6 tips to make your CV stand out
Employers typically spend less than six seconds before deciding if your CV is worth a closer look so what can you do to ensure your CV is noticed?
February 7, 2020
As the recruitment industry advances, there are now more platforms that exist to create a point of contact between a candidate and prospective employer. It could be said that the traditional CV is slowly being replaced by the likes of LinkedIn and even word of mouth referrals. Even when your CV is seen, it's well documented that the average employer will spend only seconds deciding whether it’s worth more than a quick scan—as few as six seconds according to research The Telegraph cited in an article.
However, as your CV is often the first chance to stand out to an employer before entering the recruitment process, it is still important to take the time to create a good one. So, how do you give yourself the best chance to get noticed? Our top six tips will help you to maximise your chances of going from inbox to interest, bypassing the recycle bin.
1. First impressions count
Writing a good CV is both an art and science. When creating and proofing it, you must adopt the skills of a visual designer. Clean lines, good margins and a strong but simple layout are a must. From this framework, make sure that you maintain consistency in font style and tense—and don’t forget to spell check! Unless you are applying for a job as a visual designer, try to avoid photos, logos and fancy graphics as this can distract your reader and take up valuable content space. A good CV should be no more than two A4 pages, so use your space wisely.
2. The essentials: How do you sell your skills and experience?
Take the time to make your CV really stand out. Consider the following as your essentials:
- Objective or brand statement – 2 or 3 lines at the start of your CV that summarises your intent: who you are, what you do and what you are hoping to achieve with your CV.
- Skills and experience – Using brief headings and a bullet point format, provide clear and detailed information about the work you have performed in each position. Include the company name and the month and year of the work to highlight continuous employment. If you have been promoted, make sure this progression is visible.
- Professional highlights and achievements – These give you opportunity to show off a little. Include qualifications or awards you have received for something stand-out.
- Qualifications and education – make note of any relevant qualifications. Refresh this list every few years to keep up with recent industry trends.
- Contact details – Make sure when you get noticed that you can be contacted!
It is normal to have a few versions of your CV. We recommend that you spend time tailoring these to the position you are applying for. It is also important to have a cut-off point; your early school certifications or early employment, while interesting, may now be of less relevance than your more recent skills.
3. Key words matter
With advancements in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and job site technology, many recruiters and HR professionals rely on simple Boolean search strings to identify and filter through pools of relevant CVs based on buzzwords from the role profile. This doesn’t mean you should litter your CV with the latest trending keywords to hit LinkedIn, but you should carefully study your job specification. If it asks for “Agile experience” and you have this skill, then ensure your CV says so. Also, only add keywords for skills you actually possess. According to HireRight’s 2017 study, 85% of candidates were found to embellish their CVs. Exaggerating or adding skills you don’t possess can damage your reputation when employers discover you lack the skills you claimed to have. Authenticity and honesty in your CV will guard you against this risk.
4. Avoid the word ‘we’ at all costs
Applying for a job is a very individual process which relies on you successfully conveying your individual set of skills and value-add. While teamwork is typically very important, employers are often turned off with the use of “we” in CVs. Instead, they prefer to see candidates take ownership and demonstrate what they specifically did.
That said, there is an increasing demand in certain markets for multiskilled workers, so being able to demonstrate flexibility in your skills is a great asset. Just remember to keep your CV about you and the value that you added, clearly communicating your individual role within a team.
5. Telling is selling
In most sales related jobs, you will be taught early on that telling is not selling. However, in the art of CV writing, telling absolutely is selling. Try not to make assumptions of your reader—if you don’t state it on your CV, how are they supposed to know you did it? That said, there is a balance; give enough detail that generates interest but leaves enough out to discuss further at interview.
6. The human touch
With a rising demand for softer skills and certain personality characteristics that are difficult to display in a CV, typically, the only way to really show this is through hobbies, interests or additional extracurricular activities. These should go at the end of your CV, but can often form interesting talking points at interview.
Creating a CV is not a one-off task, and it shouldn’t become a static document. It should evolve and develop as you move through your career and gain experience and qualifications. You should also tailor it each time you apply for a new role. Following our six simple steps should provide a framework to get you noticed, but it is important to make sure you that what you write is authentic and free from embellishments–advanced screening processes will quickly identify if information is incorrect or inconsistent. Lastly, update and maintain your online presence on sites like LinkedIn, as employers will often use the information here as their first port of call when screening your profile. A strong combination of paper and online will position you well to stand out from the crowd.