Your CV: a golden ticket to the career of your dreams. A summary of yourself on one or two short pages. A written sales pitch, with a 10-20 second window of potential attention from the reader. That’s 10-20 seconds in which to impress.
This week Inspiring held their very own Google+ #gradhangout, covering all sorts of careers advice. It’s no surprise that CV tips and techniques were a big feature, which is why I thought I’d take this opportunity to delve a little deeper into this topic, bringing you the very best CV advice in town. And remember, if you missed us on Wednesday, relax! We’ve uploaded the video to our YouTube channel, so you can watch it back as many times as you want, whenever you want.
Kicking things off with the most important factor: relevance. The key when writing your CV is making sure it’s relevant to the roles you’re applying for. There is no specific rule on which comes first on your CV; experience or education. The best approach is to ensure what makes you most relevant to the employer is what they see first. It’s likely that if you’re a recent graduate your most applicable feature will be your degree. However, it is possible that you may have more relevant work experience that should be brought to the reader’s attention. For example, you’re a graduate looking to get into the marketing industry and your degree is in a science related field, but you have work placement experience where you gained an insight into social media. Clearly, here your work experience should feature above your degree. It’s this that links you directly to the field you’re applying for and gives reasoning for your interest and desire to work in this sector. Similarly, if, as part of your degree, you have gained a year’s industry experience, this is something that should feature as an high up on your CV, drawing in the reader with all that you gained.
Although experience and qualifications are fundamental, your personality is a factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. It is important to get this across to the reader; to give them a feel for the type of person you are; for them to feel like you have written it and not someone else. This allows them to decide whether they would like to meet with you and ultimately, whether you’d be suited to their company.
Differentiating yourself from the crowd isn’t easy when all you have is a couple of pages of text to work with. Ensuring your content is perfect is your best bet. The use of evidence to support your strengths and skills comes highly recommended from our HR team. Steer clear of bland, general statements such as “team player”, “good communication skills”. Instead support each factor with evidence; if you’re a team player explain where you honed these skills. Maybe through volunteer work or participation in university societies? Incorporate the use of numbers into your achievements and experience. If you were presenting to a crowd, how big was the crowd? If you exceeded your targets, by how much did you do so?
In terms of hard and fast rules, it’s all basic common sense. First and foremost: spelling and grammar. Quite simply, ensure it’s perfect. The most minor of mistakes can instantly alter an employer’s impression, with many feeling mistakes demonstrate a lack of attention to detail and professionalism. Keep your paragraphs short. It’s common knowledge that large blocks of text can result in the reader losing interest. Instead, use bullet points. These break down your skills and strengths into impactful facts. Avoid the use of full sentences when it comes to bullets; begin each with a verb i.e. ‘Presented to’, ‘Trained people’, ‘Committed to’, as opposed to ‘I have presented’, ‘I trained’, ‘I am committed’. The use of action words will help highlight the fundamental part to your point.
As well as content, consider layout and format. The use of links to websites, online portfolios, blogs and even examples of previous work projects is becoming increasing popular with candidates and is welcomed by employers. Avoid the use of ghastly colours. Keep the font consistent throughout; there should be nothing that distracts the reader from the content. Never exceed the two page limit, particularly if you’re a candidate straight out of university. In terms of document formats, generally Word or PDF is your safest bet. Keep your experience and qualifications at the forefront, and follow with your personal interests. Although not as significant, this section is not to be overlooked. This is your opportunity to express a little about yourself. Your personal attributes and passions can also be a great point of conversation in interviews.
Finally, consider creating a video CV; they’re Inspiring’s speciality! If you don’t already know about them, this will explain all. And for more CV dos and don’ts check out JobZoo’s brilliant infographic!