By Holly Barry, @HJBarry
Whether you’ve recently graduated from university, looking for a part time job alongside studies, or thinking about the next step in your professional career, your CV needs to be as up to date as possible as you never know what’s around the corner. You could be headhunted unexpectedly or find yourself in need of a job last minute. If your CV is out of date it can cause a lot of stress trying to get it together in a rush and may lead to silly mistakes. Forgetting important information or making grammatical errors can mean the difference between landing your dream job and missing an opportunity. So, to ensure that all your hard earned achievements are well documented, it’s time to take note of the nine best ways to enhance your CV.
Employers spend an average of only 6 seconds looking at a CV! It so follows that your CV needs to be succinct and to the point, no more than two pages long. The head of Human Resources at Conde Nast also recommends that you avoid adding borders, colours and images to your CV, including images of yourself, in order to maintain professionalism.
To make your CV as clear as possible you should use headings and bullet points. Your layout should be easily digestible and simple to read. If in doubt there are a number of free CV templates, designed specifically for the industry you hope to join, available online. Ensure that you use good grammar and spelling throughout your CV and keep your sentences concise and snappy. Before you send your CV off it’s a good idea to get someone to proofread it.
Ok, so it’s not a CV tip per se but it does pay to keep on top of your social media. This is all part of personal branding and entails updating your accounts regularly and avoiding publicly accessible, inappropriate images. A lot of businesses conduct marketing campaigns and can disseminate information using social media, it’s therefore important to demonstrate that you are social media savvy.
As well as this, many employees are now headhunted through social media via sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, before employers have even requested a CV. In fact, a recent survey by Jobvite found that an astonishing 92% of recruiters now leverage social media as part of their job. As such, it’s a good idea to document your achievements on social media sites, treating them as online CVs and portfolios. This will help you to stand out and give you the best chance of getting the role you’ve always wanted.
In terms of structure, a standard CV should begin with your personal details including your current address, contact number and email address. You should follow this with a section of your most relevant work experience, listed in order of most recent to last. Next you should have a section of relevant skills and qualifications, and then finally you should finish with your references.
If you have space you can include extra headers such as interests, or a small personal statement outlining your ambitions for the future and some of your best qualities. However, these are not compulsory and can sometimes be seen as irrelevant.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
In the digital age it pays to know a little about SEO and keyword searches. Most recruitment campaigns now use ATS to filter CV responses to job advertisements, in fact it is estimated that around 70% of CVs are filtered out by these systems. ATS works by trawling CVs for key words and phrases relevant to the vacancy. You should therefore ensure that you adapt all of your headings, job titles and key skills to the most commonly used words and buzzwords in the industry you are applying to. Keywords for social media professionals include communication, outreach, social and marketing for example. This will help the ATS search engines to pluck your CV from the pile.
If you’re applying for multiple, different roles it’s important to tailor your CV to suit each application. This is especially true if you have a wealth of experience. You should be selective about what you include, choosing past roles that demonstrate skills essential to each individual application. Sending a generic CV, which comprises experience irrelevant to the role you are applying for, will be picked up by your future employer and sends the wrong message. A “one size fits all” mentality can be interpreted as lazy, careless and a waste of your prospective employer’s time.
It’s a given that your spelling and punctuation needs to be immaculate, however there’s more to a CV than grammar. Using certain words and phrases will instantly bode well with a recruiter. ‘Adapted’ is a great choice as it demonstrates your ability to react quickly and effectively to unforeseen circumstances, showing your versatility. ‘Evaluated’ is another good word, expressing your ability to judge, analyse and take stock of a situation independently. ‘Promoted’, ‘improved’, ‘qualified’ and ‘cultivated’ are really positive vocabulary choices that indicate personal development, whilst ‘leveraged’, ‘negotiated’ and ‘maximised’ prove business acumen.
When writing your CV it’s best to stick to conventional typefaces, as it’s hard to image circumstances where a simple but elegant Times New Roman would go amiss. If you want to make your CV stand out other great professional fonts include Mistral, Calibri or Arial. Avoid informal fonts like Comic Sans or AR Carter, and if you have any doubts about your typeface opt for something more conventional.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re applying for a job in graphic design or something similar, it may be more acceptable to choose a funkier typeface. But do bear in mind that if you choose an obscure font it could be received differently on another laptop or device.
Achievements are the most important aspects of your CV. Whilst anybody can inflate their past roles, it’s more difficult to prove skills and capabilities. This is where achievements take centre stage. Your employer wants to know what you have to offer that somebody else can’t. Include any positive feedback and awards that you’ve obtained personally or as part of a team. Mention times when you solved problems, saved money, or improved customer service. Use concrete outcomes to support your claims, for example ‘this reduced the development time from 7 to 3 days’ and most importantly, show pride and passion! If your CV is a little thin on the ground, consider bolstering it by taking short courses, looking into further education part-time, or doing a little work experience.
When writing or editing your CV, think about your reasons for doing so. What kind of job do you want to obtain? What kind of person is your future employer looking for? Construct your CV with your prospective employer in mind by reading the job advert carefully, understanding what the job involves and what the company needs. Research your future employer by visiting their website and find out the main activities of your future company. If you struggle to find adequate information, research people within the industry doing similar roles to understand what they do on a regular basis.
Remember that to put your best foot forwards in the business world you need to stand out, demonstrating how your achievements, experience, skills and qualities set you apart from the rest. Be confident when writing about yourself and keep positive, your CV is your chance to show off all of your hard work!