One of the questions we’re asked most at the moment is “can you give me some feedback on my CV?” More people are finding themselves in the market for a role. The more people looking for work; the more applications for every vacancy. It has become increasingly important to have a CV that stands out from the crowd and can speak for you. Attempting to critique a CV is tough. It’s even tougher to write one. In essence, your CV is your sales pitch. It should be personal to you and you should feel confident that it does you justice.
So here are a few hints and tips. Adopt as much or as little as you like. Play around with some of them and hopefully you’ll come out with something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside and give you the confidence that your CV will get the attention it deserves when applying for suitable roles.
1 – How long should it be?
I don’t know who started this “CV mustn’t be longer than 2 pages” thing but it’s rubbish. No one’s going to toss your CV aside if you run into page 3 or even page 4.
Some of us have had long careers and others are near the beginning. You need to make sure that your CV documents your career properly and highlights your relevant roles and achievements.
Whilst length isn’t a key factor, there’s a balance to be struck. If you’re down to one or two pages, are you happy that you’ve covered everything you need to? Recruiters take an average of 6 seconds to scan a CV, so the first page is the most important. If you’re on 9 pages and counting, is it really all required? And can you guarantee that any hiring manager has the time and inclination to read through it all?
2 – Make sure it’s about you
The first thing that a potential hiring manager is going to read when they pick up your CV is your profile. That’s the bit of blurb that tells the reader exactly who you are. Often, if we’re not careful, it tells the reader that we’re just the same as everyone else.
Are you a confident, adaptable, hard-working individual? Do you have fantastic written and verbal communication skills? Maybe this allows you to communicate effectively at all levels of the business, from board level to shop floor? Perhaps you work well as part of a team and on your own?
So does everyone else, according to their Personal Profiles.
A typical mistake we all make. We looked at generic, awfully written job descriptions that ask us for stuff like “excellent communication skills” when they’re trying to squeeze in a few more bullet points, and we decided to use that section of our CV for ticking all of those boxes. My advice: don’t do that. Use this section to talk about you.
Imagine you had 30 seconds with the MD of the company you’d love to work for, who’s looking for someone to do the job you’re best suited for. If they asked you to tell them about you, what would you say?
I’d use that 30 seconds (or those first few lines of my CV) to say: who I am and what I bring, what qualifies me to do this, the key problems that I can help to solve, and maybe how I feel about all of that.
3 – Work backwards
Pretty basic stuff but insert your latest job first, then work backwards in time.
The important thing to note is that, as your career progresses, those earlier jobs should become less important and less relevant to the roles you’re applying for now. Don’t just add your latest job to the pile when updating your CV. Make sure you’re reviewing the previous jobs and removing anything that’s no longer relevant to your level/the roles you’re applying for.
When hiring managers look at your CV, they are most interested in the last 2-3 roles.
4 – Separate responsibilities from achievements
In essence, for each role you’ve had, we want to know, briefly what your responsibilities were but also, and possibly more importantly, what results you achieved.
The first tells us what you did. The second tells us how well you did it.
As a rule of thumb, this should be 2-3 short sentences on your job responsibilities and 3-5 bullets on your major achievements.
Be selective as to what you include. “Attend monthly meetings” could be both a responsibility and an achievement depending on how you look at it. To us, it’s not worthy of making it onto your CV either.
5 – Include some numbers
It’s so important to give a sense of scale and impact to hiring managers.
When we’re talking about responsibilities:
- How big was the site you managed?
- How many SKUs?
- What was the size of your team?
- What was your budgetary responsibility?
Numbers are even more important for your achievements. It’s great to see measurables within there. It shows us how successful you were but also gives a potential employer a chance to translate what you’ve done previously into what you could deliver for their business. You cut indirect spend by how much? You improved OEE by…? Customer satisfaction went from where to where?
Tell a business owner/senior leader that you can save money, increase effectiveness, reduce waste, improve customer satisfaction, grow turnover, in numbers that they can relate to, and we guarantee you’ll have their interest.
6 – We don’t need no education
Actually, that’s a lie. We do. We just don’t always need all of it.
Here’s what we need. If you have a degree or equivalent, include it.
Any specific and relevant qualifications/courses? For some disciplines, this will be more important than others. Engineering, Technical, Health and safety spring to mind.
Only put in the necessary qualifications and skills that specifically apply to the job otherwise your CV will be irrelevant to the job.
7 – Format
The chances are, if you’re working with a recruitment agency, we’re going to reformat your CV so it’s consistent with everything else we share. That way, it allows our clients to do a side-by-side comparison when looking at a shortlist. Also, sharing good CVs on our letterhead helps our brand.
Don’t worry too much about having a fancy format. Unless you’re applying for a design role. It’s the content that’s important. Keep it clean and simple, make sure your layout is logical, you’re covering the relevant points and that you’re happy with what you’ve got.