This article will guide you through the task of creating a kick-ass CV which will win you the attention you deserve when prospecting for a new job. Your CV or resume in the US is your introduction to potential recruiters and hiring managers and as they say “First Impressions Last” so you’d better make it good!
Recruiters will not be willing to pick through each one of the 100’s of CVs in their inbox to determine whether or not a candidate matches the job spec. Your CV has to jump out at them shouting “ME, ME! I AM THE ONE!”. This does not mean that your CV should be garishly coloured with animated neon titles and upper case copy. It means that it should be easy on the eye and even easier for the recruiter to see that your skills and experience are relevant to the job and the firm.
There are a number of must haves when drafting your CV as follows
Keep it Short and Sweet.
Keeping the length of your CV to no more than 2 pages will ensure the recruiter, who will have a limited attention span will not drift off into La La land due to your inability to succinctly condense your professional history into a summary. Remember, It’s a CV, not your memoirs. Keeping it to 2 pages will also force you to cut out anything that is not relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Make it Easy on the Eye.
Have you ever opened a page of text, taken one look at it’s solid wall of high density, alpha-numeric bricks and slammed it right back shut in seconds? Well you don’t want that to be your CV. Make sure the font is clear and amply sized and that there are sections, headers and bullet lists that are nicely spaced out and aligned. White-space can be just as valuable as content as it allows your document and the reader to breathe who will feel more relaxed as his or her eyes glide smoothly from one reason to invite you to an interview to another.
Sections To Include In Your CV
Recruiters look for 4 main pieces of information when trying to assess whether ir not they should invite you for an interview.
- Who you are
- What you can do
- Where you’ve worked
- How educated you are
It makes sense then that the structure of your CV follows the above using the following layout.
Who You Are
Right at the top of the first page of your CV / resume put your name in a big bold font and then your contact details including your phone number and email address. In a new paragraph write a few lines to summarise the most important details about you that would convince the recruiter that you are the best person for the job. Your summary should be similar to an ad in the lonely hearts pages in a newspaper, grabbing the attention of the reader in a limited amount of space of course with business type details and not physical attributes such as “tall, dark and handsome” or “curvy, leggy, brunette”. This summary will make the difference between a recruiter either binning the CV at that point or being intrigued to read on.
Start your summary with a strong, impressive adjective followed by the title of the job you’re applying to. Some examples…
- “Energetic Sales Manager…” or
- “Highly organised Office Assistant…” or
- “Innovative developer with 5 years of experience…”.
In just 2 words you can convince the recruiter that they on the path to finding the perfect employee.
What You Can Do
So now that you have communicated successfully that you are worth a few more seconds of the recruiters time, they’ll want to know what you’re good at. Start a new section headed this time with something like “Skills” or “Areas of Expertise”. Here you can list the skill you have that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Make it easy to read by using bullet points or by arranging the keywords in a table of 3 or 4 columns ensuring there is a good amount of white space around each one.
If you have amassed millions of skills, restrict those you include in the skills section of your CV / resume to those that are relevant to the role being applied for and those that you have really mastered. Avoid adding skills that you’ve only heard about or have only utilised a couple of times 20 years ago.
Where You’ve Worked
One of the most important factors a recruiter will consider when determining whether or not you are a good match for the role is your experience. Your track record will be based on
- Past places of employment
- Previous roles you’ve held
- What you’ve been responsible for and most importantly
- What achievements have you accomplished
Start a new section headed with something along the lines of “Work Experience”, “Career History” or “Previous Employment”. Within this section should be a summary of the relevant positions you’ve held to date. I stress relevant because there is no point if you’re applying for a senior management role in including a paper-round job you had 30 years ago. On the other hand if you are a graduate then it makes a lot of sense to ensure that you highlight the part-time job you had at the local shoe shop if that’s all the work experience you’ve had. If you’ve never had a job before then it’s essential that rather than omit the work experience section from the CV completely, that you include other positions of responsibility where you’ve made a valuable contribution such as voluntary work, childcare, student union involvement or organising kits for the football team. If you haven’t done anything of the sort then I suggest that you get off your backside and do something constructive that involves planning, organisation and communication skills.
Each position you include in the work experience section should be laid out clearly and headed with the Employers Name, Your Job Title and the Dates from and to in which you were employed at each organisation. Use bullets to list the various activities you were involved with for each role but instead of simply listing your responsibilities and the tasks that were expected of you, highlight the remarkable achievements you accomplished that set you apart from Jo Average.Also, ensure that you use numbers to substantiate your job highlights in the form of NCP (Numbers, Currency, Percentages). Some examples are:
- “Designed websites for multiple clients” vs “Designed websites valued up to £20,000 for 16 high profile clients”.
- “Line management responsibilities” vs “Line managed team of 7 people across 3 departments”.
- “Improved efficiency of manufacturing process” vs “Increased manufacturing output efficiency by 37% leading to $340,000 in increased sales”.
- “Negotiated budget for Student Union” vs “Negotiated additional £1500 for the student union budget”
Numbers are important because they provide a clear picture of not just what you’ve done which is the minimum expected but an additional measure of how well you’ve performed beyond that.
The amount of detail you provide for each role should be managed carefully. As a rule-of-thumb more detail should be included for the more recent positions you’ve held than the the 5th job down the list. More detail should be added however for older jobs if they are relevant to the role you’re applying for. For example if you are applying for an IT Manager role at a Hospital but you’ve only worked in the retail for the past 15 years, it would make sense to include any achievements you accomplished during a position you had as an IT Technician at a hospital near the start of your career.
How Educated Are You
Last but not least to include in your CV are details about your qualifications and training. Start a section headed with “Education”, “Training” or “Certifications and Qualifications”. The first entry in this section should be your highest level of education whether it was attained at university, college or school. How far you go back depends on how long it’s been since you completed your education so if you’ve recently graduated with a degree then include details of your degree, and your high school certifications. If you have over ten years of experience and have a degree then add that but there’s no need to highlight what you did at secondary school. If you have during your career completed training courses and certifications relevant to the role you are applying for, then definitely include those as it shows that you have continued to keep your skills fresh and up to date. And finally, again, keep the layout clear considering using bullet points or tables to arrange each item evenly and consistently.
A part of your education you may wish to consider adding to your CV perhaps are your hobbies and interests. Although these would not be considered to be professional qualifications as such, they give the recruiter an insight into other skills you may have and aspects about your character and energy levels. You may even highlight something you have in common with the hiring manager which will help develop a rapport with hinm / her that can only help progress you to the next stage of the recruitment process. If you do decide to add this additional information, I suggest that you start a new section headed with “Personal Interests” or “Outside Pursuits” and list any activities here in a format consistent with the details listed in your education section.
By following the above guidelines for formatting your CV / resume I can guarantee that your chances of being invited to an interview will be greatly improved. Remember to keep your CV / resume clean, tidy, relevant, correct and compelling to the recruiter. It is equally vital for your success to ensure that you give your CV an audience by uploading to various job search databases such as Monster or Indeed, by applying to advertised jobs, by cold submitting your CV to firms you wish to work for and by sending your CV / resume directly to hiring managers in response to insider tips from friends and family of positions that they’ve heard about internally.