Writing a CV isn’t easy. How do you know what to include and what to leave out? How to format it and how long it should be? There are stacks of advice available online, but you’re a busy professional and don’t have time to read it all. Here are three top tips for instantly sprucing up your CV.
I’ve seen CVs 20+ pages long, mainly for academics, researchers and doctors with pages dedicated to extensive publication histories. Extreme examples perhaps, but even the average CV is around three pages. Not bad though too often these CVs are padded out using large fonts and way too much white space to suggest having done lots, or alternatively, pages of densely packed information with the smallest font imaginable – a real turnoff for the busy recruiter.
The key here is to make your CV readable and easy to scan. You should aim to deliver maximum information with the minimum effort by the reader. If you have a lot of information to include think about rewording sentences and removing irrelevant detail to make points more concise.
Split your CV into well-defined sections covering your professional profile, career summary, education and qualifications for example. Give each section a header and make it bold or use a larger font. Use bullet points to make the body content easier to read and put the most important points first.
Make good use of the white space around the content by ensuring enough space between sections and margins of at least 1.5 cm around the page. This is important as not only does it give a clean, crisp feel making it easier to read, but you avoid risking information being lost should the CV be printed out.
The consensus from CV writers and recruiters alike is that a professional profile is key to creating a good CV. A professional profile is a powerful way to engage the reader and show them your core skills and capabilities. A good profile shows the recruiter what you offer and should be viewed as your 'elevator pitch'.
Your profile needs to show who you are with a clear statement defining your background and experience.
Are you an administrator with 10 years' public sector experience? Maybe a sales executive with 6 years' corporate account management and ability to increase revenues by up-selling to existing clients?
Your profile needs to be written in the third person to give a professional feel and it should be no more than six lines long. Use this valuable real estate wisely and tailor to a particular role, making any relevant experience or skills stand out.
Make use of dynamic action verbs such as ‘introduced’ or ‘managed’. Remember to avoid any phrases disliked by recruiters and made irrelevant through over-use such as ‘hard-working’ or ‘team player’. Plus, everyone is hard-working or a team player to a degree, so these words add nothing. I guide clients by asking them to think about how they use a particular skill. We all use communication in the workplace, so just saying you are a good communicator won’t add value. Instead, think about how you communicate; consider this sentence from a CV for a security consultant:
A confident communicator who provides clear information and instruction in pressurised situations
This sentence packs in a good deal in just 12 words. It reassures the reader that this candidate can handle themselves and lead others while under pressure. It also avoids exaggeration, for example someone may use the phrase ‘excellent communication’ which gives nothing concrete and doesn’t show to what standards they are excellent.
It’s vital to include achievements on your CV. This demonstrates how you are a unique candidate and is a powerful means to show evidence of your ability to do the job.
Add achievements to each role you’ve performed, or have a separate section. Use active verbs to give your content a more dynamic feel – think about times you’ve increased something (profits, customer satisfaction scores, market share), or decreased something (negative customer comments, waste, timeframes). You might have improved, organised or innovated, or even won awards.
Quantify your results where you can – add numbers or percentages. Keep points brief and avoid padding out with irrelevant information. Bullet points of one to three lines should be more than enough to explain what you did and what the outcome was.
Struggling with the wording to best show your results? Focus on the benefits. Remember this well-known marketing phrase: features tell, benefits sell. Use this to your advantage when telling the reader your key achievements.
A result may have been introducing a new administrative system to create a paperless office; think of this as the feature. The benefit is that efficiency in the office increased by 25%. This is the juicy bit, the bit that will tell the recruiter than you can make things quicker, or help the team to work smarter not harder.
A final word on achievements – avoid taking all the credit for something if the outcome was a team effort. You can still show how you made a difference, but you’ll be caught out if you suggest that the outcome was purely a result of your work alone when it wasn’t. Recruiters will probably want to discuss achievements during your interview, so be prepared to answer the question of what your role was.
CVs that target a specific vacancy will have a greater chance of being seen and read by the recruiter. For more on how to tailor your CV see the post ‘You need this powerful CV writing strategy when applying for a job’.
Sloppily written content littered with spelling mistakes is a real shortlist killer, yet this issue is so easy to fix. Run a spell-check, use a free writing tool such as pro-writing aid or grammarly, or get a trusted friend to take a look. Check out this article for some good proofreading tips.
Best of luck with enhancing your CV!
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