Professional life is full of catch 22s: you need experience to get a job, but you need a job for that experience. Thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to apply for jobs, but competition for jobs has never been higher. While completing a qualification is no longer enough to land your dream job, writing a great CV should still get you noticed. Today we’re going to break down a few key elements to consider when writing your CV and cover some of the major CV mistakes that take you from top of the pile to bottom of the bin.
Creating a Great CV
So, what constitutes a great CV? Depending on your career choice, CVs can look vastly different; you wouldn’t expect the same layout from an accountant and a graphic designer. Similarly, CVs for different professions would read very differently. Herein lies our first piece of advice: find out what’s important in your industry. If you’re looking to work in creative marketing, for example, quality of words always beats quantity. Branding yourself with a killer phrase shows you’re both aware of what you’ll be doing in the role and that you’re good at it.
Make an Impression
When creating the structure for your CV, think about what elements highlight your skills in the most efficient way? Recruiters spend around 6 seconds on each CV – that means you’ve got to make an impression quickly. How can you make sure the first thing a recruiter reads is the most important professional information? Placing that information at the top would be a good start. A professional profile gives you the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and talk about what makes you the very best candidate for the role. For most, this will be a short paragraph at the top of the page. This professional profile must tie together your skills with the job description. Remember, concise language is absolutely essential; as a general guide, try to tie your skills to the job in as few words as possible.
Are You Experienced?
You’ve made big claims in your professional profile; now’s the time to back them up with more detail in your work experience section. The traditional way to approach writing about your professional experience is by talking about your past roles in chronological order; however, you could order by relevance. If knowing a specific skill set is essential for the job, then it probably makes sense to place the most relevant role at the beginning. Think of the job description as a question to be interpreted; you must analyse the best way to answer if you want to be considered – this includes how and where you place information.
If you feel your CV lacks workplace experience, now’s the time to consider some pro bono work. There are plenty of channels through which you can find relevant work experience; so, refine your search down to include only roles that will maximise your professional value. There are fewer benefits to volunteering in a role that has no relevance to your chosen career. Once you’ve gained this experience, start shaping the work to fit in with the role-specific skills outlined in the job description.
Jobs that have little professional relevance in your chosen career can still be useful for your CV. Employability skills are great indicators of professional attitude. Take the opportunity to highlight as many employability skills as you can in the roles that are less technically specific.
The golden rule for CV length is one-side of A4. Clear, concise information helps recruiters make quick decisions, and they’re sure to look favourably on those who use their words wisely. Remember, every word should connect back to the role you’re applying for. If those words don’t somehow connect you to the job, why are they there?
When you think you’ve finished, it’s time to analyse. Read back on each piece of information and ask yourself, “what does this say about me?” Listing individual achievements is great but it hardly shouts “team-player”. If relevant, consider how you can turn your achievements to instead be seen as the qualities of a leader. Likewise, demonstrating competitiveness is something of a double-edged sword; too much competitiveness and you may come across as a touch aggressive; too little and you might be considered unambitious. Take this analytical approach and go back over the whole CV again. Also, don’t forget to check spelling and punctuation; mistakes offer recruiters the easiest way to discard a CV – if you haven’t taken the time to carefully proof the CV, why should the recruiter read it?
It’s always a good idea to get as many fresh pairs of eyes on your CV as possible. Send it to as many friends and members of your family as possible before submitting. And good luck!
Interested in developing professionally? UKCBC students are given the opportunity to attend professional workshops throughout the year. Each workshop gives insight on topics such as CV writing and interviewing. Find out if studying at UKCBC is for you by checking out our courses page.