Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” His point being that if the axe is sharp enough the task of cutting down the tree is much quicker and easier. Applying this analogy to your CV will help take your CV from average to good in a recruiter’s mind. If your CV is well presented and engaging, a recruiter is much more likely to put you forward for roles.
You want your CV to be a good account of you and your skills and abilities. You also need to ensure it meets the expectations of today’s recruiters. You have two pages in which to do so and that means ensuring every section of your CV looks good to the person reading it.
Here are a few of our guidelines to making your CV as good as it can be:
1. Keep it short and sweet
Even if you have decades of experience, you need to fit your CV on to a maximum of two pages. Recruiters will skim read to pick out highlights. A long-winded CV will be hard to evaluate and harder still to plough through. Click here for my advice on getting your CV on to two pages without compromising on content.
2. How value-able are you?
Make sure your job descriptions highlight not so much your responsibilities, but your achievements. Recruiters want to know about the results you delivered. They want to know how well your ideas worked and how effective your strategies were. They’re interested in how much your employer benefited from your input. If you have figures, include them. It’s more engaging to a recruiter to understand the value you contributed to organisations, than to read lists of responsibilities.
3. Link up… to LinkedIn
Hopefully you’ve kept your LinkedIn profile updated. It should contain endorsements and recommendations as well as a detailed account of your career. Create a link to your LinkedIn profile from your CV and all this valuable data becomes available to the recruiter. Check out my guide to finding your LinkedIn URL and linking into your LinkedIn profile from your CV here.
4. Mind the gaps
If you have been made redundant, or taken a career break for any reason, don’t just ignore the gap in your career history; explain it. Recruiters will spot a gap in your working life a mile off. If you don’t tell them why it exists, they will draw their own conclusions. That might not be helpful to your prospects. You may feel there is little benefit to including a career gap where you have raised children/cared for a relative/traveled, but all of these offer opportunities to learn good, transferable skills which you may not learn in more traditional roles.
5. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
Don’t be tempted to over-egg the pudding. Inflating your qualifications or grades, over-stating your experience or listing hobbies to which you’re not committed, is a bad idea. If a recruiter uncovers a lie or an exaggeration your credibility is damaged, perhaps critically. If they find one untruth, they’ll look for others. It’s just not worth the risk.
6. Throw a spotlight your key skills
Draw attention to the experiences and skills you possess, which are directly relevant to the vacancy. A good way to do this is to create a Key Skills section in your CV. At the preliminary stage, this will enable automated software to pick out your CV, if it meets the vacancy criteria. It will also make it much easier for a recruiter to assess your CV. But there are good ways and bad ways to create a Key Skills section. Click here to read my guide to creating an effective Key Skills section in your CV.
7. Perform a final check (then check again!)
Before you start sending out your CV, take a few minutes to evaluate how it will look to recipients. Is it neatly formatted and clearly laid out? Are there any stray words? Is there a need for underlining, spacing or boldening to add clarity? Is your font professional, and large enough to read with ease? Check spelling (again!) and grammar. Remove jargon and acronyms that aren’t in common use right across your industry. Check for accuracy. Have you got all the dates and figures correct? You’re not just promoting your experience and qualifications in your CV, you’re selling your precision, professionalism and attention to detail.
Your CV is usually the first impression a recruiter will get of you. They will be looking for clues as to who you are and how well you could fit within their organisation. There’s no doubt a well-constructed, truthful and appropriately detailed CV will open doors to opportunity. A poorly-crafted, over-inflated CV could just as easily see those doors slam shut.
If you would like help in developing a compelling, professional CV to support your next career move, my ‘Next Job Success Package’ service is a great place to start. Click here to learn more and book your free 30-minute introductory call.
Fay Wallis is a Career Coach with a background in HR and Recruitment. She is the founder of Bright Sky Career Coaching, where she helps people in their 30s, 40s and 50s overcome their career challenges with confidence. Fay creates free resources via blogs, videos and templates to help tackle many of the career issues her clients come up against. To have her latest resources sent to you as soon as they are created just sign up here.