A CV is much more than a professional document; it is a record of your key achievements and career milestones, and it could start a life-changing journey.
After all, the Latin meaning for Curriculum Vitae is ‘The Course of My life’.
Every jobseeker, no matter how experienced, needs to make a great first impression with their CV. These days it’s likely that you’ll be competing for a job opportunity with a considerable number of qualified applicants, so it’s important that you make the best possible first impression.
So how do you ensure your CV is added to the interview pile rather than given the red flag?
Together with Burns Sheehan's 20 years of specialist recruitment experience, we're pretty confident we know what makes a great CV. We’ve seen thousands of CVs, some colourful, some 15 pages long, some less than a page, some with very questionable pictures … the list goes on.
We’ve really seen it all.
Putting together a successful CV is easy once you know how. It's a case of taking all your skills and experience and tailoring them to the job you're applying for.
For a creative role, you will most likely need a more inventive design with a supplementary portfolio of work. But for the more ‘traditional’ CVs, it’s imperative you get the basics right.
For those of you who want to create a successful CV to secure your first (or next) job, we’ve put together the 7 steps to creating a great CV.
1. Win them at First Glance with an Attention-Grabbing Personal Statement
It’s crucial to get this section right as this opening paragraph can decide whether or not a recruiter or a hiring manager continues reading, so you want to grab their attention.
This is your golden opportunity to sell yourself and answer the basic questions a hiring manager will want to know: Who are you? What can you bring to the role? And what are your career goals? Just remember to keep it short and sweet!
2. Write an Achievement-Focused Employment History
Many people make the mistake of summarizing the job description of each position in this section, which frankly results in a truly yawn-worthy CV.
To successfully sell yourself and keep the reader engaged, only write a few bullet points to outline your key achievements and the skills you developed during your time there.
Tell me what you did beyond the requirements on your job spec. Where did you add value? Where did you demonstrate initiative, leadership and/or vision?
If you’re in a technical job, this is the best time to talk about the recent projects you have worked on and the skills you have gained.
What if I have over 15 jobs on my CV?
A contractor who has 30 years of employment may have 30 jobs on their CV which could end up being 15-20 pages long. Let’s be honest, who would be willing to read that many pages?
There’s no written rule on how many years back you should go, but the general consensus is that there is no need to go further back than 10 years of employment. It’s no doubt that the skills hiring managers are looking for will be during this time period and they will be reluctant to read more than 3 pages. If this isn’t enough space to go through your entire employment history then write ‘Previous Employment history on request’ at the end of this section.
3. Include Education & Qualifications
This should be from GCSE/O Level onwards, stating the amount of qualifications gained and grades achieved. Simple.
4. Include the Hobbies/Interests that Reflect Your Desired Personal Brand
An interesting one for us - we see a variety of comments here which raise eyebrows! It's best to keep this simple, highlighting the things that show off the skills you’ve gained that employers will look for. Indicate examples of when you’ve had positions of responsibility, working in a team or entrepreneurialism.
Needless to say, you should also check for spelling and grammatical errors..
You should also include anything that demonstrates how diverse and interesting you are. Don’t put generic, passive interests like watching TV or socialising with friends.
5. Include ‘References on request’
At the end of your CV write: ‘References on request’. This shows confidence to the employer that you’re happy for them to contact your previous managers/HR for a positive reference.
6. If you’re applying directly, tailor the CV to the role
After you’ve created a strong template, you should figure out what the job entails and how you can match each requirement so you can create a CV specifically for that role.
You don't have to re-write the whole thing, just adapt the details so they're relevant.
If you’re sending the CV to a recruiter or uploading it to a job board, tailor your CV to the specific role and industry you want to break into.
7. Find the Hiring Manager on LinkedIn
If you're really keen for the position, drop them a note on LinkedIn! It's a great way to stand out from other candidates, if you are sending a personalsied message to the Hiring Manager or Talent Acquisition Lead. This will show them you're keen on their role and company and have made the conscious effort to do some digging into their team! It will also help support the idea that you're not just applying to every role you see.
That’s it! Just follow these 7 steps and you’ll have a stand-out CV that will help you take your career to the next level.
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