How to have an outstanding CV that makes you stand out
Writing or updating a CV is something that can fill people with dread. Fear not!
With the right advice and some good preparation you will have a document that gives you the best opportunity of getting that all important interview. Ideally, you create no more than two pages that concisely and clearly highlight why you are the very best candidate.
Why are you writing your CV?
It sounds like an obvious question but is it in response to an opportunity you intend to apply for, or in preparation for an imminent job hunt? It is important to know that there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ CV. To give yourself the very best chance of taking that next big career step every CV you write needs to be thoughtfully tailored to each and every application.
Before you think about writing your CV take time to do your research about the company you are applying to join. Look at their website, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook page, as well as a more generic web search. If you know anyone who has had dealings with the company talk to them about their experiences. As Albert Einstein said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” The time you invest here will make completing the CV far easier and the end result far stronger.
Let’s break down this barrier right now. Open a new document and select a clear font such as Arial (14 point and bold) and type your name. Now switch to 11 point remove the bold and underneath your name place your contact details including address, telephone number and email. If your email address doesn’t look professional (a nickname or worse), create a new one for job applications.
Your CV is underway and you are now on course for that new job. Now you can start creating the key sections that highlight all of your relevant skills, experience and qualifications.
This is one of the key sections of your CV so it is worth spending some time to make it perfect. What you are looking for is a couple of sentences that explain exactly why your prospective employer should meet with you…
- What will you bring to the role?
- What are your career aims and how does this role match them?
A great tip is to imagine what you would say to your interviewer if you had just 10 seconds to convince them how perfect you are for the role.
Technical skills summary and professional qualifications
Include this section to demonstrate your expertise with the software or systems that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should also include any professional qualifications and training you have undertaken.
Make a list of all the job roles you’ve held, starting with the most recent. Check that the ‘from’ and ‘to’ dates all match up, briefly explaining any breaks in your career history with a short sentence – there’s no need to go into detail.
Your current (or most recent) role needs to be the most detailed job on your CV. Add in your job title, the company name and your start date (month and year) – leave the end date as ‘Current’ if you are still working there. If the company isn’t well known, include its industry in brackets after its name. You can also include a link to the website.
- Briefly outline the responsibilities of your job and any staff management.
- Describe any projects that you’ve worked, specifically your involvement and the outcome.
- List your key achievements and how they benefited the business.
For the remaining jobs in your career history, list them in reverse date order, providing less and less detail as you travel back through time.
Most employers are purely interested in your highest level of achievement, so unless you are a school leaver there’s no need to include your GCSEs. Be sure to highlight…
- Qualification type – Masters, Degree, HNC/D, A-Level etc.
- Name of the university, college or school.
- Grade achieved.
- Year(s) of study or when you received the grade.
Congratulations you have completed your CV!
Now you need to check, check and check again. Proof read your CV for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and don’t rely on your PC’s automatic spellchecker, it’s not infallible. Print out your CV to see how it looks on the page. What would you think if it was handed to you? Read it thoroughly and ask someone else for their feedback.
You may have noticed that we have not covered some of the information you see on many CVs such as age, date of birth, gender, race, religion and marital status. Remember the CV is a tool for getting an interview so anything that could detract from that goal should not be included. Also, whilst it is great to have references hold on to them until you’re asked to provide them.
Good luck with your application.