When it comes to your CV, seconds count. You have less than 30 seconds to impress and make the leap to the ‘maybe’ pile.
Daunting stuff, eh?
Especially when, as a graduate or school leaver, your years of hard slog suddenly look a little skimpy down on paper. But it’s all a matter of selling your strengths.
A polished, professional description of your work experience, education and skills will give you the edge over the dozens of other qualified applicants and get your foot in the interview room door.
It’s the most important document you’ll produce through your career, so make sure your CV stands out with a few simple rules.
Beware bad formatting, spelling and grammar
There’s no single, perfect layout but great CVs have a few things in common.
They are as follows:
- Cover no more than two pages and are created in Word.
- Avoid borders, colours, images, novelty paper and cartoon fonts like Comic Sans. Arial, Verdana or Tahoma in font size 10 or 11 works best.
- Use headings, bullet points and short paragraphs to make it easy for recruiters and employers to scan.
- Open with your best bits and list the most recent educational details and roles first, explaining any gaps.
- Display impeccable spelling and grammar. Don’t miss your big break because of a misspelled word. Check everything meticulously before you click ‘send’.
Go on, sell yourself.
Keep your layout clear and concise (check out our CV templates for inspiration) and include the following:
- Contact details
- Personal statement (see below for some winning ideas)
- Key achievements and skills
Even if you’re just starting out, you’ve already racked up a wealth of experience through school or uni projects, hobbies and extra-curricular activities. List the skills you’ve developed as a result eg.
- Project & budget management: Treasurer of University Student Union
- Commitment: Completed Duke of Edinburgh Award
- IT skills: Fully proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, Excel & PowerPoint), basic HTML
How have they prepared you for this role?
Include voluntary, work experience and temporary roles, focusing on results, rather than daily duties.
What did you achieve? How did you make a difference? Eg.
- Responsible for co-ordinating the production of company weekly newsletter to 70,000 recipients
- Implemented a new company filing system improving organisational efficiency
- Delivered excellent customer service, achieving on average 115% call targets
If you’ve earned a dazzling degree, place it centre stage at the beginning of your CV. If your work history is more impressive, lead with that instead.
Hobbies and interests (only if they’re relevant to the role)
References available upon request
Target and tailor
Every role has unique requirements, so sending out a one-size-fits-all CV just won’t work. With each application, review your experience – from Saturday jobs and school projects to that summer internship – and tweak your work history to prove you’re the perfect fit. The closer your skills match the job description, the closer you are to getting the job.
Put the odds in your favour by creating two or three tailored versions of your resume.
different skills and experience on each. For
example, a retail candidate might have at the ready sales, supervisor and
customer services CVs.
- Remember to upload all your versions when using online jobsites to cast your net as widely as possible.
Write a profile that packs a punch
The personal statement is your chance to shine. You get to show off your strengths, shout about your achievements and share your career aspirations. But clutter it up with boring business speak and you end up sounding like everyone else.
Here’s how to make your profile pop:
- In 50 to 150 words, tell them who you are (education and work history), what you can offer (skills and achievements) and your career aim (what job you want).
- Banish clichés such as ‘hard worker’ and ‘works well individually or as part of a team’.
- Make it specific to the job (if you’re applying directly) or to the type or role (if you’re working on a job site or with a recruitment agency).
Examples that sell...
“Enthusiastic school leaver with five GCSEs looking for an apprenticeship in the engineering field. Possessing good written and verbal communication and an interest in engineering which has spanned my lifetime with particular passion for electrics. For my GCSE Design & Technology project, I built a working calculator and was awarded an A*. Looking for a start in the exciting world of electrical engineering where I can learn a trade and realise a lifetime ambition.”
“As recent graduate from Durham University, with a 2:1 honours degree in media communications, I have undertaken several internships within leading organisations such as Bertelsmann and Times Warner. These placements have enabled me to develop not only specific media industry experience, but also a valuable and transferable skill set in this fast-paced sector.”
The devil’s in the detail
Your CV is not the place to get too personal. Share your love of social media, and your would-be manager might picture you tweeting through every meeting.
Instead, include hobbies and interests that demonstrate a particular skill or are relevant to the job you’re applying for:
- Captain of school hockey team (shows leadership)
- Volunteer/community work (shows you’re proactive)
- Visiting art galleries and museums (if applying for a job in something relevant...)
Likewise, steer clear of any personal information that doesn’t impact your ability to do the job, including:
- Date of birth, marital status, number of children or religion.
- Data that could be used in identity theft such as your National Insurance number or passport number.
- A photo, unless you’ve been asked to submit one.
Make it visible
Even the best written CV can’t do the job if no one sees it. When uploading to job sites, always select the ‘public’ or ‘visible’ option to ensure your details appear in search results.
Including job titles and keywords from your ideal job descriptions, such as sectors, qualifications and courses, will also help get you noticed.
And remember to keep your CV updated. Recruiters often filter by the last day, week or month so make sure your resume never reaches its sell by date.
To find your next job, search and apply on Fish4jobs today.