Posted on 1/12/2017 by Peter Sanders
The New Year is often time for a new start. In London alone, six out of ten people spent January 2017 looking for new jobs. And nationwide, by the end of the month, job applications had grown to 75% above the daily average.
The sheer number of people looking for a fresh start means increased competition for roles - and since most recruiters spend between seven and thirty seconds deciding to put a candidate forward for a role, first impressions are vital.
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A top notch CV looks professional, is easy to read, and presents all of the required information clearly. It’s the sum of its parts, and nailing four key elements - structure, language, length and personalisation - could spell the difference between interview invitations and resigning yourself to a lack of career progression in 2018.
How readable is your CV? A survey by reed.co.uk revealed that logical ordering is employers’ most important consideration when reviewing a CV, and while it might be tempting to mix things up and stand out, any significant deviation from the norm can cause confusion.
A CV should be easy to navigate, putting key information front and centre. In most cases, we would expect CVs to be headed with the following titles:
Profile – an introductory paragraph
Core Professional Skills – bullet pointed snapshot of your main offerings
Core Technical Skills - bullet pointed snapshot of your main offerings
Career history – detailed list of your roles
Structure isn’t just about CV order, though - it’s also important that your CV looks the part. Stick with a simple, professional font like Calibri or Verdana, keep your headings consistent in their size and bolding. and include plenty of white space. All of these elements will give your CV a clear structure that is easy to navigate.
Look at the language
While structure and content are important to any CV, poor use of the English language is the biggest turn-off for employers. A survey by New College of the Humanities revealed employers’ top three CV hates are typos/grammatical errors, an overly casual tone, and use of jargon/clichés.
That means knowing your ‘your’ from your ‘you’re’ and the difference between ‘their’ and ’there’. Overfamiliarity - ‘cheers’ or ‘you guys’ - is a no no, and clichéd phrases like ‘thinking outside of the box’ and ‘passion for my work’ are off the table.
Such basics may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many CVs land on our desks with these simple errors. This despite the fact that 24% of surveyed candidates claimed they have “excellent written communication skills”.
Be sure to spell-check and proof-read carefully - enlisting the help of others if needed - and remember:
- Keep your language positive. Positive action words like ‘chaired’, ‘controlled’ or ‘co-ordinated’ will convey a can-do attitude.
- Avoid waffling. Keep things concise and to the point.
- Include keywords. Many recruiters will be scanning CVs for keywords that demonstrate relevant skills - and some even use CV scanning software to highlight these terms.
Too much, or not enough?
Some say that a CV should be kept to one page - but if your career history spans decades, this isn’t always possible. Length shouldn’t be your focus. Instead, be concise: understand what is required and what isn’t.
For example, any roles over 10 years old are generally not relevant. Add your employment dates and employer information, but feel free to remove all the other details. We would advise to stick to 3 or 4 pages maximum: anything longer suggests waffle and over-selling.
You should also make sure the top of your CV works hard to capture attention fast. A personal profile that gives your ‘elevator pitch’ will set out your suitability for the role upfront: be sure to include elements like industry experience, the calibre of past employers, your education and qualifications, and the key benefits your work has brought to past employers.
Take time to tailor
Your CV will no doubt already be tailored to your role and industry - but are you tailoring your application for individual employers too? A National Careers Service survey revealed that two-thirds of careers advisors cited a lack of tailoring as a key factor in failing to secure a new position.
Every single role for which you apply will have specific requirements: skills that are favoured over others, vital qualifications for the role, a minimum level of education. Highlighting the specifics of the role for which you are applying in your personal profile allows the recruiter or employer to see your suitability at a glance, and proves you have read the job profile and thought about how you fit it.
A new year always brings with it thoughts of a new start - and your CV should be no different. With a few simple tweaks and revisions, your CV could transform an employer’s view of you from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, securing you that interview you’ve been dreaming of.
At Identifi Global, we’re fully focused on ensuring that our candidates are matched with the roles that best suit their skills and needs. Find out how we helped Monique Duarte to secure her perfect product manager role.