Get Seen, Get Heard, Get Hired | 6 Tips to Revolutionising Your CV
TLDR CV Checklist (Full Article Below):
✔️ Your experience should be narrated focusing on your achievements rather than just your daily responsibilities.
✔️ Your CV should be presented professionally, concisely and with attention to detail. Especially if the role you're applying to requires reporting or documentation presentation.
✔️ Add short written references/endorsements to your CV. Feel free to use LinkedIn recommendations you already have, or try reaching out to former managers.
✔️ Be honest! Add in any significant challenges, roadblocks or setbacks you faced in your roles and how you overcame them.
✔️ Be yourself! Hiring managers don't just want to get to know what you've done, where and when. They also want to know about you and what it could be like to work with you. Make sure you let your personality out when writing your CV and include things like how you approach your work.
✔️ Be different and be memorable. Recruiters and/or hiring managers are likely to spend an average of <5 seconds reading a CV unless within that 5 seconds, something grabs their attention.
The UK employment market right now is at its most active in years. Risk-averse companies who made snap decisions on large-scale redundancy/furlough throughout the pandemic are now frantically trying to rebuild their workforces. Many businesses are also dealing with much higher demand than they did pre-pandemic.
Although currently the market is very buoyant, jobseekers must not make the mistake of thinking that getting a job is easy. Following a year of unprecedented and permanent personal change to each of our daily routines in such a short space of time, naturally many people are reconsidering their career choices to fit new lifestyles. So yes… there is more jobs… but there are also many more talented people competing for them.
Maybe you can get a new job with that same CV you’ve been updating since 1903 that contains 7 different fonts and 18 pages, but you want the best chance to have the best choice of the best jobs.
You will have seen various pieces of content that tell you a Recruiter will only spend 10 seconds looking at a CV. Personally, I will only ever spend more than 5 seconds looking at a CV if in that 5 seconds, I’m given a reason to keep reading.
THAT is why it’s important to have a CV that will stand out in a pile of 500.
If you think that it’s only the content and experience that counts in your CV, sorry but you’re wrong and here’s why:
Many jobs have elements of reporting or document preparation. Often, the hiring manager might need someone who can present reports/documents to senior stakeholders. Do you think they’ll take a second look if you haven’t made an effort to properly present your CV?
With highly-competitive roles, poor presentation is one of the first things that will cause a hiring manager or recruiter to disregard your CV. If there are multiple fonts, out of place bullet points, major spelling/grammar errors or other presentation mistakes in that first 5 seconds of looking at your CV the likelihood is it will be moved swiftly to the “no” pile.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): ATS’s are technologies that automatically (without human input) take your CV from an application, parse key information from it and upload your data. Applicant Tracking Systems also present your CV to the hiring manager or recruiter inside the system’s UI (not in an openable word/pdf document). If you have tables, obscure fonts, pictures, text boxes etc. and you apply online to a role – the likelihood is any ATS will struggle to convert these properly to the system UI, meaning you might have these elements appearing in random places and covering key text such as your career experience.
Creative CVs are a difficult one, because yes, if you apply directly to a role online with a creative or visual CV, some ATS’s will churn it up until it’s unrecognisable. Creative CVs are a great way of standing out from the crowd, however these are only suitable if you’re sending it directly to a hiring manager or recruiter and therefore bypassing the ATS. Always have a word copy of the CV in a basic format for online applications OR make an effort to find out who the hiring manager/recruiter is and send your CV directly instead of applying online.
2) Role/Career Descriptions: Tell Your STORY!
Try and identify the key things that are all WRONG with this basic role description (in italics) example for a Barista:
Barista | Joe Bloggs Coffee | 2009-2011
Joe Bloggs Coffee is a small café in London serving hot drinks and snack foods.
Operating the till and taking payments
Clearing tables, washing up and cleaning the bar
Opening and closing the store
Essentially, the above description gives 0 specific information because everything in there is highly obvious and more importantly it does not demonstrate added value. Any of the above bullet points could be applied to anyone working in a Barista role, you need to be specific to you. Here’s how you could spice up that same description:
Barista | Joe Bloggs Coffee | April 2009 – March 2011
Joe Bloggs Coffee is a small café in London with 9 total employees. When I joined the business, they were turning over £3,000/week in sales. Throughout my time I worked on upskilling the business and ensuring the quality of product and service was improved. When I left, Joe Bloggs Coffee was averaging £4,900/week in turnover.
Responsible for operating the till and taking payments. I received an award for outstanding customer service, voted for by our loyalty member customers.
In the 2 years I was with Joe Bloggs Coffee, I never once had a coffee returned based on quality
Ensured both communal and staff areas were kept clean at all times according to Health & Safety Standards, leading to Joe Bloggs Coffee earning a 5* food hygiene rating.
Trusted as the only responsible key-holder below management level
In this description, although still a very basic example, each point is not only achievement and results-led but is also specific to the individual. If you were a hiring manager, which would you be most impressed with?
Basic responsibilities are important to have in your CV, as sometimes if a Recruiter is reading it they don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of your role. Summarise fundamental skills and responsibilities of your previous roles on the first page in a "Key Capabilities" section or something similar - but be specific & unique in your detailed role descriptions.
3) Add Written References
From a business’s perspective, the best PR always comes from OTHERS shouting about them – the same applies to candidates looking for a role.
If you can, get written references from persons of influence that previously managed you and put them under each relevant role. This adds an extra layer of credibility to your CV and it's something different that displays a healthy level of confidence. Make sure you keep these relatively brief though, as close to 2 sentences as possible. If you've got recommendations on LinkedIn already, put those in!
4) Keep it Concise!
Being able to keep a CV to an acceptable length is an example of strong communication skills, it demonstrates the ability to communicate concisely and efficiently, and therefore saving time and money.
It’s suggested you have no longer than 3 pages in your CV. If you have less than 10 years of experience and/or you’ve held 2 or fewer positions, then 2 pages. Those with lots of experience, I would suggest having an "Earlier Career" section with just job titles, company names and dates. You can even put "Earlier Career Details Available Upon Request" for old experience that isn't relevant to the jobs you're applying for.
If you're a new graduate or have less than 5 years of experience I would suggest more of a "Pitch on a Page" type CV.
5) Be Open, Honest & Yourself!
People are always afraid and nervous to think outside the box with their CVs. Society now is far more informal (yet still professional) when it comes to the world of work than it was 20 years ago, so make sure your CV reflects and appeals to that. I would recommend avoiding speaking in the 3rd person in your CV as it's impersonal and robotic - the hiring manager wants to get to know you through your CV.
Another thing candidates are seemingly afraid to do is put challenges or roadblocks they faced in their career in their CV. Jobs where nothing ever goes wrong don’t exist and often clients are actively looking for people that can adapt accordingly. Putting challenges and roadblocks in your career descriptions (don’t forget to add how you got around them!) not only shows your authenticity but also your ability to operate in difficult or unexpected circumstances.
6) Be Different, Be Memorable, Get Hired
A point to leave you with - your CV needs to have SOMETHING that makes you stand out. Especially in the current market, but really all of the time, there is a lot of competition for the top jobs out there in any specialism. From experience, 98% of applications agencies receive are not even a close match to the role. With this much competition and recruiters/hiring managers often in auto-pilot when rejecting CVs from applicants, you NEED to make sure your CV stands out INSTANTLY. If you can grab the reader’s attention in the first 5 seconds – you’ve already jumped one of the toughest hurdles to landing your next dream role.