Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, it’s good practice to update your CV once a year for the simple reason it’s a great exercise to help evaluate successes, achievements and progress over the past 12 months.
However, once you’ve made that decision to enter the job market, it’s essential your CV is honed and ready to impress. An out of date CV will set the wrong tone from the start.
No matter how brilliant you are, a poorly written CV seriously impacts your ability to get through the initial sifting process, whether this is being conducted a recruitment consultant or internal recruiter in an HR team.
We always liken the CV to a shop window – it’s supposed to capture interest and create a desire to find out more. Chances are your CV will be one of many being considered for a role and a well constructed CV will immediately demonstrate what you’re about and make a real impact from the outset.
As you’d expect, we see the good, bad and ugly on a daily basis. We’ve covered some serious CV faux pas in a separate post, so here are our top tips on how to ensure your CV gets the attention it deserves.
Keep it clear and concise at all times – ideally to two or three pages. The majority of your CV should be in compelling bullet points which clearly demonstrate your achievements. It’s the easiest way of summarising all the reasons you should be considered in a clearly laid out and digestible way. If hiring managers are bombarded with too much copy or poor formatting they’ll quickly lose interest, which is obviously counter-productive.
Avoid over designing your CV too – if you’re a designer then by all means showcase your layout and typography skills, but never do this at the expense of the actual content. Substance always beats style.
This is your chance to introduce yourself as a person and why the reader should want to meet you. Think of the profile as your opportunity to briefly summarise your key skills and achievements, something that makes the reader want to read on. Don’t bother with superfluous statements and over used buzzwords such as “I’m looking for a new challenge in…” – it’s obvious and wastes space that could be used far better.
Give the reader a feel for your personality but don’t overdo it - just because you think its quirky doesn’t mean they will.
Employer name, job title and dates are all important here but full postal addresses, company history, size and so on really aren’t – they just take up unnecessary space. Remember, potential employers are more interested in you and what you’ve achieved.
Key skills and responsibilities are of course important, but you must demonstrate what you’ve achieved in addition to what you can do. You need to prove to potential employers that you’ll be able to add real value to their business.
Numbers speak volumes especially for PRs and marketers – by combining achievements with specific figures, your CV instantly stands out from all the dull, lacklustre lists of responsibilities a lot of your competition will be writing. It matters for designers and creatives too – other than looking nice, what did your work (ad, re-brand etc.) achieve for your client/company?
Think about how your work has helped increase sales for clients, drive engagement or whatever the metric was… in marketing terms, show that you understand the ROI your work delivered. Specific achievements will vary depending on what it is you do but should always leave the reader wanting to know more about how you did it.
Try to summarise each role in no more than 5-8 bullet points and always start with an achievement/accomplishment, rather than a responsibility. You don’t want your CV to sound like a regurgitated job spec. Starting your bullets with action oriented verbs like managed, developed, delivered, created, increased, all help achieve this.
Employers will be keen to see academic and professional qualifications but these will always be secondary to experience. Keep qualifications short and sweet.
Hobbies & Interests
Show you’ve got a life outside of work. This section is always a nice opportunity to show off a bit of your personality and often helps set candidates apart.
Avoid the obvious clichés such as “socialising with friends” or “going to the cinema” - most of us like doing that. Instead mention what types of film you like, or where you’ve travelled, marathons you’ve run… basically make your interests interesting.