This week, we’ll be looking at ways to make your CV more professional, interesting and personalised. Although the CV certainly isn’t the only way to apply for a job – many larger organisations will have their own online application forms, which replicate the information in a way that their systems can easily read, and as the job market gets more demanding there are companies who look for alternative ways to get to know their candidates – it is still the standard bearer for now, and it’s important that you have a good relationship with yours.
- Don’t include unnecessary information. Things like birthdate, photograph, marital status; these are all aspects that could make you susceptible to a recruiter’s unconscious bias, and are probably not relevant to the job. During the last general election, it was even suggested that recruiters commit to disregarding names as a visible element of an application, to reduce racial bias, and various experiments have shown that this might have a drastic effect. We’re not suggesting that you send a CV without your name on it, unless the company requests that – just that you should be aware of factors that are sometimes taken into account.
- Tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for. We’ve discussed the reasons for this before, but more than this, try to mention the keywords that are in the job advert. If it’s a position that two hundred people apply for, the recruiter might save time by searching for those keywords or previous roles in each CV, and dismissing those which don’t have it. So if the job advert mentions MySQL, back-end developer, practice nurse, or social media manager, ensure you phrase your experience in the same way to avoid being excluded at the first round.
- Check your spelling! It’s the most basic of instructions, but once you have spent a while making sure all the details are correct, take a break and then give it one more look over – so much can be missed through staring at a document for too long. If you aren’t confident about your spelling or grammar, ask a friend or family member to check it over for you.
- Make sure it’s an appropriate length. Two sides of an A4 is perfectly adequate; seven pages detailing your every move might make you feel accomplished, but it’s unlikely a recruiter would bother to read it. Ensure that paragraphs are also not too lengthy – it’s fine to write a few lines about a specific role, but bullet points might make your achievements clearer.
- Focus on achievements, as well as duties. A brief job description will let recruiters know what you did, but if you hit any milestones or targets while you were in the role, that’s usually more important than your daily tasks.
- Unless your field is creative design, don’t try to be too clever with the layout. Hirers sift through hundreds of CVs every day; the last thing you want is to stand out because looking at your CV gave them a headache. It needs to be clear, concise and readable, in a typeface that is not too small, and in reverse chronological order (so your most recent experience is at the top). Add a few lines about yourself that highlight your key skills at the top, and separate out your academic achievements section from your work experience section, unless they were undertaken in a combined format such as an apprenticeship.
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Katherine is a qualified careers advisor and a member of the Career Development Institute. She has just begun a PhD programme to research meta-skill development in the workplace, and is a fiction editor and publisher in her spare time. You can find her on Twitter at @katobell.