Let’s be honest, starting a CV or even just the thought of updating your CV can sometimes feel like a chore but it shouldn’t have to be!
Your CV is your opportunity, or ‘30 second elevator pitch’ as they say, to get your foot in the door of a new organisation!
One that might make you happier, give you the experience and development you are craving, an exciting new challenge or even just the culture and sense of belonging that you’re looking for… So, if you think of time as money - how can you put a price on getting this right?
Ask yourself honestly - Is your CV as strong as it can be?
And yes, how good your CV looks really does and can make a difference!
CV File name - keep it simple, professional, and clean!
In my opinion the easiest and best file name to use is - First Name, Surname and CV - For example, Ebony James CV.
Avoid using nicknames, just using your initials, no name at all and/or the month in the file name.
Imagine you receive a CV in March, but the file name suggests it was updated in October of the previous year, you might think why has this person been looking for so long? Or is this really an up-to-date CV?
The most compatible file format is Word or PDF.
Avoid using tables, graphs and decorative lines as most companies will use an ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) initially, which can sometimes then rejig the format.
Most clients or recruiters won’t call to tell you that your CV came through looking like gobbledegook, they will just move on to the next candidate. So, don’t miss out on your career move because of a silly formatting issue.
Back to basics – Consistency
First impressions really do count, and this is technically the first impression you will be making to your potential new hirer.
It’s like if you were meeting someone for the first time and they turned up with two different shoes on, you’d have questions, right? - So, use the same typography and text size all the way through. Headings can be slightly bigger, bolded and/or underlined.
If you’re using bullet points to detail experience in one role, don’t suddenly switch up to using a prose summary for the next one, continue to use bullet points.
Do your bullet points end with a full stop or not? Commit one way or the other.
Key Achievements & Responsibilities
Include both and make sure to explain your responsibilities clearly, not assuming the person reading this CV will know exactly what your role is within the business already.
The length needs to be right for your level of experience
And before you ask, yes, it really can be too long or too short!
If you are a recent graduate or in your first 2 years, then start your CV with details of your education. - If not, then start with your work experience, as that is what the employer will care about the most.
There isn’t an exact formulae or number of pages, but I would say minimum 2 (unless you haven’t got any experience yet) and maximum 5.
Try to detail your experience without waffling, use facts and numeric figure examples with the aim of being succinct.
Grammar and Typos
An easy and almost too obvious one! - You’re probably thinking why is this even being mentioned? You would be surprised by the amount of CVs I’ve seen which read “I pride myself on high attention to detail” and then their CV goes on to include a number of typos/grammatical mistakes.
Use spell check and if possible ask someone to kindly review for you.
Past and present, previous jobs should be in written up past tense and the current one, in present tense.
It can upset the format and just take up space that you could use on your experience.
I would recommend also adding a link to your LinkedIn profile (as long as this is up to date.)
Don’t be too cliché
If you have to use buzzwords for example ‘team player’, ‘diligent’ or ‘reliable’ then have an example to back it up! Remember you may get asked about this.
Just one last look!
We all know writing or updating your CV can sometimes take a little longer than expected. And when we’re tired or have been reading the same thing over and over for a while – our brain can rewrite or fix typos we see in our head without registering.
Make sure to step away for a while, or even until the next morning, and re-read your CV just one last time with fresh eyes, to make sure there are no silly errors.
Top 5 Tips – My Personal Recommendations
Start your CV with a small personal bio, followed by 3 -5 key achievements, and then highlight your experience. Use bullet points to detail this! Then add in your education, a few lines about your hobbies and you’re good to go.
Your LinkedIn needs to be up to date and include EXACTLY the same information (e.g. title and dates on the roles) as your CV. – Why raise a red flag unnecessarily?
Don’t lie and try not to extend the truth or use an example that you couldn’t talk about in an interview, especially around your hobbies. You never know, the interviewer might ask you something about it, and that’s one sure-fired way to end on an awkward note.
Details! Details! Details! - Don’t assume the person reading your CV will know exactly what you do, or how big your team is, or what level of stakeholder you report to, for example. Make sure to include all of these details! Imagine you have a relative you don’t see often, asking questions about your job, but they want to know every little relevant detail.
Be Commercial! - Organisations love to either make or save money, ask yourself if you have done either of these things during your career. If the answer is yes, include these details in your CV.