Your CV is the first point of contact you will have with most potential employers. But being a piece of paper, albeit often in electronic form, there is a danger that your first interaction could be an impersonal affair – your application discarded after a few seconds.
If written correctly, however, it should be a document that leaps off the desk (or screen) of the hiring manager, presenting you as an individual who gets results and who would be a perfect fit for the role and the company.
In short, a CV should demonstrate a solid career with a clear line of progression, indications of leadership potential and teamwork skills, and a touch of individuality.
Most obviously, your application should be focused on the attributes you have that the employer is looking for. This may mean you need to use more than one CV – if you have a background in both accounting and insurance, for example. Match your skills to the job description and keep in mind that real people, with particular sets of criteria, will be reading over your application.
When detailing your employment history, the most important roles are the most recent. Focus on your current skills and your recent quantifiable achievements, and where you have added value and contributed towards long-term business goals. These should highlight the end result rather than the process. Where possible, they should be original and backed up by statistical evidence.
Opinions differ on the value of including a summary of your skills and experiences at the head of your CV. Some recruiters think it’s a good way to convey your key attributes in a concise manner, while others think the space would be better utilised detailing your employment history and any factual achievements. But if you do decide to write one, keep it short and to the point. Avoid overused words like “motivated” and “hard-working”, and instead use words you can back up with concrete facts like “increased”, “created” and “reduced”.
When applying for senior roles, evidence of leadership and autonomy will be crucial. If you have influenced key decision-makers, given strategic direction to large teams, or shown successful leadership under pressure, you should include examples. Engagement with shareholders, clients and employees is another way of demonstrating your capacity to build relationships and participate in business activity.
The language you use on your CV is also important. You don’t need to say you are passionate, for example. Instead, write passionately. And while you should state your quantifiable achievements and how you’ve improved processes and saved costs, don’t bog it down by overusing industry jargon.
But above all, remember that a CV alone will not be enough to land you a job. You will need to actively use your contacts, personal and professional, and approach employers directly to maximise your chances.
Do you have any CV writing tips you’ve found effective? Please share your comments below!