It’s the season for a good old clear out. So why not give your CV a polish, by following our five-step guide?
“The mistake many people make about their CV is to think of it as a static document. But it should be revised and reviewed on a regular basis and tailored to specific job opportunities. That way, it will always do the best possible justice to your skills, talents, and potential.”
That’s the view of Jody Collings, a senior consultant at Just Recruitment Group Ltd, who handles hundreds of CVs a month. She says the ones that stand out are concise, accurate and well written, creating just the right impression of a prospective candidate.
To ensure your CV is as sharp as a box of razor blades, here are Jody’s top tips to give it a spring clean.
1. Be ruthless
Okay, so your Mum and Dad are very proud of your silver medal in the school dance competition. But you’re a twenty-something professional, and it’s unlikely to help you stand out from the crowd when you go for your next sales job.
“Cut unnecessary detail from your CV,” advises Jody. “The average recruiter will have a large quantity of applications to work through. If yours seems verbose or self-indulgent, you’ll go to the bottom of the pile.”
Of course, what counts as “unnecessary” detail changes over time. Including a breakdown of GCSE results which is important if you’re a school leaver, but if you’ve been working for a decade or more, it’s probably sufficient just to say how many you have, and within what grade range. Your more recent educational and professional experience will trump what you did when you were 15.
2. Tighten the layout
You probably like to think that recruiters will focus on what you write in a CV, rather than how it looks. But the harsh truth is that visual presentation has a real impact.
“If you’re a busy person with a stack of CVs to review, you’ll be put off by clunky layouts that make the information hard to decipher,” says Jody. “It’s always worth making sure your CV is as legible as possible.”
Common mistakes to avoid are cutting sentences in half over pages, misaligning columns so they’re hard to read, or being inconsistent in the use of italics or bold typeface. As a general rule, keep your formatting as simple as possible – that minimises the risk of mistakes creeping in.
3. Be honest
Remember when you first started out on the job hunt and had to big up your limited experience? When you said that your role as a lifeguard included retail experience, because you were responsible for refilling the chocolate machine?
Now’s the time to go over your CV and correct those half-truths. Because if there’s one thing a recruiter can spot a mile away, it’s needless hyperbole. And even if you’re a great candidate, it creates an impression of someone who’s trying too hard – never a good look when you’re going for a new job.
4. Update your summary statement
“The best CVs start with a statement that summarises a person’s strengths, experience and talents,” says Jody. “Naturally, this changes over time, and you may want to play up different attributes depending on the job you’re applying for.
“My advice is to review this statement each time you apply for a job, and perhaps keep a file of alternative versions somewhere on your computer. Then you can cut, paste and edit the one that seems most appropriate, helping you create maximum impact with your prospective employer.”
5. Enjoy your achievements
Reading your CV can be a curiously pleasurable experience. It’s a chance to remind yourself of your achievements and celebrate life’s successes. This can be a helpful way to build your confidence before applying for jobs. So, enjoy it, and remember to reference the highlights in an interview situation.
“A CV should be an honest appraisal of what you can offer a prospective employer,” says Jody. “But it is a sales tool, too. So, if you don’t finish reading it with a renewed feeling of pride and self-belief, you probably need to give it a bit more work.”
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