Getting results with your CV

On average, recruiters spend just 8.8 seconds reading your CV. So what makes a successful job application?

It’s no easy task writing your first CV, and it can be hard to know what details to include, how to deal with a lack of work experience, and how to begin.

As the purpose of a CV is to get you an interview, it can be a helpful to start by finding out what recruiters are looking for as a starting point. You need your CV to persuade potential employers that you have the skills, experience and values that their organization needs.

 

First off

Before you start writing, search for the jobs you are interested in online and make a list of the requirements that appear frequently.

Now that you know specifically what your target employers are looking for, you can highlight your experience that demonstrates these skills throughout your CV. Find out what employers are looking for and give it to them!

 

Structure

When recruiters are dealing with applications, they read a whole lot of CV’s every day. They will appreciate it if you make yours easy to read, and clearly structured so that they can pick out the information they need quickly.

Divide your CV into clear sections with bold headings, use a simple font, and use bullet points to break up text and keep your summary snappy. Stick to two pages or less, and avoid using long paragraphs.

Ideally your CV should be split into the following sections from top to bottom:

Personal statement

This is your pitch, an opening statement at the top of your CV that neatly summarises what you have to offer an employer in a few lines. It’s the first thing a recruiter will see, so you need to make sure it shows that you have the skills and knowledge they are looking for.

Include your most impressive academic achievements along with relevant skills, experience and qualities. You don’t have to rely solely on career-based experience – you can also draw on experience gained in work placements, school or university projects and extracurricular activities.

Try to include as many hard skills as possible such as writing, languages, software ability and industry knowledge. Soft skills like organisation, attention to detail and leadership should be used sparingly if they are essential to the roles you are applying to. Avoid using cliches such as hard working, goal oriented and dynamic, as they don’t tell the reader anything about you and waste valuable space.

Work experience

This is an area that a lot of first-time CV writers struggle with because they often have little or no professional experience. Strictly speaking you should list your employment in chronological order from most recent to oldest – however school-leavers and graduates can use a bit of creativity if they want to get shortlisted for roles that will kickstart their careers.

For example, if a Marketing graduate is applying for Marketing Executive roles while also working part-time as a waiter, it wouldn’t be best to list the waiter role at the top of the work experience section – it’s not relevant. Instead it would make sense to list marketing work experience such as university work placements, voluntary work or freelance projects. Be selective when choosing the first roles you list to make sure recruiters can instantly see that you have relevant experience.

Roles should be structured with a heading of the company name, role title and duration dates – followed by a sentence that summarises the role and how it fits into the company’s overall strategy. Then you should list your responsibilities in a way that shows how each one provides value to the organisation. Finish with any impressive achievements that highlight outstanding results you’ve produced for yourself and the employer. If possible, include some tangible achievements that you can quantify, such as sales figures, cost savings or awards.

Education and qualifications

When your experience is limited, it helps to expand on your education to showcase more of your knowledge. Start with your most recent educational achievements and include the establishments you attended and duration dates with qualifications and grades achieved. If you have a degree then it’s great to include any projects, studies or papers worked on – especially if they are relevant to the jobs you are applying for.

For A-levels and GCSEs, it’s fine to simply list your subjects and grades unless you carried out any exceptional work that might impress a potential employer. It’s good to list any extracurricular activities such as prefect duties or Duke of Edinburgh awards. Vocational qualifications such as fitness coaching, commercial driving and social care should also be highlighted in this section. Remember to reiterate your most impressive education and qualification stats in your profile to ensure recruiters don’t miss them.

Interests

These are a great way to connect with your interviewer, and they can help to give insight into your capabilities. Avoid mentioning common pastimes such as cinema and socialising with friends, because they won’t make you stand out from anyone else. Focus on interesting, productive and active hobbies such as sports, travelling, writing or crafts, as these demonstrate desirable traits such as proactivity, organisation and social skills.