So you know you need a killer resume, one that’s really going to stand out and knock recruiters dead, but where do you start? Sometimes it’s hard to know what a good CV looks like or how to make your particular skills and experience fit into a CV template. If this sounds like you, read on. Our top tips will help you stand out from the competition and get that all-important interview.
The Golden Rules
There are a few aspects of best practice CV writing that you really need to know about and follow if you want to create a brilliant CV. Let’s take a look at them:
- Tailor your CV to the Role you are Applying for
If there’s only one piece of advice you take away from this article, let it be this one. Tailoring your CV to the specific job you are applying for is absolutely critical. This is because recruiters ‘sift’ CVs (this means work out who to invite for an interview and who to reject) by comparing CVs to the job description and person specification for the role. These set out what knowledge, skills and, experience a person must have to perform the job successfully. The recruiter will look at your CV and tick off each of the job requirements that your CV demonstrates; if you demonstrate enough you will be invited for interview if not, you will be unsuccessful.
With this in mind, you need to make sure that your CV meets each of the job requirements as specifically as possible –and you want to make it really easy for recruiters to see your relevant competencies. Do this by including exact wording where possible and giving examples. If a job advert requires ‘excellent spreadsheet skills’, don’t just write that you’ve got “excellent spreadsheet skills” but describe what this means and what evidence you have for this. For example, “Excellent spreadsheet skills acquired whilst using complex risk management spreadsheets. Skills include (but are not limited to) using macros, pivot tables and, VLOOKUPs”.
To tailor your CV, start by highlighting the specific knowledge, skills and, experience required in the job description/person specification. Then consider how you can demonstrate that you have these. Build your CV around this. This leads us on to point 2.
- Don’t Include Everything You’ve Ever Done
Whilst it can be tempting to talk about every experience of success you’ve ever had, you need to be selective. And this can be really hard; you feel like you really want to sell yourself and everything you’ve achieved, but really, a succinct and well-tailored CV is much more likely to get you the interview. If you think back to how CVs are sifted, your irrelevant but fabulous experience will not gain you the ticks you need, it’s therefore not helping.
CVs need to be no longer than 2 sides of the A4 paper. The font should be no smaller than 11 points. This means you are limited in what you can include, and you need to make every word count. But what do you leave out? Here are some suggestions:
- Lower educational achievements. If you’ve got a degree, for example, you don’t need to include anything about your school education (unless specifically asked). As a rule, you often don’t need to go into detail about what modules/courses you took at university either – although you might want to highlight one or two that are directly relevant to the role.
- Every responsibility of your previous jobs. A good practice is to give a really brief summary, maybe just one line, of what the role was. Then pull out key responsibilities and successes that directly relate to the job you are applying for.
- Interests and hobbies. Again, unless they directly relate to the role then leave them out. There will be times when they are absolutely relevant, for showing leadership skills or persistence or creativity for example, but be selective and use evidence to explain why they matter.
- Make your CV Look Professional
Unless you are applying to work in a highly creative industry (and even then you need to use your judgment) then your CV needs to be smart and professional. This means:
- Black type on a white background. The font should be something clean and professional like Ariel or Calibri and in a size 11 or 12 front.
- Use your name as the title instead of writing Curriculum Vitae on the top.
- Make sure you have checked for spelling and grammar – ideally get someone else to check it too because they might pick up things that you have missed.
- Leave white space. White space makes things more visually appealing and easier to read. Don’t cram in as much text as you possibly can as the overall effect will be less successful.
- Check that your contact details are appropriate – this is not the place for joke email addresses – set up a new email account if you need to.
- Don’t be Dull
Be memorable for the right reasons. It’s fine to show some personality in your CV as long as that looks professional and is tastefully done. Including a personal statement at the top of your CV is a good way of doing this. Try to capture who you are as well as what you’ve done; it can be useful to try to answer the question “why should the recruiter pick you?” when you’re formulating your ideas. Here are some other ideas to consider:
- Learn from copywriters. These are people who write words that make people buy things; when you think about it, which’s really what you want to achieve here. It can be worth reading a couple of introduction of copywriting books to get a feel for how they do this.
- Use interesting language. Get a thesaurus and note down interesting ways of saying: responsible for, delivered, initiated, led and so on.
Of course, having a great CV will only get you so far. Make sure that you match the work you’ve done on crafting the perfect CV with preparing for the interview. Think about how you can answer any questions that might be thrown at you. Similarly, get yourself ready to ace any psychometric or ability tests by answering as many practice questions as possible.
Edward Mellett is an entrepreneur, careers professional and founder of practicereasoningtests.com. He is known for co-founding and launching the leading student and graduate careers website wikijob.co.uk. Now in its 11th year, wiki job attracts over 400,000 unique users per month and is a must-visit resource for students considering their careers post-university. In 2011 he founded wikifestivals.com, a wiki resource and global community for festival fanatics. Ed’s other interests include AI, neuroscience, and psychology.