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Whilst your CV alone won’t ‘get you the job’ it opens the possibility for a conversation which will lead you to being short-listed for your dream role. This is why you need to make it work hard for you, which means good preparation and some deep thinking! Careers Coach Denise Matthews has extensive recruitment experience (www.elevatecareerscoach.com) and has these seven top tips to help you prepare a CV that will help get you noticed and get a foot in the door.
When it comes to finding a new role, remember that a CV is your opportunity to convince using facts, whereas interview success is highly built on your personality and how well you will fit with any organisation.
1. Time to Prepare: Give yourself the gift of time to prepare for writing your CV. Reflect on your work history, career gaps, situations and above all, results. These will all make writing a killer CV much more effective as you will remember long-forgotten achievements and be more prepared for questions about career choices. So, grab your favourite notebook and start digging into your memory bank.
2. Chronological preparation: Start planning your CV from your earliest career, not the current role – just as you would with any project. Dig deep to remember data and facts. Identifying and highlighting skills which have been consistent in your work history is powerful. It will depend on your career stage as to how far back you share your career history summary – but be prepared to answer questions on it regardless.
3. Get noticed, be memorable: Your CV does not need to be overly comprehensive. Less is often more, so keep it relevant for the role you’re applying for. Study the job descriptions for your ‘target job’ and mirror match words in your CV, using relevant key words which will increase the opportunity for you to be found by the Hiring Manager/Recruiter searching against specific experience and skills.
4. A powerful career summary: Make the summary relative to the role you are applying for. Use key words to showcase your main skillset and include notable career achievements with ‘numbers’ to substantiate them. Aim for only four or five powerful statements. Invest time in crafting your professional summary and that your best accomplishments are shown on the top third of the CV as this is what is seen first and can often decide whether the hiring manager even reads the rest of your CV.
5. Build up your evidence: Bullet point your achievements with a maximum of two lines against each role to highlight your contribution. Your early career will inevitably have a smaller bullet list. This will increase in length as you move up the organisation or increase accountabilities. Describe your achievements using active language, avoiding the use of ‘I’ or ‘we,’ instead just stating the outcome. e.g., Instrumental in initiating and managing five thousand patients’ records from paper to electronic format, with a high patient satisfaction score.
6. Formatting your CV: Create it in Word, with the important information clear and obvious. Add your name, professional email, and phone number at the top. Make it easy to read with the same size font (apart from your name which should be a little bigger), use clear headings, using space effectively by decreasing page margins so you can add more content. Aim for a maximum of three pages and make it look good with some white space – image is an important part of getting seen. Take time on presentation and make the CV ‘skimmable’ so the recruiter can see the details they need easily.
7. Education and Qualifications: One line stating the level of qualification and subject is sufficient. List in reverse chronological order below your professional experience, the only exception being if you are new to the world or work or are aspirational for a career change in which case it goes higher, to demonstrate your transferable skills.
I advise market testing your CV before sending it for a job application. Ask for hard-hitting feedback to make sure it is market ready by sharing it with a former line Manager, a trusted Recruitment or Hiring Manager – or even a peer. It is likely that along your job-search journey you will continue to ‘fine tune’ it as well as making tweaks to keep it relevant for the role you are applying for – never use a ‘stored CV’ without matching it to the job description!
To help you with your job search, Denise Matthews’ new careers journal called Your CV: Would You Put a Stamp on It? Plan Your Career Move with Purpose is available now on Amazon UK.