When drafting your CV it is very difficult to get the layout, content, design and theme perfect. To be honest, there is no right or wrong way to do a CV as a CV could be tailored for varying recipients, positions and industries. Essentially, you are playing to your audience. Having said that, there are some key aspects of every CV which must be taken on board whether drafting your CV from scratch or revamping your existing CV.
The key elements which must be present in all CV’s are personal contact details, educational details, experience, achievements, additional skills and references. Outside of these common necessities, we have put a few tips together to help you increase the likelihood of your CV standing out from the rest and even get that interview.
- Get the basics right!
Grammar! Grammar! Grammar! Cannot stress this enough. Read your CV at least three times before getting someone else to give it a proof read also. The content may be strong and the layout very good but a spelling error will take away from all that. It will give the impression that you are lazy.
- Stick to 2 pages (Max 3)
As your CV is likely to be in a pile of hundreds nowadays, it is important that you keep your CV concise and not have the reader trawling through pages upon pages for the information they are looking for. You want the reader to have a good impression of your CV and having it condensed to two pages is one way of doing that.
- Tailor your CV
This can be a frustrating task if sending out countless CV’s per week, however it is probably the most exercise you can do to increase your chances of getting that interview. You must read the job advert, the job description and person specification (if available) and use these to identify what are the key skills and characteristics the reader will be looking for in your CV. Make sure you highlight these skills in your CV where possible and adapt your experience and attributes to make up for the criteria you may not possess.
- Understand ‘Interests’
When detailing your interests and hobbies outside of work, be careful how these may make you appear to a reader, remember they will not be able to pick up from your voice trajectory, body language, etc what your personality is like so this section of the CV is a small chance for the reader to see your personal side. Try to avoid solitary interests such as ‘watching TV’ as this may make the reader feel as though you lack in people skills. Where possible, try to include interests that involve social interaction and require interpersonal skills, such as manager of local underage team, involved in local theatre group, volunteering, etc.
- Embrace the bullet points!
While you may have plenty of strengths you want to relay to the reader, you must be wary of the common pitfall of information overload. Use bullet points and keep the information concise and relevant. This will allow for more ‘white space’ on your CV, making it easier on the eye for the reader. It will also help the reader pick out the information they are looking for. Remember, the reader is looking for specific information, not a biography!
- Power Words
Without being repetitive, litter your CV with power words such as ‘designed’, ‘managed’, ‘developed’, etc. Use these words to emphasise your projects and achievements.
- Don’t Leave gaps
Do not leave any timeline gaps in your CV. Have some text relating to a period where you were out of work or travelling such as training or up-skilling courses you may have undertaken during this time or any voluntary work you may have been involved in during your travels. A gap does not create mystery and intrigue, instead it creates a level of caution and sense that you have something you wish to hide. This would not bode well with your ‘Honesty’ characteristic!
- Number Crunching
If you have the opportunity to provide numbers you should do so. Such as increasing sales by 35% within a 6 month period! This quantifies your achievements and makes for an easier read, it is hard to avoid numbers when trying to extract the information you are looking for. Round up figures, within a modest range of course as you do not want to fall foul of the last point below.
- Keep it Current
Whether you are looking for a job or not, you should keep your CV up-to-date. Whenever a big opportunity presents itself midway through your career you need to have something which is fresh and up-to-date to show to someone before the opportunity passes. Starting from scratch with your CV can be difficult and just as difficult is taking an old CV which is out of date and lacks modern style and trying to update it. If you are job hunting and you find yourself applying for two different jobs with the same company with approximately 6 months between the applications, your CV should have changed in some way. Either the layout, a new course commenced, a new volunteering experience, an internship completed, etc. If the reader notices that you are still without a job and nothing has changed in your CV in the previous 6 months they will assume that you could be lazy or hard to motivate! You do not want either impression given.
10. Honesty is Best Policy
The most important tip to take from this is that while you may wish to flower your experience and abilities, there is a line you must not cross. If you cannot stand over what your CV states with a clear conscious then take it out. The truth will come out in the interview and damage your chances of getting the job, or worse it may not come to light until you are working in the job and everything starts to fall apart in your work. It is in your interest not to get yourself into a position which you are not fully equipped for.