Helena has reflected on her past experiences of recruitment, offering her advice for the perfect CV for your job application.
We’ve seen hundreds of CVs ranging from trainee to senior consultant level throughout our recruitment drives. We know what ticks our boxes when shortlisting CVs, but does yours stand up to the test?
1. Automatically generated CVs
Firstly, don’t use the automatically generated CVs that job sites can produce for you. They are often poorly structured and badly presented and it can come across as lazy in an employer’s eyes. The last thing you want to do is give the impression that you’re simply firing off generic CVs at the click of a button without a second thought.
Using CV templates is fine for inspiration but investing the time to draft your own is worth it! First impressions count so make sure your CV reflects the effort you’re willing to put into getting (and doing) the job!
2. Introduce yourself well by summarising key points.
Pick out your core experience and the achievements that you’re most proud of. In the past, we have enjoyed reading CVs that went beyond the basic ‘personal statement’ introductory paragraph and began with high-level summaries of the person, their skills and experience. Summarising these points at the outset means that your career history section can be shortened and more succinct. It also ‘leads’ readers into your CV, with the summaries introducing and the career history section adding context and detail.
3. Your CV should be skills-based
You should outline clear, job-related, professional skills. Whilst it’s good to add in what kind of person you are (‘hard-working, flexible, a self-starter…’), let employers know what skills you bring to the role and that you meet their needs. A key skills section is an effective way to immediately tell employers what you bring to the table and you should extend this skills-based focus in your career history section too.
4. Focus on action
Tell employers what you can do and what you did in previous roles. Previously, we have come across a host of CVs where job descriptions were just inserted into their career history section. This might highlight what your role and responsibilities were but we prefer CVs where we were told about what candidates had done in their previous roles. Try starting your points with verbs – action/doing words. Some examples include: ‘ran’, ‘established’, ‘implemented’, ‘managed’, etc., and tell readers what you delivered and what you achieved.
5. Structure your work experience chronologically
Our simple fifth tip is to start with your most recent experience first. This one sounds obvious, but we’ve been surprised at how much ‘figuring out’ we have had to do to understand people’s career journey. We have read some CVs with unexplained employment gaps and where career history seemed to have been ‘jumbled up’ or mislabelled.
This gave the impression that the candidate was trying to hide something, which isn’t the best foot to start on if you really want the job! We think it’s best to explain those gaps. If you’ve been travelling, parenting or caring, that’s ok: tell us about it and own it.
6. Use simple, concise, plain English
Keep your sentences short and to the point, use bullets where you can and avoid overusing jargon. We have come across CVs with jargon, over-embellished language and some where we have had to clarify what some statements actually meant! The odd well-known abbreviation is fine but avoid using too much jargon, as this can seem impersonal, this can make it hard to read and sometimes be confusing. And, only describe yourself as an expert is you can prove that you really are.
7. Make your CV look good.
There’s nothing worse than a block text CV with no formatting effort at all. Use colour, fonts, shapes, headings, bold and italics to add emphasis and separate out key sections of your CV. Try using boxes or columns for shorter bullet point lists to make the most of the space without cramming too much in. Then, create a PDF version of your formatted CV so you can be sure that the reader sees it as you intend them to. The jury’s out on using photos on CVs, but we don’t that feel that they have added any value to the ones we’ve seen previously.
8. Adapt your CV
Our simple fifth tip is that your CV should be specific to the role you are applying for. CVs that have stood out to us in the past were those that had clearly been tailored for our company and role. It’s obvious when a CV is generic; we’ve even had CVs stating they were applying for a role we weren’t advertising!
A really effective way to tailor your CV application is to accompany it with a brief cover note explaining what attracts you to the role and why you think you are well suited to it. Otherwise, personalising the introductory / profile section of your CV to the specific vacancy you’re applying for can be the difference between getting shortlisted and rejected.
So, when it comes to CVs a bit of investment can pay dividends. You should find a style and format that best suits your personality and fits in the sector you work in. Your CV often is your first impression with a recruiter who is likely to be sifting through dozens, so put some effort into making yourself stand out from the CV crowd.
Our eight tips will help employers better understand who you are and what you can offer them. Telling an employer why you want the job will peak their interest. You should always ask for feedback if you meet them face-to-face. Why not look at your CV today and ask yourself; would you have shortlisted you?