if you have a ‘jokey’ address such as ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’, be sure to use a more professional one on your CV.
3.Choose a clear layout
Employers spend around 20 to 30 seconds scanning your CV so it needs to remain clutter-free and easy to read. The last thing a recruiter wants to do is to go hunting for the information that they are looking for so don’t hide it amongst an array of elaborate graphics.
There are a few schools of thought suggesting you should shy away from an arty or funky design that may distract employers from the content of your CV in favour of a more conservative and clean format. But, you can have both, albeit with a bias to the conservative style.
Employers spend around 20 to 30 seconds scanning your CV so it needs to remain clutter-free and easy to read. The last thing a recruiter wants to do is to go hunting for the information that they are looking for and struggle to find it amongst the array of elaborate graphics.
Therefore, taking the graphics out of the equation, the one element that you have at your disposal is your CV’s typography.
The first opportunity you have to be conservatively creative is the way that you display your name. This should be the only time that you can be slightly flamboyant and add flair to your CV. Mistral and Copperplate are two of the preferred fonts that enable your name to stand out amongst the traditional Times New Roman style employed by 99.9 per cent of job applicants.
Try to use clear differentiators for each part of your CV – a simple line brakes the page up neatly and allows the reader to find specific areas quickly and easily.
For each section heading, use bold and contrasting text from the main body text. For example, use Helvetica for the title of the section and use Times New Roman for the subsequent text.
When deciding upon your choice of font, be mindful that some computers may not have the same capabilities as yours and, as such, the text you use may be substituted for a different font that could alter the entire look and feel of the original document.
Keep your CV to a maximum of two pages, anything more than that and it starts to resemble a chapter from War & Peace ; worse still, an employer is likely to throw it away without even looking at it.
And, ensure that the layout of your CV remains constant throughout and avoid trying to cram as much information as possible onto two pages. Employers don’t want – nor do they have the time – to strain their eyes reading your details because of a poor choice of text size or font.
Follow a story
Finally, your CV is a working document that has a beginning, middle and an end so it needs to follow a logical structure and keep the same theme throughout. Keep your eye on the detail of your CV. If it is cluttered, the text is too big or small or the appearance is inconsistent, your chance of getting invited to attend an interview and dramatically reduced.
4. Tailor your CV to your audience
It may sound like a time consuming process, but making the effort to tailor your CV to suit the requirements of each particular job that you are applying for can greatly increase your chances of securing an interview.
It may sound time consuming but by tailoring certain aspects of your C.V. to suit the job your looking for can seriously increase your chance of success.
The following are the key areas:
Preparing your CV
Your consultant needs an up to date resumé to help you find the most suitable temp job. Keeping your consultant up to date with new skills, systems knowledge and qualifications you may have gained is essential and your CV should reflect this.
If you are in the process of rejuvenating your CV, your consultant can help you to tailor the presentation and content of your CV to the temp market, focusing more on technical skills, flexibility, availability and your ability to fit in with the existing team.
If you want to make a start on your own, try to do the following:
Make sure your CV is not too ‘diverse’
Even if you’ve been a soup cook on a Vietnamese trawler remember that the skills probably aren’t transferable. You want to list work experience that is relevant to the jobs you’re applying for. And if you can group similar placements under one heading, putting your best assignments first, all the better.
Emphasise your Temp credentials
Adaptable, flexible, quick to learn; temps must consistently exhibit a judicious mix of hard and soft skills. Showcase yours in a career summary at the top of your CV so that employers are sold on you from the outset.
Make your CV stand out from the crowd
Don’t just list your job skills, describe what you’ve achieved applying these skills in the workplace. List major accomplishments for each assignment, using the STAR technique as a template; describe the Situation, the Task required as a result, the Action you took and the Result of that action.
You have read the requirements of the advertised position and understand what qualities the recruiter is looking for in a candidate. Sum up your unique selling points and, in a brief sentence, state your accomplishments and how these will help you succeed in the job you are applying for.
