Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Need a new job but getting nowhere fast? It could be your CV that is holding you back. Here are my five top tips to help make your CV better.
1. Know what to include
People look for certain information on a CV. You need to make sure they can find it quickly and easily. Follow this recipe for CV success:
Name and contact details
Personal Statement / About Me
Optional: Professional Achievements
Professional Skills /Training
Don't send them to sleep! Your CV should be no more than two sides of A4 paper.
Check out my What to put in a CV post for more detailed information.
2. Tailor your CV to the job
Applying for jobs takes time. So much time. And it is tempting to send out the same CV to every employer. But stop!
Taking the time to tailor your CV to the job will increase your chances of getting an interview.
Most jobs have a list of skills and experience they want.
Usually these are called ‘job description’ and ‘person specification’. These tell you exactly what the recruiter wants.
Check the person specification or advert text. Have you got the skills and experience they need? Excellent!
Now look at your CV. Does it show the skills and experience they’ve asked for? If not, you need to put these into your CV.
Try to fit them into your work experience section and the skills section.
3. Make your skills stand out
People don’t spend very long reading CVs. They scan them to look for important information. If they don’t see it, they move on.
Your CV needs to be formatted so that key information jumps off the page.
Compare the examples below. Imagine the person specification asks for sales, cash-handing and customer service experience. Which is better?
Shop assistant, MadeupStores
Working in shop selling sweets and newspapers
Shop assistant, MadeupStores
Sales, including working behind the counter and selling products. Cash-handing, including taking payments from customers, using the till and cashing up. Customer service, providing excellent customer service to members of the public.
Shop assistant, Madeup Stores
Sales – working behind the counter, serving customers and selling products
Cash-handing – taking payment from customers, using the till, cashing up
Customer service – providing excellent customer service to members of the public
What do you think?
Example 1 is too short and doesn’t include the required skills.
Example 2 includes the required skills but they don’t jump off the page.
Example 3 is the best. It includes the required skills and they are really easy to see.
To make your experience really stand out:
use lists and bullet points to break up your experience
start the bullet point with the specific experience stated in the person specification.
highlight that experience in bold to make it stand out
4. Don’t be too different
There are lots of ways to make your CV look different and stand out.
And that’s great if you’re applying for a job where that is important. For example, if you want to be a graphic designer or work in advertising.
But in most cases, a CV that looks too different can be confusing.
Follow a standard format, like the one described above
Use standard fonts – like Arial, Verdana, Calibri – that are easy to read
Don’t include a photo unless you’re applying to be a model (or if they’ve asked for one...and if they've asked for one, they're probably weird, so avoid them)
Don’t use coloured or patterned backgrounds
5. Be professional
Check your CV to make sure it doesn’t have spelling mistakes. If you’re not confident checking it yourself, ask a friend or family member.
If you have an email address, make sure it is suitable. BootyLover69@hotmail.com might be fine for friends but not for a CV. Set up a new email address using your name instead.
Don’t lie – if you lie on your CV you will get found out and they won’t offer you the job. It just wastes everyone’s time so don’t do it!
About the author
Libby is a freelance copywriter and content marketer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She worked in marketing and communications for 18 years before turning freelance in 2019. She's written for big brands and boutique businesses, crafting customer-friendly marketing content for print and online. She also writes outstanding CVs under the name Standout CVs. Find out more at www.facebook.com/standoutcvs