In a recent survey of recruiters, nearly 90% of them said that the bulk of the CVs they received had errors. A shocking stat — but one that means there are great opportunities for jobseekers that get their CVs right first time.
Perhaps the hardest thing about a CV is putting your achievements, your skills and your experience into the sort of a language that will make a recruiter sit up and take notice. In a recent survey of jobseekers, nearly three-quarters of them said they found it a struggle to represent themselves well in a CV.
What have I achieved?
This is the most important part of your CV, for the simple reason that recruiters will often be scanning a large number of CVs for keywords: job titles, software packages, technical skills. Get it right , and you’re half-way to getting an interview for the IT job of your choice.
Framing your achievements
It’s not enough to simply list the companies you’ve worked for. You have to show how you added value while you were there.
• Have you ever had to deliver to a punishing deadline?
• Have you ever made a significant contribution to an ad hoc project or something outside of your remit; anything that shows that you’re a go-to person when something out of the ordinary needs doing?
• Have you ever improved flawed or inefficient business processes?
• Ever received feedback from other teams or managers recognising your contributions?
• Ever been officially recognised for your contributions?
These details are unique to you – they illustrate your approach to work in a way that will differentiate you from other applicants.
If you’re going for an IT job, chances are you’ve got a range of IT skills. It’s standard to split out your technical skills by the following:
• Programming languages
For each skill, state your proficiency (e.g. competent, expert) and try and stick to jargon or acronyms with which your reader will be familiar. While you may know what ASP or PHP is, the recruiter may not, so specifiy if necessary.
If you’re building your CV to apply for a particular job, make sure you reference the skills the recruiter has specified, paying special attention to any keywords that are in the job ad.
What did you add?
Once you’ve identified all your achievements, the next step is to quantify them. You need to be able to back your claims with figures. Recruiters love to see language such as savings made, returns on investment (ROI) and turnover increased.
If your contributions resulted in efficiencies or improvements to quality of service, try to quantify the saving or improvement and include the figures e.g. 35% time saved; 75% more customers served per week; 50% more bugs fixed per month.
Calculate and demonstrate ROI in your previous roles, and state any improvements to speed or reduced error rates or platform down times.
These numbers will work as beacons to recruiters. They will grab their eye and make them more likely to direct your CV to their “maybe” pile. Conversely, they will be suspicious if they come across a CV without any quantified achievements.
Be careful with your job titles
A recruiter will scan your CV in a matter of seconds, looking for the right job titles. So it’s important that you get the language right. If you worked as a java developer but went under a different title, just put java developer – at this stage you just need to catch a recruiter’s attention before they move onto the next CV.
You’re now ready to write your CV!
The next step: Presentation
So you’ve identified all your achievements, listed out all your accomplishments, you’ve even mentioned your precious Employee of the Month certificate.
But no matter how extensive your experience or comprehensive your software skills, if your CV is confusingly presented or badly formatted, chances are it's going straight into the employer’s bin.
Here are the key things to bear in mind as you lay out your CV.
A recruiter will have a stack of CVs to get through, so don’t make yours the length of War and Peace. No matter how storied your experience, you should effectively be able to sum up your career over two concise pages.
If your CV ends up longer than two pages, take another look and consider how you might make it more concise. Look for any waffle that’s taking up space and ruthlessly cut it — you don’t need it.
• Design and layout
It’s so easy to go wrong at this stage. A poorly-chosen font or an ill-judged layout and it could be curtains. If you can remember to keep things easy on the eye of the recruiter, you won’t go too far wrong.
First thing to think about it is whether to include a personal statement at the head of your CV. This is a brief summation or introduction of you and your career path. However, since recruiters are just looking for keywords, chances are they might not read the statement, especially if it’s more than a line or two. So if you can’t be original in the statement, leave it out.
The arrangement of your CV depends on your situation. So, if you’re a graduate, you’ll want to list your academic achievements first. But if you’ve got 15 years of experience, you should list out your career history and achievements first, coming to your academic record later (if at all).
Arrange your employment history in date order, beginning with the most recent. You might feel that the earlier jobs don’t warrant as much detail as your current job or more recent jobs. This is especially true if you started your career waiting tables.
It bears repeating: check your spelling. Then get someone else to check. Then check again. Nothing will kill your application stone-dead quicker than a rogue misspelling in your CV.
Double-check your language settings too. You don’t want to find out you’ve written your CV in American-English after you’ve sent it out.
If you’ve listed your skills and quantified your achievements, kept the presentation clean and simple, and not made any spelling or grammar howlers, you should have a CV that will stop a recruiter in their tracks. But here’s a final checklist of CV no-nos just to make sure:
• Don’t list all the one-day training courses you have ever been on unless they’re relevant.
• Don't tell fibs. It's not worth it.
• Don’t use elaborate fonts and colours so your CV stands out. You want the words to do the work, not an eye-catching font.
• Don’t use pictures – keep it professional and succinct. Unless you’re going for a design role, stick to text.
• Don’t list every one of your referees – include your previous employer and one other. At this stage, it’s probably best to use the formulation, References are available on request.
• Don’t start every sentence in the first person, i.e. I, me and my.
• Avoid clichés. If you find a sentence like this — I am a highly motivated individual who works well on my own or in a team, with exceptional communication skills and the ability to work under pressure to produce results under tight deadlines — cut it out!
• Consider a totally fresh approach for your CV. An augmented reality CV (AR CV) can display each of the elements of your CV using virtual computer-generated imagery, enabling you to showcase your portfolio in an engaging, informative way CVs. Find out more about AR CVs.
Click here for a downloadable version of the CV writing guide
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