It’s that time of year; the start of the summer holidays, when students all over the country return home for the summer break and the search for work commences in earnest. Some may be lucky enough to have secured a summer placement or even their first step on the career ladder. Others may not be so advanced in their arrangements (and are perhaps feeling a little nudge in the right direction from their parents!).
Whichever rung of the career ladder you’re on, it’s essential that you have an accurate and up to date CV to showcase your talents and achievements. Yes, that document that all of us need but none of us enjoy writing! Why do we find it so difficult? Because we humans are naturally self-deprecating; we find it difficult to market ourselves in writing to prospective employers. I call it the fear of ‘bigging yourself up’. Nevertheless your CV is one of the most important documents you’ll ever write; in helping shape your future career and your future self.
Our modesty is one of the reasons why it’s often easier to engage the help of a professional writer when producing your CV. When I’m crafting a CV for a client, I approach it like any other piece of marketing material. I start by really getting under the skin of my customer and then write with the audience in mind. Tailoring the CV to a specific vacancy has brought several recent successes, of which I’m really proud.
One way to make your CV unique is to turn it into a designed masterpiece. I recently came across an amazing example of a graphic designer’s CV on LinkedIn, created as an interactive video game - utterly brilliant! You might get away with such a unique approach in a creative design or marketing context but for the majority, it’s a standard written CV you’ll need.
Whether you’re a student searching for part-time work, a graduate going for your first full-time position or simply looking to progress to the next stage in your career, here are some tips to really make your CV stand out from the crowd.
Keep it simple
This is a general rule I adhere to across all my work, whether it’s a CV, web copy or a leaflet. We’re all short on time so be brief and to the point. Unless they’re essential, try not to use acronyms, technical terms or jargon that your reader may not understand.
Put your personal contact details at the end
Do you really want your home address, email and social media handles to be the first thing your prospective employer reads? You only have around 7 seconds to make a first impression. Move your contact details to the end of your CV and start with a really impactful personal statement that makes your reader want to get to know you and read further.
Fill any gaps in your work experience
If you’ve been travelling, temping, volunteering, been made redundant or been doing part-time work, be honest. Don’t leave any gaps in your work experience history. These could be the difference in you being shortlisted or not.
Show off your personality
A CV may be a formal document but don’t be afraid to inject a little of your own personality. At the end of the day the company is hiring a person, not a list of skills and achievements. The ‘Other Interests’ section is a good place to demonstrate any unique hobbies or past-times you enjoy. And don’t forget to include details of any volunteering or fundraising activities you’ve been involved with too.
Focus on your achievements
Many people make the mistake of writing a list of responsibilities in their CV rather than the results of these actions. By demonstrating your key achievements you’re immediately showing off the successes a recruiter could benefit from if they hire you.
Proof for errors
This may be an obvious one but you’d be amazed at how many people skip this step! Always ask someone else to review your CV for you before you send off your application. You wouldn’t send a magazine to print without checking for errors, would you? When you spend a long time writing a document you can become immune to spotting errors in it, so a fresh pair of eyes is essential.
Don’t forget the covering letter
The content of your covering letter or email is just as important as the content of your CV, so take the same level of care with it. Tailor it to the employer, tell them briefly why you want the job and outline your achievements and the skills and qualities you can offer. Most importantly, leave the reader wanting more so they invite you to interview.
Writing a CV and covering letter is a challenge but one you’ll be thankful you spent time getting right. But don’t struggle in silence - if you need help, you know where to find me.
Best of luck with the job hunting!