Every day, in the UK alone, there are thousands of web searches around CVs.
This means that the same links and articles are clicked by thousands of people and the same templates and phrases are used time and time again. This could explain why so many CVs (students and grads in particular) look and sound so similar.
A CV is a first impression that could directly impact your life.
My experience as a recruitment consultant opened my eyes to CV reviews and application processes. I thought recruiters, HR people and hiring managers would go through each and every word of the CVs that land in their inbox. I thought they might even make a group decision on which ones meet the criteria to take through to first interview. I was so wrong..!
As John Lees says in his book, Knockout CV, your CV will most likely be read (skimmed through) by someone within 15-20 seconds. You are then either put in the ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ pile. When I was reviewing CVs for open vacancies, I first looked at how the CV was presented – a clear layout with good grammar is KEY. I then looked at the content (the first impression had already been made) and decided who was good enough for the hiring manager to speak to for a first stage interview.
So basically, your entire future career could be in just one person’s hands – the person who reviews your CV at the start of the hiring process. It’s down to you to ensure this person likes what they see.
There are 3 key CV takeaways in this post:
1. Keep it simple – unless your industry is creative, in which case – go all out!
You really don’t need fancy layouts with lines/boxes and different sized fonts to stand out. The simpler and cleaner the page, the easier it is to read the information. Use words that you use in real life (minus the slang) and stay away from the thesaurus. Don’t use big long paragraphs, remember, they will not read every word so try and stick to bullet points or short paragraphs.
2. Excite the reader – make them want to show your CV to the hiring manager/decision maker
I feel that the aim of a CV is to summarise who you are/what you do and to either show off the great things you have achieved or what you can achieve through your excellent initiative, work ethic and understanding of the industry. Many people do not understand this bit. Your part time job working as a sales assistant at JD sports with tasks like ‘replenishing stock’ or ‘providing good customer service’ is pointless and may as well be left off the CV. However, if you rephrase these tasks with things you actually learnt, it shows you understand WHY you were doing those tasks and that you can apply your analytical mind.
Replenishing stock = Gained insight into what the most/least popular items of the season were through stock replenishment.
Providing good customer service = Discovered the importance of delivering a seamless customer experience to influence a sale.
3.Stand out! – What’s your USP? Why should they hire you over the 50 other applicants?
Last year, almost 20,000 graduates were employed in the UK. This means competition will undoubtedly be tough for grad schemes and internships as thousands of other students/graduates across the country will be applying. If you’re interested in other roles the level of competition could even be higher. It’s vital to stand out from the general crowd by showing your deep understanding of the role/company and also demonstrating you have what it takes above everyone else that is applying.
CV Template – Sections explained
Here is the structure that I use and have found effective. You can copy and paste this and fill it out with your own information. Feel free to change the headings around according to what suits you and your industry.
I will explain what should go under each heading and why. Use the contact form to get in touch if you want more advice on anything in this post or if you have any questions.
1 page only unless you have years of relevant experience
Same font throughout
Same size font
Reverse chronological order (most recent first)
City/locations you can work in
Mobile Number | Email
Availability to start (either available immediately/June 2018/2 week notice etc.)
Put this info in the header so you have more space on the actual page to write.
3-4 lines about who you are, what you do and what you are good at. If you’re applying for an internship or placement, mention the subject you are studying here (assuming it’s relevant). Some people bullet point their main skills but I find that’s not as effective as it doesn’t show any personality and groups you with everyone else. To contradict myself though, If you are applying for a tech role it would be good to list existing technical skills such as Python, Java, MySQL etc.
Professional Qualifications (or Achievements)
This is where you show off about how you went above and beyond go develop yourself and your career. You can put anything down that you are proud to have achieved – try to stick to career related certifications/qualifications (more on this on my free courses page). You could mention other achievements, like athletics or starting a charity, if they relate to the role in any way – as long as it makes sense to someone reading it for the first time.
All relevant work experience. You could use this format: Job title at Company name, date started – date left/present. Try not to complicate this part with too many fillers and empty sentences. Employers want to know:
- How long you stayed in each role (if its short lived they will have questions)
- Which companies you’ve worked for (have you worked for any similar companies or competitors)
- What did you learn or achieve/how did you make a difference
- What can you bring to the role you’re applying for
Use bullet points, clear language, numbers and stats, technology used, soft skills and transferable skills gained/used and make sure the reader understands how you could add value to their company if you get the job.
If you have a specific job at a specific company that you’re applying to – use the JD to mould this section. Use similar language, show evidence that directly links to the requirements in the job spec.
Education (this section can go above employment if more important e.g. internship)
Employers are usually interested in what you are studying/have studied at university and/or what your highest qualification level is. Don’t waste space writing out all 13 GCSE or 4 A-level grades and subjects.
Other Relevant Experience
If you’ve done anything else that could give your application a boost, add it here. E.g. blogging (if you are applying for marketing, journalism – roles around writing/content), managing finances for family shop (accounting), building an app or website (software/development) etc.
References – leave this out
DON’T put your references on your CV. 1) You are effectively putting someone’s personal contact details on the internet and 2) you don’t need to give these until you are offered the job (or maybe just before). You don’t even need to put ‘references available on request’ because that is assumed.