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Creating Your Stand Out CV

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CREATING A STAND OUT CV

If you want a serious chance at obtaining your next career move, a standout CV shouldn’t just list the job roles and education you’ve had, it has to sell you into an interview.  Here are some cogent points to remember when writing and re-writing your Curriculum Vitae, (source: changeboard.com).

1. Read the Advert Carefully

A job advert is often your best guide to what an employer is looking for. The sort of information you should be able to glean might include the qualifications and experience they require, the skills they consider important for the role, the size of team you would be working with and the industry you would be working in.

Most applicants scan read an advert and then, with =out thinking, send off their CV, missing vital information or indeed instructions – they will have fallen at the first hurdle.  Read the advert thoroughly and all the application instructions – sometimes you are asked to request an application form, provide references, add a covering letter, etc. 

This information can then be used to shape your CV, so don’t fall at the first hurdle by ignoring the ad.

2. Make your CV ‘Bespoke’

If you send out a generic CV to each potential employer, then you’re literally sabotaging your chances of getting a job. Your CV should be tailored to every job you apply for. Employers can easily spot a generic CV so use the information you glean from the job advert to help guide what information you include and how you organise it. And if there's only little information to guide you, you can look at their website and glean as much as you can from that.

It is also worth doing research on the organisation you are applying to to see what skills and experience they are likely to consider important. Some employers even specify exactly what information they expect you to include in your CV - so make sure you prioritise addressing these points so that they don’t have to hunt for the answers or throw your CV in the waste basket.

3. Match your Language to the Advert

Your choice of words can say a huge amount about you. Without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting, your employer will be looking to gain information about your personality from the things you say and the way you present information. For this reason, matching your language to that of the ad is well worth the effort as it shows that you are a good fit for the organisation with similar values.

For example, if the advert reads, “We are looking for a motivated and talented individual to develop a client base…”, then you could include the words “talented” and “(self) motivated” in your CV as well as statements like, “I have an excellent track record in building up strong client bases.”

Websites are also good point of reference for language clues too.

4. Sell the Benefits of your Experience

When describing your previous experience, this is your opportunity to be persuasive about your skills and highlight what you can deliver for the employer. A lot of candidates just list the duties and activities involved in their previous roles. For example:

  • Project management including feasibility studies, project planning, data collection and reporting
  • Responsible for generating weekly advertising sales

A much more powerful way to present your activities is to ask yourself, “what did that task result in?”.  CVs are a sales document, so you have to quantify what benefits you bring to the table, for example:

  • I have managed various projects ranging in budget from £10,000 to £250,000. Tasks included carrying out feasibility studies, data collection and final reporting. All my projects were completed within budget and timescale
  • I was responsible for generating average weekly sales of £7,100, with a company wide sales target of £60,000 among twelve people. I was therefore generating £2,100 per week more than the average.

5. Include a Personal Statement

Some people include a personal statement, some don’t. I believe they can add to a CV, but only if they are kept brief - approximately four to six sentences - and offer a summary of the strongest points given in your CV. Again, particular attention should be given to the requirements and word choice used in the job advertisement.  If you tailored nothing else in your CV – you must make this unique to each application, as it is the first thing a recruiter will read.

Since your personal statement appears at the top of your CV, it represents your first opportunity to impress your employer, so use persuasive language that presents you as a well rounded potential employee.

For example:

“A versatile and results-oriented sales and management executive with excellent people skills and six years of business-to-business sales experience, which includes European client relationship management and high volume target driven sales. As well as being one of the top performing sales people at my firm, I am currently acting as deputy sales manager, which has further increased my problem solving, team building and analytical skills.”

6. Fonts and Formatting

While it may be tempting to spice up your CV with fancy fonts and patterned borders, don’t. Many employers will consider this unprofessional, so stick to a simple font, such as Arial or Times New Roman and only use italics or bold to highlight headings. Colours and ‘word art’ should be avoided altogether; stick to black ink on white paper.

It's important to keep your CV to a maximum of two pages but avoid the temptation to use a tiny font or thin borders in order to fit all of your information in.

The acceptable range for font size is 10 to 12 points and borders should not be narrower than 1.25cm. If you are struggling to fit everything in, go back to the job ad and use that to decide what information is vital and what you can afford to cut.

7. Use a Sensible Email Address

Ensure your email address reflects your name as accurately as possible. Novelty email addresses such as “yummymummy@email.com” will not send a message of professionalism to employers. Similarly, using someone else’s email address, such as your partner’s, to send an application is particularly unadvisable as it might lead the employer to feel suspicious about who is actually making the application.

If your email address is tied to a particular domain name, as opposed to a free service such as Yahoo or Hotmail, think about what this says about you to your prospective employers. If your email address is “elaine.smith@ihatemondaymornings.co.uk”, you are unlikely to make a good impression, but even if the domain name is innocuous, employers may visit the website so make sure you are not associating yourself with any negative content by using that address.

8. Use Relevant Headings

Separate each section of the CV by using clear headings such as 'personal details' and 'references'. A good tip is to use the heading 'career experience' rather than 'work experience' as it allows website recruitment search software to find relevant information more easily.

9. Sub-headings and General Formatting

For subheadings, be consistent in your formatting. It's common to see dates appear before the job title in some sections and after in others, with an employer’s location included in some and missed out of others. This sends the message that you are inconsistent or haphazard in your approach and that you do not check your work, so choose a style for your sub-headings and stick to it.

10. Electronic Copies

The most common pitfall for applicants submitting electronic CVs is trusting the spellchecker alone.  On paper, spelling mistakes and formatting errors will jump out at you, so print and proofread your CV before emailing it to a prospective employer.  And even better – get someone else to proof read it for you.

If you are able, download a free application to convert word processed documents into PDFs. This will preserve the formatting whichever computer or resolution the file is viewed in, but check the job advertisement first in case the employer has specified a preference. In addition, be sure to keep the file size under 100KB to avoid clogging up your prospective employer’s email server, and use a ‘clean’ file name such as “Surname, Firstname CV.doc”, without dates or version numbers.

When emailing your CV, request a delivery receipt, but not a read receipt as this may annoy recruiters, whilst it fills up their email Inboxes.  If you haven’t received an acknowledgement, unfortunately as the recruitment process becomes more and more automated, the human touch is lost and often you will not receive a response.  Chasing agencies is a good plan, to see how they are dealing with your requirements.  Chasing employers direct however often irritates them, as this recruitment exercise will invariably be one of many tasks they have on the go at any one time and a phone call can get in the way of something else they are trying to achieve.  Whilst it may not be best manners not to respond to your efforts to be employed by them, my advice is to let it ride.

If you put constant applied effort into making job applications and sending out a tailored CV every time, your chances of securing an interview will be increased substantially and if the figures at the top of this article are to be believed – by at least a third, putting you head and shoulders ahead of the competition. 

If this all seems overwhelming, you should definitely find some support in creating your standout CV - be that from a family member, friend or recruiting professional.  Professional assistance with your CV has proven that you will be 31% more likely to be successful in getting  a job interview, and 38% more likely to be contacted by recruiters (Source: beSatisfied Resume Rewrite Impact Survey, March 2009).  

Peachey Days offers CV writing services that will get your application noticed.  See my January special offer and get YOUR stand out CV: http://www.peacheydays.co.uk/peacheyshop/prod_1718857-01-CV-and-Job-Search-Gift-Voucher.html

              Sandra Peachey

Founder - Peachey Days

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