How to set out a successful C.V. – Part 1
We’ve heard many reports now that the job market is improving. The green shoots of growth are, apparently, stimulating expansion and confidence in businesses which is having the knock-on effect of creating new jobs.
A consequence of this is that the candidate pool is shrinking. Though slight, this may be one of the reasons why people already in employment are now looking to switch positions or companies. I certainly have seen an upsurge in clients approaching me for help with their CVs. One even called me last week to say that the recruitment agency she’d submitted it to had commented that it was one of the best they’d ever seen. Fine praise, indeed.
It may be, if you’ve only recently begun to consider a new challenge/role, that it’s been a few years since you’ve revisited your CV. Bringing it up to date and making it stand out sufficiently, in what is still a very competitive job market, can be daunting. Over the next few blogs I’ll cover what your blog should include as a minimum and share tips as to what makes an eye-catching résumé. I’ll also impart my tips on how to prepare for an interview.
1. Make sure your CV has all the necessary details. You’d be surprised how many people don’t list their email address or telephone contact details, mainly because they’re so focused on selling themselves. Start with your name then add your email address and phone number(s). Make sure your email address is professional, and not one you’ve created for social use; therefore, addresses such as hotbabe@hotmail or lazysod@msn are out. Employers will not be impressed.
2. Write a ‘headline’. Include a short paragraph or profile that echoes an elevator pitch. Succinctly sum up what makes you better than every other candidate for the job. This is your shop window; you’re displaying the ‘goodies’ that will make the employer read on. Wherever possible, single out traits/skills that are relevant to the job description/requirements.
3. Move on then to your skills and achievements. I like to use the CAR format – Context, Action, Result – rather than the better known STAR; the last two letters are the same but the S is for situation and T is for task. I prefer ‘CAR’ because it conflates the first two letters, which means you can convey the information in a more concise format. This is important: employers don’t like CVs to exceed two pages – some even use the ‘third page’ method to weed out a huge pile of applicants’ CVs without even reading what they contain!
4. This more descriptive part of your CV should demonstrate your suitability for the job based on your past experience. Make sure it’s about the influence/skill-set you brought to a previous role or project, not about what ‘we’ did. Focus on the results you brought or what difference your particular action made: did it reduce absenteeism or raise motivation? If so, for how long? Add statistics or quotes if possible so that it’s easy for the recruiter to measure your success. LinkedIn recommendations, etc. are useful but 360° reports are far better, e.g. ‘on a recent survey, my staff gave me 98% of the available marks for motivation’; ‘xxx is the best team leader I’ve ever worked with’. Team Member, February 2014
If you put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes, you’ll understand that they’re looking for someone who’ll need little training, who has proven skills for the role, who is reliable and proactive and who can work on their own initiative just as much as they can within a team. Despite someone being a perfect fit, they still may choose an applicant who needs training over someone who could fit into the job immediately; in this event it’s likely they’ve noticed something more attractive on the successful applicant’s CV. Essentially, you’re marketing yourself like a retailer would market their product: think of all the benefits you can bring the prospective employer and sell yourself.
5. Engage realism – don’t be tempted to lie on your CV to make yourself sound better or more of a fit for a job than your skills/experience would testify to. Though some people have managed to win jobs using fabricated CVs they’ve subsequently been sacked with a broken reputation to boot. Don’t risk it – it’s not worth it. Let your talent and past results (those that can be confirmed by past employers and referees, who will be consulted) shine through, not your imagination.
Next week I’ll cover further areas of your CV, so make sure you pop back for more tips. If, in the meantime, you need help with your CV or job application, call me on 01302 220221. You can also download my CV template here.