AN EYE-CATCHING CV
Would you like you some tips and advice on how to write a CV that will interest a recruiter or an employer and maximise your chances of success? I was a Recruitment Consultant for two years, and during that time I looked at over 50,000 CVs so, trust me, I know what to look for.
I'll let you into a secret. A Recruiter will quickly scan your CV for skills, recent experience and qualifications; this will probably be followed by location. Depending on the number of applicants for a job, this scan could last a matter of seconds. So, here are a few thoughts on how to survive the initial scan and increase your chances of getting an interview:
1. Ditch the graphics
You don’t need fancy graphics and formatting unless, maybe, you’re applying for a job as a graphic designer. So, keep it uncluttered and easy to read. That said, don’t neglect the layout, because your CV must have a logical flow. It needs to be easy, for a recruiter or employer, to be able to read your career history on one or two pages.
2. Use Word
I advise using Word. Everybody uses it and PDFs are a pain when recruiters, occasionally (shhh), want to edit out your little errors.
3. Read the Job Description
It's obvious when someone has applied for a role without reading the job description. A give away is when the job requires some essential skills and they aren’t immediately obvious in a CV. So, identify those essential skills and show how you match them.
4. Customise your CV
Recruiters and employers can spot a “round robin” and are turned off by it. Many times I’ve seen an application for a role, but the candidate’s personal profile states that their preference is to go into a different industry … that’s almost certainly going to be rejected unless the recruiter has time to contact you to talk about what you want. So, tailor your CV to the job description showing what you can do that's relevant.
5. Focus on your most recent history
Remember that recruiters and employers care most about what you’ve done recently and not 10-15 years ago. Try to show how your more recent roles are relevant for this one. And beware appearing overqualified … however, this isn’t necessarily an issue if you make it clear why the role appeals to you at this point in your career.
I'm impressed by metrics/numbers. If someone claims to be successful at something in their CV, but another CV substantiates such claims with numbers and achievements against target, then which one, do you think, will be viewed as the stronger?
7. Position Yourself
Help the reader by positioning yourself in the hierarchy of an organisation. Rather than saying what a great team player you are (because everyone says that) it’s good to show who you worked with, how you worked with them, where they were in the hierarchy, what you did and, perhaps, how you stepped up to cover senior people during absences.
8. Limit formatting
I don’t like tables in CV’s because they do odd things to the formatting when you’re cutting and pasting into, for example, an employer’s application form. It’s not a good idea to annoy a recruiter with formatting that can’t easily be removed so this doesn’t just apply to tables … don’t go overboard on tabs, unnecessary italics, bold type, mixing fonts etc.
9. Run a Spelling/Grammar check
It is extraordinary how often people submit CVs with basic spelling and grammar errors. There's no excuse for neglecting the basics and it’s the equivalent of getting into the back seat on your driving test. Obvious mistakes, especially in the first paragraph, can mean a rejection, or your CV being subjected to a much higher level of scrutiny, increasing the chances of rejection.
10. Be consistent
Don’t use unnecessary capitals or just be consistent … if you capitalise a word once then do so throughout. Also, if you decide to put a full stop at the end of some bullet points, then do that for the whole CV. It doesn’t take long to check your CV for inaccuracies or inconsistencies so why not do it?
Finally, a covering letter is good but not one that simply states that you’re applying for the job … that’s obvious. Nor is there much point simply stating that you’re the best person for the job … you need to substantiate any claims that you make and that’s what your CV should achieve. The covering letter, therefore, should be personal and customised for the job. It shouldn’t be a precise of your CV. The knack is to identify the key skills the employer is looking for and describe how you match those … remember, an employer hires on skills. Finally, make the letter about what you can do for the employer rather than how much you want to work for them. It's great that you're keen and you think they're an excellent company but ultimately it's what you can bring to them and the problem that you can solve for them that will secure you the job.