Your CV is the first thing recruiters or employers will see, so it needs to make a strong impression if it’s going to get you onto the right path towards securing your ideal job.
There are some crucial dos and don’ts when it comes to writing your own CV, as getting it wrong can have a seriously negative impact on your employability.
As recruiters, we see badly written or formatted CVs all too often, and it often creates additional work for us to rectify the mistakes in your CV. We’d much rather spend our time shouting about your strengths to potential employers, and we’d prefer you to use your precious time to create a CV that’s going to get you places.
Read on for our top 10 CV tips to help you progress your career and bag that interview – and make sure you download our FREE CV template to get you started!
CV Tip #1 – Keep it simple
Nowadays, major organisations and recruitment companies use what’s known as ATS software, or applicant tracking systems, to sift through CVs and shortlist them.
Where ATS software is used, a bot will survey your CV before it reaches a human, and there are key ways to optimise your CV to make sure it passes the test.
Avoid tables, graphs and images, as these can mean content gets lost and isn’t seen by the software. Keep things simple, using bullets sparingly to highlight important sections.
ATS bots are looking for keywords relating to the job role, so identify these and pepper them carefully (not too much or too little) throughout your CV when referencing your skills and experience.
CV Tip #2 – Set up a professional email address
When applying for jobs, that embarrassing email address you set up as a teenager will come across as unprofessional and immature, so make sure you set up a professional and simple email address to add to your CV.
Even if you only use this address for job searching purposes, it means you give employers a good impression from the outset, and separates your personal and professional life.
CV Tip #3 – Write a personal statement
A personal statement is a short paragraph summarising yourself in a professional capacity at the start of your CV, usually found directly underneath your contact details.
When writing a personal statement, think about your standout personal qualities and professional skills that set you apart from others and make you good at your job.
CV Tip #4 – Focus on outcomes, not actions
One very common CV mistake we see as recruiters is for candidates to focus too much on actions, instead of outcomes.
It’s easy to list responsibilities and actions you’ve undertaken in your work history section, but this shows you to be more of a doer than an achiever.
Instead of listing, for example, “managed the company’s social media accounts”, think about what you achieved within this task. Did you improve social engagement rates by 10% Or grow the company’s social audience by thousands? Stating “achieved a 10% increase in engagement levels and grew social audiences by 40%” is a far more powerful statement to impress any employer.
Think about how the work you have done has improved working practices, saved money, increased profits, enhanced productivity or elevated morale.
Try to avoid verbs like managed, ran, operated and oversaw, and focus on stronger verbs like increased, improved, achieved and saved.
CV Tip #5 – Stick to two pages of A4
Whatever your position or experience, there’s no reason for anyone’s CV to be longer than two pages of A4 – from an office junior to a CEO.
While many candidates we meet have a diverse and varied work experience, prospective employers don’t have the time to read lengthy descriptions of each job held. Keep it short and simple, summarising your key achievements in each role, rather than listing every duty.
CV Tip #6 – Be smart if you lack experience
If you’re new to the employment market, it’s natural to feel you lack job experience to fill out your CV. But, there are a few key ways you can still show employers why you’d be perfect for their vacant role
Volunteer work – if you’re lacking work experience, detail any volunteer activity or unpaid work experience in your work history section. If you don’t have any volunteer experience, use your time job-seeking to gain some valuable experience in your chosen field, if it’s possible for you to do this. Even if you do some weekend volunteer work for a local charity, it will look great on your CV, show employers you’re proactive and compassionate and give you the feelgood factor you’ve helped others.
Personal statement – if you lack professional experience, your personal statement is a great way to show how your personality strengths will be an asset in certain roles and can demonstrate what a good fit you’ll be for a particular team or organisation.
Hobbies and interests – if you have a modest work history, adding a hobbies and interests section to your CV can tell employers a lot about what sort of person you are, and help them decide if you’ll be a good fit for their organisation. Add detail so your hobbies don’t sound generic, like the bog-standard “gym and socialising” seen on too many CVs. Whatever your extra-curricular interests are, list them proudly (within reason!).
CV Tip #7 – Update it regularly
If you’re looking for a new job, don’t automatically send out that old CV you last updated in 2011. Make sure your CV includes up-to-date information about your skills, experience, responsibilities in your current role, any training or qualifications you’ve undertaken, your career goals and even your hobbies.
After all, employers are looking for a snapshot into your professional life as it is right now, so it needs to reflect your current capabilities, interests and ambitions.
CV Tip #8 – Get it checked
Getting your CV checked by a friend or professional will weed out any typos, grammatical errors or other embarrassing mistakes you don’t want employers to see.
CV Tip #9 – Use simple language
The Thesaurus can sometimes be your friend, but use it sparingly when writing a CV. Using too many complicated words you don’t really understand can make your CV read badly, and tell employers you’re unsure of your intelligence and capabilities.
Good writers always swap long words for short ones, so don’t be afraid of your natural writing style – as long as it doesn’t feature slang or swearing!
CV Tip #10 - Tailor your CV
So you’ve written the perfect CV? Unfortunately, the work doesn’t end there. The perfect CV doesn’t strictly exist – but the perfect CV for each job does. So, tweak and update your CV for every job you apply for, to make sure you’re the ideal match for the role.
Scour the job description and person specification for clues to what the employer is looking for, then assess your skills and experience to see how you can best highlight your suitability for the role.
Pay special attention to your CV’s key skills, personal statement and work history sections, as this is where you can tailor your experiences to highlight how you’d be ideal for the role in question.
Not every skill or project in your back catalogue will be relevant to each job you set your sights on, so be smart about how you adapt your experiences and qualities to demonstrate how you’re the right fit for the role.
Using your CV to find your dream job
Now your CV is on point, it’s time to use it wisely to start planning your next career move. We work with individuals and businesses across a range of sectors to help match the right person to the role, so we’d love to work with you and help find you the dream job to suit your skills and goals.
Give us a call today on 0151 665 0380 or email email@example.com
FREE downloadable CV template
If you still need some help updating or creating your CV, download our free template and use the tips in this blog to fill it with all the right information.
Click here to download yours now.