• Jo

How to...write a sensational CV

It's fair to say that everyone's opinion differs - company to company, hiring manager to hiring manager. Here are my thoughts on what you should (and shouldn't) include in your CV.

Image by Quinn Kampschroer from Pixabay

Your name. Don't laugh, you'd be surprised how many CVs I've seen over the years where something as basic as the applicant's name was missing! I'd also suggest using the same name on your CV as you've used on the online application form, if completion of one of these is required - some organisations receive thousands of applications with multiple recruiters involved, and need to be able to link the two easily. I'd suggest saving space and excluding your postal address as these are so rarely used these days. Your email and a contact number will suffice. It's worth getting a new, professional, email address if it's something you've had since your early teens and contains names such as princess (unless it's your actual name), badass or hotblonde! If you have an online presence (LinkedIn, website etc). include this here too. Make sure that URLs are correct and hyperlinked to make it easier for the recruiter.

I don't think it's absolutely necessary to add a personal statement if you're including a cover letter, but it can be handy to have it on your CV just in case cover letters aren't requested. If you are including one, keep it concise, eye-catching and value-adding - recruiters notoriously spend only a few seconds looking at a CV, so if you've written a personal statement but it doesn't grab their attention, they may not read on. This is your chance to pitch your very best and unique qualities and achievements in summary, so make it good! You could also highlight here what your next goal is, ensuring this is relevant to the job you're applying for.

In my opinion, work experience should come next, as it's more relevant than education - you are applying for a job afterall. List your most recent role first and work backwards, making sure the dates flow and any gaps in employment are accounted for ie. travelling, maternity leave etc (if it's a bit personal, you could address this in your cover letter instead, but you'll need to make reference to this in the relevant place). List your job title, the organisation you worked for, the dates you were employed and the location. You don't need to describe the company - I see this a lot and it takes up valuable space on the CV. It will likely be evident from the company name or your role description, or the recruiter will look it up if they're unsure.

Right, now for the the most important thing you will read (at least on my website). When providing your role details, do not just list your responsibilities. This section is where you need to list your achievements, using measurable examples, and what the outcome was. The outcome should grab the reader's attention. Here's an example:

- Reduced overall marketing budget by 24% by conducting analysis of department marketing spend, working with managers to create a cross-department marketing strategy, and consolidating relevant contracts and costs.

This immediately jumps out as a great achievement, but also addresses the skills of working both as an individual and collaboratively. Try to follow this format for all of your roles.

Next, you'll want to list your education and qualifications - but only if they're relevant. If you're a recent graduate, you'll probably want to include more detail than if you've been working for 20 years. Don't forget the qualifications you've obtained since leaving school/university, as well as any industry training, especially if they've helped you to progress to where you are now. If you've won any scholarships or awards whilst in education, it may help to detail these.

And finally, the section I get asked about the most - your personal interests and achievements. Yes, you should include these to show you're an interesting and rounded person. No, you shouldn't list all the hobbies you've undertaken since the age of 10! I'd suggest selecting a handful of more recent interests/achievements that help to demonstrate some of the skills required for the job you're applying for. So for instance, if you need to show that you have leadership skills, include your current captaincy of the local fencing team and highlight what the club has achieved under your influence ie. wins, growth of membership etc.

In terms of the format of your CV, I'd recommend a maximum of two pages and only then if you have a few years' work experience, otherwise, keep it to one page. Ensure you use bullet points rather than long paragraphs (with the exception of your concise personal statement), a simple and sleek font, clear headings for each section (and within these, you may want to use bolding, italics etc for subheadings but make sure you use these consistently throughout), and avoid any fancy graphics or images. Most software has built-in spelling and grammar checkers which you should definitely make use of, but you should also ask someone to proofread it for you before submitting it - ideally a professional, but your flatmate or mum may suffice. Convert the document to PDF before sending it - this is the most accessible format with no bias towards Mac or PC.

And finally, in my opinion, your CV should be tailored towards each company/job you apply for. Do your research into the company - its culture, values and goals - so that you can align your CV to these (without fibbing of course). You'll also want to have read and understood the unique requirements of each role before adapting your CV to address these requirements. You're not changing the skills and experience you have, but you are extracting and featuring the most relevant ones, as no two role profiles are the same. Including phrases and words relating to the job description can also help if your CV goes through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), an increasingly common way for organisations to filter applicants more efficiently. I'll go into more detail about these systems in a later blog.

You could save yourself the stress of getting all of the above right by asking a professional CV writer to adapt or produce your CV for you. Contact me now if you would like some help.