Let’s face it, CV’s can be as boring to read as they can be to write. There’s a lot of important information going into this one document, and we’d be lying if it doesn’t sometimes feel like a drag. Thankfully, you only have to write one (and adapt to each job of course) but employers and recruiters have to read dozens, if not hundreds. So, you need to be able to give them what they’re looking for from the get-go. With pre-screening software and a lot of competition these days, your CV has to be able to stand out from the rest. You also need to make sure that it holds all relevant information in the smallest space possible. Getting the balance right is crucial and sometimes the hardest part about writing a CV.
So, when employers have piles of applications and CVs to read, it’s only natural that they’re going to skim read and abandon CV’s that don’t automatically give them what they want. You need to be abundantly clear that your CV is the best one. So we’ve condensed 5 important things you can be doing to make employers notice your CV.
If you’re applying for a job that requires a specific skill set, there’s a good chance that whoever’s reading your CV will be scanning it for those particular skills and keywords. Whether employers are reading your physical CV or viewing it online, they’ll be searching for and picking out these specific key words. For this reason, it’s important to be clear and concise when writing your CV; it’s possible that you could have the exact skills required, but still not get called in for an interview due to poor wording. A good way to find out what employers are looking for is to properly read the job descriptions. They’re going to tell you exactly what it is they want in a candidate, so use this to your advantage. Make sure you’re using their language and tailoring it back to you and your skills. All the information is given to you, you just have to use it in the correct way.
Employers will also look for tailoring in your CV. It can be really tempting to write your CV and send it/use it in a large range of applications and job titles. Search through each application, take care to find those particular keywords and reflect them in your CV. If the employer has used any specific wording to describe a requested skill, duplicate that wording in your application. It always pays to spend that little extra time tailoring your CV and making it perfect for the employer. Don’t miss out on interviews because you didn’t use the correct vocabulary, it’s a simple fix that can only help you in the long run.
Your work experience can be very valuable to a recruiter or employer. Not only are you telling them what you’d achieved so far and where you’ve worked in the past, but you’re showing them if you’re a good fit. They want to know where you’ve been and why you want to work for them. A lot can be said with your experience and work history, so make sure you’re being picky about what you include in this section.
Of course, they’ll be checking out your education and your past work experience, but they won’t stop there. Employers will home in on your working timeline and make sure your history makes sense chronologically. For example, extremely short tenures and large employment gaps are the kinds of red flags employers will immediately notice. The same can also be said for an unusually long tenure in a single role. It’s normal for people to job hop and it’s become increasingly more popular over the last few years but be prepared to write career gaps on your CV and don’t hide them. Employers will notice and pick this up in interviews.
It’s important to sort your work history out and decide exactly which jobs are relevant and which jobs are not. Chances are that your average engineering manager probably doesn’t care that you worked in a café when you were 17. However, some irrelevant jobs may need to be included to avoid large gaps in your employment history. If you switched jobs and worked in a different sector for a few years, you need to keep that in, otherwise your future employer will wonder what you were doing around that time.
You should also remember to show any advancements earned alongside your place of work. If you worked for the same organisation for 10 years and were promoted twice, you can’t just list your last job title – as it will look like you never advanced at all.
Employers will certainly know a thing or two about their respective industries, but they can’t be expected to know everything. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that anyone reading 50 CVs with the task of finding a notable candidate would look for recognisable and thusly trustable brand names. This goes for both work history and education. Well-known companies, start-ups, and reputable universities all bode well with employers. But that’s not to say that smaller companies and un-known company names don’t deserve the credit. Make sure you’re including day-to-day responsibilities on your CV, talk about what you achieved with these employers and make sure you’re telling the employer what it is you did there. Be clear, concise and ensure they see the value you obviously did when working there. Job seeking is more than just big names and sometimes, they just need a bit of context to see the true value.
It’s also more than possible that you may have worked for an extremely reputable organisation that an employer would not recognise by name; if this is the case, it’s worth adding a few words next to the name to explain what the company does. It works both ways, always be sure to share your employers’ achievements as well as your own, especially if you worked on specific important projects.
It’s important to remember that employers are looking to recruit a person, not a machine. They want someone with character, someone with a genuine personality, and while that can quickly be discerned from an interview, many employers will jump at the chance to understand their candidates better before calling them in. For this reason, employers always check out any social media accounts that are linked on your CV, so they’re definitely worth adding. This could be a LinkedIn account, a professional twitter profile, or both.
LinkedIn especially is essential. In many ways, it’s like a second CV, just with a healthy injection of personality. Just make sure not to show too much personality. I’d advise against linking your personal Facebook. You want to keep it professional. You can read more about how your social media profiles can help you get your next role on our careers and advice page.
As well as linking social media, you can add a bit more context about who you are as a person in your cover letter. If you don’t have room or you don’t think hobbies and interests are relevant on your CV, add these in a cover letter. This gives you the space to talk about yourself a bit more, share your achievements and discuss your PDP at a deeper level, without overcrowding your CV.
Frankly, I could rewrite this entire list and have every single point be common sense and it would still be applicable. You can get an interview without a Linkedin account, without any keywords or recognisable brands, you can even get an interview with a big, unexplained, decade long employment gap – it’s unlikely but it’s possible. You will not; however, get an interview if you don’t use common sense when writing your CV. For that reason, common sense is by far the most important aspect of any application, and what an employer will look for above all else. For example, using common sense can be as simple as using professional email addresses only. If your email address isn’t professional, make a new one.
Writing style is also extremely important, that goes for both grammar and formatting. Make sure your CV is written in a clear and professional manner with no typos. It’s imperative that you use a professional, readable font, and format your CV in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing. Presentation will always be the first thing an employer will notice and if your CV is written in size 8 cursive with a nonsensical format, you’re not going to get very many replies. Give the employer what they want, provide what they’ve asked for on job descriptions and be sure not to fall short with silly mistakes. It’s something we can all do, so don’t let it stop you getting that next interview.