This is probably the question I get asked the most.
And quite rightly too.
Large organisations in particular often use Application Tracking Software, so the CV is often the only thing a recruiter will see. And with time at a premium, the recruiter may spend just 1-2 minutes scanning a CV for key words or phrases, so you need to stand out.
And don’t stop reading now just because you’ve been in employment for years and think your CV is nailed.
There are a number of growing external factors that influence what employers expect to see on a CV that wouldn’t have been included a decade ago. These include your LinkedIn profile URL. A link to your personal blog site if you have one. Or your digital portfolio perhaps.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
As there’s a lot to cover, I have broken it down into five key areas – outlined below. Follow these when you create or update your CV and you’ll be well on the road to a fantastic first impression.
1. What to include (the CV should follow this order)
Contact information. Your full name, postal address, email address and phone number. You do not need to include a picture, your date of birth or marital status. And don’t include your references – the recruiter can call and ask for these when the time is right. But you can include testimonials from previous employers or clients – this is a nice touch and allows the recruiter to get an idea of the kind of person you are.
Your elevator pitch. Don’t just list what you’ve done – write why are you applying for the job and what’s in it for your employer. Relate any experience to the role you are applying for, and highlight any relevant skills such as marketing automation or Prince 2 etc. so that it really stands out. Be modest but positive.
Include your education from GCSE up. And remember to add any industry certifications and additional diplomas achieved during university and beyond.
Relevant job history, of course. Consolidate experience from your early years. Employers are interested in what is relevant to the role you are applying for – they won’t be interested in the part-time job you had 15 years ago!
Personal interests – just a little something about what you like to do outside of work – hobbies and activities – so the employer can get more of a feel for the type of person you are.
2. Focus on your highlights
Pull out your best achievements and successes rather than list every responsibility you have had in previous roles. Generally, for example, an Account Director’s responsibilities are often the same across the board. Just highlight what you’ve achieved and what you’re most proud of. But be sure to include metrics to prove your success – talk about the revenue you have managed, client wins and percentage increases in revenue owned for example.
3. Keep it concise
With the best will in the world, employers are busy people. Whether they are dedicated Personnel Managers or the head of a department, they’ll likely be keeping a lot of plates spinning. So, keep your CV short. A guide that never fails is two sides of A4 – or you can be even more creative and produce a digital CV to help you stand out – you can view an example here. Each section should be a summary – particularly education and grades, and previous employment. Just draw out the highlights and use bullet points. And keep it relevant! Anything that’s not going to add any value to the position you’re applying for should be removed.
4. And make it easy to read…
For the same reasons as above, keep sentences short. Use paragraph breaks to make the text easier to digest. Use bold headlines and bullet points. Avoid jargon – especially phrases that may only be used in your current company. And use a tone that is professional, natural and straightforward. Lastly, tell a story that’s easy to follow – so list things in chronological order and if you had separate roles within the same company, separate them out.
5. Don’t rely on spellcheck!
It may not always pick up when you have typed a word wrong, or incorrect company names. A rushed and miss-spelt ‘marketing’ could quickly be auto-corrected to ‘marking’ for example. Check your own CV carefully a few times over. Read a line at a time and reading from the end of the document backwards can make it easier to pick up typos too. But it’s also worth getting a reliable friend who is good at English to take a second look if you can.
I always work closely with all of my candidates to make sure their CVs are the strongest they can be. But if you have any questions or would like a professional review of your CV, then drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll call you back or tweet me @jo_wassell
P.S. Why not get start preparing for the interview once your CV is all sorted? Here’s 7 tips to help you prepare for an intervew