Where ever you are in your career, your CV is a critical element to securing your perfect new job.
Although some pieces of advice in relation to a CV are more obvious than others, there are no ‘hard and fast’ rules to using it to maximise the attention received by your next job application.
Nonetheless, there are still ways of structuring a CV that help to make that good first impression in the vast majority of prospective employers that may cast their eye over it.
Make it like a web page
Great web pages engage viewers immediately, giving them a compelling reason to continue reading, right from the top of the first page.
So apply the same principles to your CV – which, like that webpage, needs to capture the reader’s interest straight away, if they are not simply to cast their attentions elsewhere?
Thinking like a web designer in structuring your CV can be especially advantageous given the tendency these days for most CVs to be read online, or at least on a screen.
We tend to read computer screens from left to right, starting from the top, so there may be no more important part of your CV than the top left corner.
After all, this is the area where many successful websites place an advert – so consider how you, too, can make the most of this vital piece of real estate.
Make a great first impression with the right introduction – otherwise known as the personal profile or statement.
This should be concise and to the point, summarising in no more than two or three sentences not only who you are, but also your achievements and the skills that you possess, while avoiding annoying clichés or buzzwords.
Place everything in the right order
Powerful CVs have the right content in the right places, designed to ensure job hunting success. It all begins at the top of page one with your name, which should be in the format that you use on a daily basis. This can be followed by the brief, first person profile.
The “headline” area at the top of page one is especially valuable, and should not be taken up by contact details that do not give the recruiter immediately compelling reasons to employ you.
Instead, place the contact details in the footer of each page of your CV, so that they can be easily referenced if required.
In addition, you should always place your latest role first on your CV, given that it is this that has maximum relevance to your next role.
You could then list the next most recent role and accompanying details that are most relevant to the post for which you are now applying, followed by a shorter list of all roles preceding these.
For the first few, most recent roles that you list on your CV, you should use the month and year as the date format, and give a brief summary of role responsibilities, followed by a list of key achievements.
Following this part of the CV can be an education summary and results, then details on your professional development, and finally hobbies and interests.
Thoughts on tone and font
The tone and fonts that you use throughout your CV should also befit the job hunting process, with both needing to be professional rather than wacky.
You will want your prospective employer to take you seriously and see you as a dependable and capable candidate, not as someone with a frivolous attitude to the application or the role.
Your CV will feel fresher if you opt for a modern, sans serif font such as Tahoma or Verdana, rather than an outdated serif font like Times New Roman. Choose a font size that is large enough to avoid your CV looking crowded, but that also isn’t so large as to make your CV look sparse.
Again in the interests of professionalism, you should also keep your chosen fonts and style settings consistent across your CV.
A ‘positively objective’ tone – one that excites the reader while also not exuding too much arrogance – is the ideal for a strong CV.
A CV should strike the balance between professional and personal, not simply giving a self-centred impression – even if it’s true that you are talking about yourself. After all, you are there to be a problem solver for your new employer.
Writing in third person is one powerful way of exuding professionalism while avoiding self-centredness in the tone of your CV. However, there is also the danger of overly hiding your personality, and of your CV becoming a generic description – so consider all of the most original and interesting ways in which you could describe yourself, while steering clear of clichés.
Above all, even with professionalism firmly in mind, your CV still needs to stand out from the rest.
Emphasise achievements, not responsibilities
Asserting achievements over responsibilities in your CV signals to seasoned leaders and recruiters that you are aware that they already know the key responsibilities for the role for which they are hiring, and are instead most interested in what you have achieved in these areas.
The achievements that you list for each previous position should be the key ones that apply to the present role for which you are applying.
Anyone can list previous duties, as if compiling a generic job description. Remember that what is of interest to a prospective employer isn’t what you were told to do in a previous role – it’s if you did them, and if so, to what standard, as well as what the end results were. Wherever possible, you should quantify and qualify those results.
Those finishing touches
As you are writing your CV, ensure that it covers two pages – or at most, three. Any longer, and prospective employers aren’t sure to sustain their interest before moving onto another CV. You will, after all, want your CV to be a brief, readable and concise record of your career past.
Make your CV too short, however, and the immediate impression is that you lack experience – which may instantly rule you out of the job.
When you save the file, include your full name and date in the title, so that it can be easily found by those searching for it. Giving it a much more anonymous title, such as CV.doc, only greatly increases the chances of it getting lost amid what may be hundreds of other CVs.
With these tips taken in mind, you should have a powerful, well-structured CV that is of maximum relevance to recruiters and increases your job hunting success.