If you are applying for a managerial position but have never previously worked as manager, emphasise that your previous roles involved considerable responsibility and decision-making duties such as delegation, chairing meetings, training staff, etc.
If a separate role is more of a sideways step, you may want to focus more on innovative ways you have achieved success in the role to show your competency. Make it clear that whatever it is they want, you’re able to fulfil their needs.
Presumably most of the roles you’re after will have a similar set of skills, but that doesn’t mean you should leave this section alone. Think how easy it would be for a recruiter to see that you’re suitable if the skills you demonstrate are in the same order that have on their job description.
Hobbies and Interests
Most job advertisements stipulate certain personality traits required for positions, so identify what they are and see how your hobbies can relate to the requirements.
If you are applying for a senior position, then the fact that you captained your football team and ran training sessions will demonstrate your leadership and organisational ability. If you are seeking a position as a designer, then make reference to the exhibitions that you attend or are actively involved in and the designers that you admire.
If you want to position yourself as one of the strongest candidates for the job, it is worth doing your homework on the company that you are applying to. Their job advert will provide you with a glimpse of what the company is like, but you can find valuable information on their corporate website that will help you to understand what they may be looking for in a job applicant. Try and make the way your CV comes across match their company ethos.
5. Keep your CV up-to-date
When you put together a CV it’s often difficulty remembering the projects you have been involved with and the achievements you have made. To avoid missing important pieces of information out, revisit your CV every month adding anything of importance, and cutting any information that is no longer required.
How often have you tried to put together a CV and had difficulty remembering the details of previous jobs? It’s not just the dates of employment that you’ll forget – tasks, projects and courses you were involved with are easily overlooked.
You obviously don’t want to be redesigning your CV to incorporate every minor thing you do, but adding a quick bullet point when you think you’re done something impressive or developed a new skill will allow you to retain the important information easily.
As you develop in your career, it’s too easy to fall into the trap of simply adding your most recent job to your CV without considering how your experiences in past jobs may attract potential employers. You will have a much better idea now than when you originally wrote your CV of the sort of things employers are looking for, so tweak it accordingly to create a better first impression.
Always be aware of what employers are looking for, and translate your experiences and achievements into a language that will have an impact. For example, if you previously worked as an office junior, you weren’t just “doing the filing”; you were “contributing to the day-to-day efficiency of the company”.
You might have added significantly to your people skills, where previously your CV was more angled towards your qualifications. As your experience develops, it’s important to ensure that the balance of your CV presents the best reflection of the person you are now, the skills you have acquired or enhanced, and your potential value to a new employer.
Be willing to get harsh with the information already on your CV, and hack away the deadwood. As a general rule, if something is not actively adding value to your CV, it’s almost certainly diminishing its impact. Be ruthless to make sure you are selling yourself as well as you possibly can.
If you’re quite far into your career and think it’s too late to get back the memories of things you did, try to get in touch with old managers to see if their recollection is any better than yours. Getting back in touch with them may also uncover an unexpected job opportunity.
How to get on the radar of potential employers
Just because you’re comfortable where you are, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to start job seeking at a moment notice. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes things happen that are out of our control.
Once you’re happy with how your CV looks and how relevant it is to your current situation, post it on job websites and send it to companies or organisations you’d like to work for on a speculative basis. This should be done at least every couple of months, or every time you’ve done something of major significance.
When you post your CV on Monster, you’re automatically shifted to the top of the list so companies searching for someone with your skills will be able to find you easily. You can block certain companies from seeing your details so you can be assured your current employer won’t stumble across your CV.
You never know when it’s going to hit the desk at just the right time, and it never hurts to show a company you are interested in them. The more creative and proactive you are in getting your CV out there, the better your chance of catching your next employer’s eye. They may add you to a talent pool of candidates if they don’t currently have a position available.