What’s the point of a CV? What even is it? The Curriculum Vitae aka resume, bio or generic application. All of these have one purpose: to sell yourself to a potential employer. So what makes you stand out from the monochromatic spiels passing into companies’ hiring departments on a daily basis? A good CV.
General rules (UK specific)
- Keep it to 2 pages of A4
- Use a reasonable font size e.g. 12, and a generic typography e.g. Arial or Calibri as well as standard formatting
- Include key contact details
- Ensure it covers key skills, education and employment history, and the details of two referees.
So those are the basic – then comes the more challenging task. You want to ensure that you have fulfilled the criteria that the job advert displays and you also want to avoid clichés. Follow the advice below for future success.
Recently on social media, Jamie Laing (founder of Candy Kittens) posted his admiration for a budding intern who had designed her CV to look exactly like a packet of his company’s product. By tailoring her format to the employer she hoped to succeed with she ensured she got noticed – and a boost to her social media following to boot no doubt.
If you are applying to multiple different opportunities, then ensure that you adapt the visuals of your CV to match. A publishing company may be drawn to a design that reads like a story. A restaurateur may appreciate a menu of your employment history. An online outlet may approve of your web-style design. Whoever your target audience is, in the current market it is likely there will be an overwhelming response for the best positions. So go the extra mile and see where it takes you.
Keep it real
We’ve all heard the urban legends of people who’ve lied on their CV and never been caught. The reality? Rigorous checks take place at most companies and therefore you’re likely to end up with a red face. Instead of claiming to be the UK’s answer to Jeff Bezos, be realistic about your experiences and skills.
Having said that, vocabulary is everything. If you’ve worked in retail, you can write about your ‘customer satisfaction experience’ or ‘product placement expertise’. If you volunteered to support younger undergraduates at your university you can divulge your ‘nurturing management style’. Be honest, but ensure you present your skills in the best light. If in doubt, ask a critical friend to read over it and ensure it makes sense.
Additionally, keep the explanations of your competencies linked to factors that make you employable. Avoid generic comments such as: I’m hardworking, I’m a team player, or I’m a quick learner.
Replace them with a more evidence based approach:
- During my undergraduate studies, I maintained full time hours in my role in retail as well as volunteering time for younger students.
- As a team leader at XYZ, I found that a supportive environment ensured better results.
- Whilst studying for my Masters, I took up playing the clarinet and have already achieved Grade XX.
This way, you’re already proving your worth to the employer, and making them want to meet you in person.
Peppering the market with CVs may seem like a winning approach to job seeking. But with the job market being an employers’ playground, generic applications are actually a risky choice. Yes, most of the basic information for roles in the same field may be the same. But job applications that have been amended to include key performance indicators extracted from the advert are more likely to be shortlisted. Even more so if a job description is directly catered to in the layout or content of a CV. Taking the time to let the hirer know you want their job rather than any job is a great way to identify yourself as a candidate worth a second look.
Keep it real