When you're applying for a job, there's still nothing more important than an impressive CV. It remains an absolute essential.
Yes, the digital landscape has changed everything about job seeking. Digital CVs, social profiles and online portfoliosare ubiquitous, and there are more ways than ever to sell yourself to potential employers (both a blessing and a curse!)
And yet, the humble CV remains dominant.
As a candidate, creating an impactful CV is a key step to career success, and one you'll have to revisit throughout your career. The challenge is to pack all of your many selling points into a neat and impressive package. It's easier said than done, and in fact, we spend much of our time helping candidates optimise their CV for best impact.
So we thought we'd share some of our insight with you, in the form of 10 fundamental tips to CV success...
1 - Getting creative? Fine, but don’t ignore the basics
It’s tempting to get drawn into flashy formats and quirky designs, but make sure you don’t leave out the essentials.
We recommend you include the following sections; Personal Information, Personal Summary (max 5 lines), Work Experience (in reverse chronological order) Education and Qualifications, Skills (include technical skills and languages), Interests & Hobbies.
2 - Optimise for skillset and experience keywords
Like it or loathe it, the first hurdle of any job application usually involves a checklist. Employers tend to look for 5-10 key skills or experiences that will immediately mark your application as a 'maybe' or a 'no.
Job adverts almost always state clearly what the keywords in question are - from software capability to educational background. Make sure yours are clearly visible and easy to spot.
3 - Read your draft from an employers’ perspective, then adjust to impress
Your CV is NOT a list of your work experience. It’s a sales document, used to convey to potential employers - in an engaging and concise manner - why they should hire you. Make sure those reasons stand out.
For each position you apply for, tailor your CV to the role. Read the JD, think about how you fit the requirements, then adjust your CV to make those points prominent.
4 - Cover all gaps, but keep focus on relevant experience
It goes without saying you don’t need to include any part time work you undertook as a teenager. A good rule of thumb is to list all full-time work experience post-graduation (or post age 18, if you’re not a graduate), but leave descriptions to a minimum if the job isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for.
Make sure you’ve covered the chronology of your career, explaining any gaps (eg travelling, self-employment or unemployment). If you’ve got lots of experience, you might consider removing irrelevant positions from early on in your career.
5 - Be concise
Aim for a maximum of two pages; if Elon Musk’s CV can fit on one page, you can fit yours on two. Avoid lengthy prose in your work experience and personal summary sections, instead opt for bullet points – they’re much more appealing to a recruiter.
So re-read your CV with a critical eye, and aim to trim down a few words off the word count.
6 - Highlight achievements, including exactly what you (personally!) delivered
Recruiters aren’t just interested in your responsibilities – they’re interested in your achievements. Make it clear what deliverables you were measured against, and your performance against these.
Dependent on your role, you may even be able to draw on data to back up what you’ve done. Whether that's customers served, revenue generated or campaigns run: evidence speaks volumes.
7 - Experiment with design to demonstrate creativity and personality
If you’re going for creative or design based jobs, then don’t be afraid to make your CV look beautiful (although be sure to include relevant information on responsibilities, achievements, etc).
Video CV’s and online CVs can make you stand out for some employers, but it’s best to also write a standard format CV as quirky forms won’t be appropriate for every occasion.
8 - Think twice about including references
You can include the names and contact details of people who’d give you a good recommendation, but it’s not essential. Saying ‘[excellent] references can be provided on request’ is fine.
If you do include references, make sure at least one is from someone who directly managed you. And remember to contact them beforehand.
9 - Keep your online CV topped up and positive
If you’re working in a digital/tech industry, you’ll know the importance of an online presence. Link your CV to design portfolios, stack overflow, GitHub or your website URL.
Social media presence is also important – tidy this up before you start applying for jobs, and make your LinkedIn profile as shiny as your CV.
10 - Eliminate sloppy mistakes by proofreading in detail
We can't stress this one enough…. Proofread!
Spelling and grammar mistakes show sloppiness, and can mean a black mark against your application. The simple solution? Proofread carefully, and then get someone else to read it too in case you’ve missed something.