I have recently been involved in shortlisting CVs for companies as part of an internship programme organised through Skills Development Scotland. This was a great opportunity for me to be on the other side of the process – highlighting the most suitable applicants to employers rather than advising people on their CVs. From sifting through over 70 CVs for each position it was clear to see that the standout CVs shared the same simple elements. From this insight I’ve come up five steps to help you create an interview-worthy CV…if you’re interested then read on!
1. Consider first impressions
Your CV is perhaps the first ‘interaction’ the employer will have with you and therefore it’s vital you create a good first impression, particularly as an employer may spend as little as 30 seconds looking at your CV! Poorly formatted CVs with inconsistent fonts are a big turn off, as are any spelling or grammar errors. If you can’t be bothered to make sure your CV is well presented and error-free then why should the employer bother reading it? Take time to format and edit your CV to save it from being put in the bin before it’s even been read!
2. Tailor your profile
If I received £1 for every CV that started off with the line ‘Hardworking, motivated individual who can work well independently and as part a team’ I would be….well, perhaps not rich but definitely better off! Imagine reading this line on nearly every CV – instead of helping you to stand out from other applicants it has the opposite effect as you sound just like everyone else! If you want to include a profile or summary section at the start of your CV then it needs to be short, concise and tailored towards the position you’re applying for.
3. Use the job description as guide for your content
This may seem obvious, yet well over 70% of CVs I see are far too general and not tailored towards a specific role. Yes, it’s easier to create one CV and use this for every application, but I guarantee taking the time to tailor your CV towards every position you apply for will reap more rewards in terms of getting through to the interview stage and landing a job. Employers will be looking at your CV to determine whether or not you meet their role requirements – make their job easy by starting off with the person specification as your checklist and then provide information in your CV to demonstrate you have the knowledge, skills and experience they’re looking for.
4. Back up your claims
On many of the CVs I reviewed, applicants simply told me they had the skills needed for the role, for example ‘I am very organised’ or ‘Fully competent using Microsoft Excel’. The CVs that stood out, however, provided details to demonstrate when and how the applicant had used the skill previously. For example, stating ‘Created a new strategy for marketing company products that utilised online methods including pay-per-click advertising and social media promotion, resulting in a 30% increase in sales over a 6 month period.’ Compare this to a lone bullet point stating you have strong marketing skills – which candidate would you take through to interview?
5. Include a cover letter
Unless specifically stated, you should always include a cover letter with your CV. A cover letter not only introduces your CV, but can also be a great way to communicate your motivation and enthusiasm for the company and role – something that is difficult to get across in a CV alone. As with your CV, if you’re going to include a cover letter then take time to tailor it towards the company you’re applying for, including your genuine reasons for wanting to work for that specific company and why you feel you’re the perfect fit for them.
Next time you apply for a job remember these 5 steps to help ensure your CV gets noticed – for the right reasons!