How can I make my CV more effective?
You've got the basic elements of your skills and experience down, now you need to fine-tune your CV to ensure it's got the ‘X-Factor' that will have employers queuing up for your services.
Understanding your audience
As your personal marketing campaign, your CV must make the reader believe you're a worthwhile product. Business people generally have the same objectives; profit, bigger market share, developing their business and creating new products for their customers. They will look for candidates who will help them to achieve these objectives.
Whether you have two months or 20 years worth of experience, the rules are the same – show what you've done or have the potential to bring to the table.
Identifying an achievement
They come in all shapes and sizes and are different for every job. For some you will be able to show concrete evidence such as percentage increases in sales, or money saved by streamlining; for others, you will need to work harder to show that the influence you had on a project or task made a major impact.
A statement such as, "Used new sales channels to increase market share beyond the UK, resulting in a 25% increase in turnover" suggests you used creativity, initiative and drive to reach a certain goal.
Try to pick at least one specific example per job you've held and explain briefly how it improved the business. It can't be stressed often enough that your CV is designed to get you the interview, not the job, so remember not to delve into too much detail. Provide enough information to entice your potential employers to call you in so you can explain face-to-face the exact details of the tasks you've undertaken and the skills you have learnt.
Many jobseekers underestimate the achievements they have made and undervalue their impact on the business as a whole. Don't just say you were "ordering stationery", you were "responsible for ensuring the company had the necessary resources to operate efficiently". Always keep examples relevant to the role you are applying for.
Personal achievements are also valuable pieces to include as they often show focus and commitment that will impress recruiters. But be careful not to give valuable space to insignificant achievements. As you refine your CV, discard any content that is not selling you in the right way.
From management talk to obscure abbreviations, the world of business is packed full of clichés, and most of us hate them. Do your reader the courtesy of avoiding clangers like:
- Team player – would anyone claim the opposite?
- Project management skills – unless you can back it up with an example, this is just a fancy way of saying that you are organised.
- Results orientated – as opposed to what?
- People management skills – were you actually a manager, or did you simply get on well with your customers and colleagues?
- Good communicator – you can talk on the phone, in person or by email? There are countless ways to communicate and your other skills and achievements should suggest this anyway.
Be very careful of using abbreviations, especially if you're changing industry. The first person who evaluates your CV is usually somebody in the HR team who may not be an expert in your field. They will be given a rundown of requirements to mark CVs against, so statements like "extensive experience in working with QCIs" may mean nothing to them, even if it's an impressive skill that means you could do the job with your hands tied behind your back.
Skills for all occasions
There are countless transferable skills that can be used for many jobs in many companies. If you're looking to change industry remember that, although an employer may not need your skills on a certain IT package, they may be impressed that you have the ability to pick up new software quickly.
Explaining gaps in your CV
There are many reasons why your CV may have gaps and recruiters don't look down on candidates with them. They are suspicious however when these gaps are not clarified, so make sure they are explained in a positive manner.
Here are a few common gaps and how to give them a positive spin:
- Extended holidays - Communication and organisational skills are always important, so say how your break helped you develop these areas. Any languages you may have picked up will also be a major bonus.
- Family issues - There's no need to go into detail on personal reasons for taking time away from work, as essentially it's nobody else's business. A three or four word description is enough.
- Prison time – A tough one. At present, there are no laws regarding discrimination against ex-prisoners. However, employers are likely to be more understanding if you used your time inside to gain a new qualification or learn a new skill.
- Nothing in the market - It happens, so don't hide it. Try suggesting you were waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Employers may even get the impression that you were in demand.
Technology has made everyone's life easier when it comes to recruitment. From uploading your CV to an online database so employers can pick out your skills, to recording a video CV that gives employers a visual overview of what you can offer their company, your only limitation is your own creativity. Investigate the possible avenues you could take to make your application have that 'je ne sais quoi' and stay ahead of other candidates.