A good CV is nice, but how about a perfect CV?
Most of us have a solid idea of what a good CV looks like. It’s got your name, employment history and education details on it, right? While a good CV may get you a look in with the HR manager, a great CV will seal the deal.
Here’s a selection of tips to help you take your CV from good to great and secure your next job interview.
Get the basics spot on
There are many ways to write a good CV. The structure is intentionally flexible, allowing you to move, add or delete sections with ease so that the relevant parts of your career are prominent. However, some sections are non-negotiable, such as your name, contact details, personal statement, employment history and qualifications. Forgetting any of these, or even leaving them with errors, can be a detriment to your candidacy.
Note that HR managers expect to see your career history and education presented in reverse chronological order too. It makes sense to layout your experience in this way because it prioritises your most recent achievements and, in turn, the peak of your career so far.
Embrace the active voice
Using the active voice is the ultimate way to show prospective employers the impact you created in previous roles and prove you can bring similar success to a new job. This all comes down to how you phrase the sentences in your CV.
For example, doesn’t ‘I coordinated all email marketing campaigns’ sound better than ‘All email marketing campaigns were coordinated by me’?
The active voice is snappier and more concise than the passive. Scan through your CV and swap lengthy passive sentences for active words to make your points more impactful. A perfect CV employs a selection of these powerful verbs to describe your capabilities and achievements. Give some of these a try:
Quantify your achievements
It’s all very well telling the prospective employer what you did in your last role, but all great CVs show these details. That means getting specific with your examples.
The simplest way to do this is by injecting numbers to quantify your abilities and accomplishments. Supporting your achievements with tangible figures helps HR managers gauge the impact you will make because they know exactly what you’ve already done.
Take a look at the following examples:
Managed a team of 7
Increased e-commerce sales by 15% in 1 year
Onboarded and trained new staff in groups of up to 20
If you fail to include figures in your CV, the HR manager will get the gist. But a perfect CV is strengthened with essential figures and metrics that demonstrate exactly what you’re capable of.
Create structure with clear headings
Big, bold headings are a CV must. Without them, HR managers may struggle to navigate the document. After all, research shows prospective employers spend a mere six seconds poring over each CV. If they can’t identify the information they need in that short time frame, they’re likely to move onto the next candidate.
Clear headings must introduce each section. While bolding the titles alone would work, it’s better to also increase the font size or even underline each heading with a solid line to maintain clarity.
Give prominence to each role in your employment history and each qualification or educational institution too. Otherwise, the details may be swallowed amongst the mass of text. You may choose to bold your dates of employment, job title and the company name, for example.
Utilise white space
Two pages is the ideal length for a CV, but if you have an extensive career history, it can be tricky to hit the sweet spot.
I often see experienced professionals attempt to cram every detail onto two pages, resulting in tight page margins, teeny-tiny font sizes and hefty chunks of dense text. But this is not friendly on my eyes, let alone the HR manager’s.
No matter where you are in your career, give the words on your CV room to breathe.
Keep font sizes between 10 and 12 points for body text and 12 and 14 points for headings. Maintain page margins between 1.27cm and 2.5cm, and adjust line spacing to somewhere between single and double-spaced to create a balanced, professional appearance. You may feel like you’re wasting precious CV real estate, but you're actually making it easier for an HR manager to read (and be impressed by) your CV.
Tweak and tailor to every role
If the job description is the question, your CV is the answer ‒ a great CV must supply a well-rounded, appropriate response if you want to secure top marks. How can you achieve this?
When reviewing the job description, tease it apart and identify the essential requirements. Then, tweak and tailor your CV so that it reflects the specific job criteria. This doesn’t necessarily mean rewriting your entire CV. It might mean adding a few keywords in your personal statement, moving an important role to a prominent position or even skimming down the details of an old position to create room for more relevant skills.
No two roles are the same, so why would you supply different HR managers with the same CV? If you do, you may not do yourself justice and cost yourself the job.
A good CV is nice, but taking it to the next level is how you’ll finally land that interview. And as it turns out, doing so isn’t too hard ‒ it is simply a case of making it more relevant, more pleasing on the eye and more professional. With just a few small adjustments, you make an HR manager’s job much easier, easily placing yourself ahead of the competition.
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