There are a lot of articles offering CV advice in the market, but after 18 years in the recruitment business and seeing thousands of CVs, I felt it was time to share my advice on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd.
The purpose of a CV
You have found your dream job, you are desperate to be called for interview but ultimately what is the purpose of your CV?
Simply put, it is made up of what I like to call the ‘Five I’s’:
- Introduce – who are you, how can I contact you?
- Impress – what do I need to know about you that will make me want to see you?
- Inform – back up your impressive experience with facts
- Interest – what makes you different to everyone else?
- Interview – make your CV secure that interview that you want
Format – this really can make a difference
As a hiring manager, you can be inundated with CVs for one job. Being sent a CV in a difficult format to open or to read can be the difference between your CV being read or not.
The best formats to send your CV in are in a Word or PDF document. These are easy to send via email, easy to open and easy to read.
There is no need for War and Peace, a simple two-page document with your contact details, experience and who you are, really will suffice – there are no brownie points for extra pages. A hiring manager will not thank you for extra reading.
The font you use needs to be clear and easy to read – even if you are applying for a creative role. A fancy, difficult to read font will not help your application. Clear, standard fonts such as Arial or Calibri really are the best.
Don’t forget to use spaces, paragraphs and bullet points as well as clear language, punctuation and grammar.
You might feel like you are at school again but a well-formatted CV will really set you apart at the application stage.
Contact Details – Make it easy to contact you
You might be surprised to hear how many applications that can come through that are missing a key contact information item like a telephone number. If a hiring manager is interested in your CV – they will want to contact you. Make it easy for them.
If you have an unprofessional email like email@example.com – change it! You really don't want this to be the first impression of you.
If you decide to include any links to your social media, seriously consider checking what you have posted, the images that are included and if this is something you want your potential employer to see. If in doubt, don’t include in your application.
Personal Statement – tailor to every job
A concise personal statement can say a lot about you and can be a real attention grabber. Ensure you tailor it to every job you apply for. I have seen many applications come through with personal statements ‘Looking to further their career…’ in a completely irrelevant occupation.
Tailoring your personal statement shows care, consideration and thought and could really make you stand out.
Limit your education history to your highest achievements and those that are relevant to your application. You might be very proud of your GCSE results but if you are applying for a job that is asking for a Master’s degree, make sure that this is the star of the show in your CV, not your GCSE in an irrelevant subject.
Employers are interested in paid and voluntary work experience. Keep roles and responsibilities brief and relevant to the application. Sell your skills and achievements – be proud of what you have achieved.
If you haven’t quite got the experience, think about how you can sell transferrable skills to prove you can do the job.
Employers like to hear what you are interested in but try and avoid the clichés ‘socialising with friends, reading, keeping fit, etc.’ If you mention a personal interest, be prepared to talk about it as some employers really want to hear about you as a person and they will use this to spark conversation.
If you put yourself down as a chess expert – remember they might be too. Don’t try and add interests that you really have no interest in.
Consider any personal interests that show transferrable skills and qualities that are important for the job. If the job asks for a team player, do you have a personal interest that shows you are a part of a team? Taking part in competitions in your personal time shows determination and competitiveness – these are great qualities to portray for a sales role. If they are looking for a leader, do you lead a team in a sport or in a local group?
Sell NOT tell – make it an interesting read that sells you, your strengths and your potential. A hiring manager could have 50 other CVs to read (sometimes more) keep their interest, make them remember you.
Try to tailor your CV to each job you apply for – this is really impressive for the CV reader and shows the enthusiasm for the role when it has been adjusted to fit the job description and role.
If you have any gaps in your employment history, explain them. Employers are people and understand things happen. If you leave a gap, however, they will have to make their own decision on what the gap was for.
Before you press send
You are excited to send your CV to that dream job, but stop! Simply taking 30 seconds to scan through your CV, checking for spelling and grammar can make all the difference.
Ask yourself the five ‘I’s I started with:
- Introduce – can they contact you?
- Impress – what will impress them?
- Inform – have you backed up your statements with facts?
- Interest – does your CV stand out – for all the right reasons?
- Interview – would you want to interview you?