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Best Practice For CVs: Tips To Make Yours Stand Out


First impressions last, and your CV is responsible for creating that vital good first impression with a potential employer or recruiter.

A busy recruiter can see up to a hundred CVs in a day, so make sure yours is not lost in the pile but instead gets noticed. Here's how.

Simple, clean, structured

A recruiter will scan rather than read your CV, so make sure your layout is clear and simple; a messy or over-complicated CV will put people off. As they say in sales: KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Don't make people hunt for information or struggle to make sense of it all. Get to the point quickly.

Don't try and impress with fancy fonts and colours - you will only stand out for the wrong reason. Use black on white, a straightforward newsprint font at a very legible size, and clear headings to break up information.

Above all, remember that if it takes too much time to read, or to find information on, then it will be discarded in a matter of seconds.

Clear contact information

You want to make it as easy as possible for a people to get in touch, so contact information should be visible at a glance (at the top of your CV along with your name is usually best).

Get right to the point, and don't embellish

Employers and recruiters don't spend any longer than eight to ten seconds looking at a CV. You need to get everything across in one or two pages, so leave the intricate detail for interview.

You don't need to label your CV 'Curriculum Vitae' as this is self- explanatory, and you don’t need to put 'name' before your name, 'telephone' before your mobile number, and so on. Remove any and all unnecessary words so that you have more room for important information to stand out. Less is more.

What you need to include

The vital information is (i) a personal statement with relevant professional experience, (ii) a list of jobs with the responsibilities you had in each position, (iii) and relevant education and/or training.

Tailor your CV (and your cover letter)

You should be prepared to tweak your CV for different jobs. You want the recruiter to pick up your CV and say to themselves 'They were made for this job!' The simplest way to do this is to make sure that your personal statement contains skills, experience and attributes that match the job description, but you could also describe your previous jobs in different ways to emphasise certain skills and experience that the job requires.

Savvy candidates will have a handful of different CVs for different jobs or sectors that are already edited and almost ready to go with minimal changes in each case.

It is also well worth investing five to ten minutes on a custom cover letter that (i) states the job that you're applying for, and (ii) states why you think you're the best-suited candidate for the position. Don't be shy, sell yourself.

Keep your CV up to date, without gaps, and chronological

Leaving gaps in your CV will not make a recruiter want to find out what were doing all that time - it will just put them off. If you were taking a sabbatical, say you were taking a sabbatical. If you were on maternity leave, say you were on maternity leave.

Get into the habit of updating your CV whether you are looking for a job or not so that you don’t miss anything out. Any time that something significant in your career happens be sure to note it down so that you don’t forget. And, whether it be education or experience, it’s important to have everything in chronological order with the most recent first (as this is the most important).

Emphasise your experience

Your work experience is the most crucial part of your CV and is what the recruiters will be most keen to see. If you don’t have any professional experience yet, include any work experience or training you have instead. If you don't have any of that, think about what you have achieved during your education that is useful and relevant to the role.

Only include relevant educational background

You often only need to include your highest and most recent form of education (a university degree for example). However, if you have undertaken other training courses that may be useful to the role you are applying for, be sure to mention them briefly and also to explain how they will be of benefit.

Other skills and achievements

Again, keep these relevant. If there are any languages you can speak then do include these, but only if your level of expertise is at least reasonably fluent. And be honest - there's a difference between fluent and conversational! If you have an achievement to shout about, or statistics that you can use to back yourself up, then do. It might sound boring by putting statistics, percentages and numbers on your CV, but it will help your credibility and make you stand out.

Make sure your CV is optimised (has all the right keywords in)

Offline, the way that recruiters and employers find candidates is by scanning. Online, they search. If your CV is short and punchy then the keywords will jump out when read, and it will also be more searchable. The most important place for keywords is in your skills and the sectors that you work in.

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