Regardless of those that believe CVs are becoming obsolete and despite the increasing use of social media and online social profiles to vet candidates’ experience, CVs are still the most common first port of call for a recruiter or hiring manager. That’s why it’s especially important that you put your best foot forward.
Having said that, whilst I still believe they’re important, it’s a well represented fact that, based on research from The Ladders (2012) and The National Citizen Service (2015), hiring managers and recruiters only spend between 6-15 seconds reviewing a CV before making a decision on the your initial suitability for a role. That’s a crazily short time to make an impression!
As a consequence, it means that any basic errors or irrelevant work experience will almost certainly exclude you from the running for your ideal job. So, with that in mind, here are my top 4 considerations and associated pointers to look out for when constructing your CV. These suggestions will give you a fighting chance to make a great first impression on recruiters and hiring managers alike, and will encourage them to read through your CV in more detail.
This is an important one. Whilst recruiters don’t expect your standard of writing for your “CV non-fiction” to be Baillie Gifford award material, they will expect a basic level of language competence and professionalism. So:
- Don’t refer to yourself in the 1st or the 3rd person (i.e. I’ve or “Jane/John Doe”…). Instead use action verbs like motivated, designed, created, reviewed, improved to show the impact and responsibilities you had in your role
- Only use the present tense for your current job – everything else should be written in the past tense
- Avoid company specific jargon: acronyms that won’t mean anything to anyone working outside your organization aren’t helpful
- Make sure your language is not too casual – keep it professional to avoid making the wrong impression
Much like language, the layout of your CV can be a make or break. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for CVs that are easy to read, make sense visually and that draw their eye to the most important points. So:
- Ensure your CV is presented in a consistent format, that it’s easy to follow and has been spell checked – it’s definitely worth getting someone else to read it through to check for any errors that spell check may not have picked up
- Avoid fancy fonts that distract from the content of your CV – Arial and Calibri are fairly standard
- Try not to use tables, images or charts. Whilst these can sometimes be useful to display information, the reality is that it will confuse most of the recruitment technology that’s used to manage candidate applications and may not be pulled through into the recruitment systems in the right format. If there’s something specific you want to showcase, why not divert the reader to an external web source?
- Keep your CV short (ideally 2 pages and no more than 3) and avoid too much text. Recruiters and hiring managers want to see the salient points, not a blow by blow account of your every day experience – the interview is where you can elaborate
- Only bullet those points that are important – this draws the eye to critical information that you wish the recruiter to see.
Needless to say, content is key. So:
- Make sure any skills and experience you refer to on your CV are related to the job you’re applying for
- Be specific about your responsibilities, skills and achievements – don’t use vague comments like ‘managed projects / managed teams’. When considering what to include in your CV think about whether you’re able to evidence specific responsibilities or achievements. Obviously be selective in terms of what the new company and role are looking for and be specific about your role and the level of responsibility and accountability you had/have.
- For example, have you managed or led teams, have you been involved in continuous improvement, have you run project, managed budgets and the associated logistics, can you evidence relationships with executive teams, managers, staff or external providers, do you have an understanding of specific complex technology or systems.
- Talk about what you’ve accomplished in your roles and quantify your accomplishments with facts – talk about the size of the budget you managed, the number of people, the value of the cost savings you delivered etc.
- Only include your most relevant experience. Anything over 15 years’ ago is no longer relevant
- Always start with your most recent experience first and don’t include old or irrelevant work experience
- Try to avoid too many buzz words like “team player, strategic thinker, detail oriented, dynamic or think outside the box” – these distract from your key achievements and are too generic to be meaningful
- Make sure to include an explanation of any long gaps on your CV (e.g. travelling, time off etc.)
- If you have an online footprint that’s relevant to your industry and the role you’re applying for then make sure you include this in your CV – any relevant creative work or projects related to your field of expertise are important to showcase
4. What not to include
Times have changed and with that, so has the information that is now required on a CV. Much of the information that we used to add is now obsolete because a lot of this information is now readily available and accessible through other online sources.
- Unless you’re applying for a creative job which requires evidence of your portfolio, leave any imagery off your CV, including any photos of you: I’d suggest you just leave these to LinkedIn
- There is no need to write an objective for your CV unless you are changing career, in which case it might be useful
- Avoid mentioning overly personal details such as marital status / religion / age etc.
- Remove your full mailing address – this is likely only to be needed at offer stage and just takes up valuable space
- Only include one number: your mobile and one email address: your personal email. Try not to waste space: avoid using unnecessary words like ‘Phone Number’ or ‘Email’ – these days everyone is aware that an ‘@gmail.com’ address is an email address and an ’07’ number is a mobile (for those in the U.K. anyway!) Try to avoid using your current business email address or business phone number – that way you can circumvent any awkward conversations you may have to have in the office
- Do not list reasons for leaving on your CV – this can be discussed in the interview
- There is no need to add ‘references available upon request’ or, indeed, any referee details – these will only be requested at offer stage
So, in summary, if you can get the basics right and make sure your CV is relevant to the role in question, you’ll stand a much better chance of standing out from the crowd. As always, if you’d like any additional support with your CV, please do get in touch with us here at Aston Holmes. We’re very happy to help.