Your CV is the most important self-marketing document you will produce in your career. Creating a stand out CV is no mean feat, particularly in a hiring climate where jobs are evolving, and employers are looking for more reassurance of the value you can offer them.
A product may be fantastic, but it will not sell if a company makes a half-hearted attempt of taking it to market. You are the product in this instance and your CV is your marketing brochure. The investment you make in your CV at the beginning of your job search will be critical to your mission to stand out from the competition and to secure the right job for you.
If you’ve read my other guides you’ll already know that the average time a hirer will initially take to review your CV is 6-10 seconds, so your CV design should draw the reader’s eyes to the most important parts you wish them to see.
The next 12 steps have been put together to serve as a checklist to improve your existing CV or to provide guidance when creating a new CV.
1. Your CV needs to appeal to the widest audience to ensure you gain as many interview opportunities as possible. Whilst the layout and structure are important, you do not want to limit prospective employers interest by them forming a negative opinion on how your CV looks before they’ve even read the content. So, avoid garish colours, fonts and graphics, instead stick to a suitable typeface, the same throughout (Calibri, Times New Roman or Arial) and keep the layout professional and easy to read. Employers are more interested in the content than they are appearance.
2. Just like a marketing brochure, the first page needs to be captivating and should be your prime sales page. With as little as 6-10 seconds to entice the reader, detail the most salient points of interest to them first.
3. Provide context around your previous employers to make your cultural background more relatable to your prospective employers. It’s one of the key areas an employer looks for when reviewing a CV. What industries have you worked in? What size of company/department have you previously worked in? Was your previous employer award winning?
4. Profile summaries are very common on CV’s, but you need to ensure they provide a punchy message and are not just sentences full of clichés. If you wish to include a summary in your CV, I would suggest picking 3 key attributes or valuable strengths and provide evidence of your success with each one.
5. Avoid large bodies of text giving examples of your responsibilities. Most employers will not have the time to read through long paragraphs. Instead use bullet points which are easier to digest and read.
6. Including a key skills section can be valuable particularly if applying on-line using an Applicant Tracking System where keywords are assessed.
7. Put yourself in the shoes of the employer and tailor your CV to suit each role you are applying for. What employers want to know is what’s in it for them and you need to reflect this in your CV. Your ability to secure your next position will depend on how well you can translate your previous employment, your skills and working style into a clear benefit to the employer.
8. Your CV should include quantifiable and measurable achievements detailing the specific difference you have made rather than reading what may look like a shopping list of duties. How has your work been excellent or successful? How has it impacted your employers operating results for the better?
9. Where possible, avoid your CV looking too technical as it may not be a technical person that initially reads your CV. Your audience will be more interested in how you have used your technical skills in the work environment and how you combine your technical expertise with your commercial acumen to add value to the business.
10. Your CV has less to do with your past and should instead reflect your future potential. Demonstrating how you have kept your knowledge and skills up-to-date is critical if you wish to stand out from the competition, so ensure you include any relevant qualifications and online learning courses you have completed. Also include any appropriate memberships or networking groups you are associated with to highlight your interest in personal growth.
11. A CV is a marketing tool, with its primary purpose to whet the appetite of a prospective employer enough for them to want to meet you. Remember it’s a summary document and not a manuscript. It doesn’t need to tell the reader everything about your career, it needs to tell them enough to want to find out more.
12. A positive attitude will help you succeed. A positive image on paper will inspire and reassure the employer to have faith in your worth and the valuable contribution you can make to a company.