When it comes to applying for a new job, your CV could be just the ticket to get that initial foot in the door and secure an interview. But how do you ensure your CV is added to the ‘interview pile’ rather than straight to the bin?
Putting together a successful CV is easy, once you know how to. It’s a case of taking all your skills and experience and tailoring them to the job you’re applying. But what if you haven’t got the right criteria, I hear you say. Well, I’ve put together the following top 10 tips to help you create a successful CV.
1. Get the basics right
There is no right or wrong way when it comes to creating a CV. But there are some common sections that you should cover. These include: personal and contact information; education and qualifications; work history and experience; relevant skills to the job in question; own interests, achievements or hobbies; and some references.
2. Presentation is key
A successful CV is always carefully and presented and printed on clean, crisp white paper. Its layout is always well-structured. It should never be crumpled or even folded, so use an A4 envelope to post your job applications. Always remember the CV hotspot – the upper middle area of the first page is where the recruiter’s eye will naturally fall, so make sure you include your most important information there.
3. Stick to no more than two pages of A4
A good CV is clear, concise and makes every point necessary without waffling. You don’t need reams and reams of paper; you need to keep things short and sweet. A CV is merely a reassurance to a potential employer – it’s a chance to tick the right boxes. And if everything is satisfied, there is a better chance of a job interview. Plus employers receive dozens of CVs all the time, so it’s unlikely they’ll read each one from cover to cover. Most will make a judgment about a CV within seconds, so stick to a maximum of two sheets of A4.
4. Understand the job description
The clues are in the job application, so read the details cover to cover. Take notes and create bullet points, highlighting everything you can satisfy and all the bits you can’t. With the areas where you’re lacking, start to fill out the blanks by adapting the skills you do have. For example, if the job in question requires someone with sales experience, nothing is stopping you from using any retail work you’ve undertaken – even if it was something to help pay the bills through university. It will demonstrate the skills you do have and show how they’re transferable.
5. Tailor the CV to the role
When you’ve established what the job entails and how you can adhere to each requirement, create a CV specifically for that role. Remember, there is no such thing as a generic CV – every CV you send to a potential employee should be tailored to that role. So don’t be lazy and hope that a general CV will work, because it won’t. Create a unique CV for every job you apply for. You don’t have to re-write the whole thing – adapt the details, so they’re relevant.
6. Make the most of the skills
Under the skills section of your CV, don’t forget to mention key skills that can help you to stand out from the crowd. These could include communication skills; computer skills; team working; problem-solving or even foreign language skills. Skills can come from the most unlikely places, so really think about what you've done to grow your expertise. You can even take examples from being in a local sports team or joining a voluntary group; it's all relevant.
7. Make the most of interests
Under interests, highlight the things that show off skills that you’ve gained, and employers look for. Describe any examples of positions of responsibility, working in a team or anything that demonstrates you can use your initiative. For example, you might have managed your university’s newspaper, or perhaps you started a football team, which has become a success. Include anything that shows how diverse, interesting and skilled you are. Don’t include passive interests like ‘watching TV’ or ‘reading’ – these are solitary hobbies that can be perceived as you lacking in ‘people’ skills. Make yourself sound interesting.
8. Make the most of experience
Use assertive and decisive language under the ‘Work History & Experience’ section, such as ‘developed’, ‘organised’ or ‘achieved’. Try to relate the skills you’ve learnt to the job role you’re applying for. For example, ‘The work experience involved working in a team…’ or ‘This position involved planning, organisation and leadership as I was responsible for a team of people’. Get to grips with the valuable skills and experience you have gained from past positions, even if it was just working in a restaurant – every bit helps.
9. Include references
References should be from someone who has employed you in the past and can vouch for your skills and experience. If you’ve never worked before, you’re ok to use a teacher or tutor as a referee. Try to include two if you can. If you've run out of room on your two sheets of A4, add a sub-header 'References' and include below a concise sentence: 'References available on request'.
10. Keep your CV updated
Finally, it’s crucial to review your CV regularly and add any new skills or experience that are missing. For example, if you’ve just done some volunteering or work experience, make sure they're on there – potential employers are always impressed with candidates who go the extra mile to boost their skills and expertise.
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