Over the last few weeks, I have had an influx of commissions that revolve around all things CV, from cover letters and selection criteria to curriculum vitae content. Given this highly unusual state of affairs (have I missed a dramatic upturn in the job market?), I thought a few tips on composing content guaranteed to create an exceptional first impression on any potential employer might be just the ticket.
But first, I must digress. The translation of the term curriculum vitae is, I believe, quite poetic and worthy of note. A Latin expression, curriculum vitae can be loosely translated as the course of my life. Having only recently been apprised of this rather elegant elucidation, I must admit that I am not convinced that the humble CV really does this translation justice. Oftentimes a jumble of responsibilities, education and stuffy titles, I am certain that most CVs are not an apt summation of the course of one’s life. Perhaps my pedantic proclivity is showing…?
Without further ado, let’s get down to tips for CV writing success.
Get the Basics Right
Every CV must cover the basics: personal contact details, education and qualifications, and experience and work history. These sections are non-negotiable. There are all sorts of additional sections that you may, or may not, choose to incorporate: career objective, skills summary, interests and hobbies, references. But, if you don’t get the basics right, there’s no point in trying to tackle these optional extras.
Extra bonus tip for CV writing success: Ensure that your contact details are professional. Are you still using that Hotmail address you set up 16 years ago? If your email address is something along the lines of firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s time to ditch it. Start again.
People Do Judge a Book By its Cover
It’s sad but true: People do tend to judge a book by its cover. So, ensure that the presentation of your CV is spot on. In this day and age, your CV should be either a Word or PDF document, with a small file size. Do you think you will be more or less likely to get that job if you clog up a potential employers inbox with 10MG file?
Above all, the design and layout of your CV should be clean and easy to read. Images and graphics might make your CV look pretty, but if the employer cannot make out whether you have an MBA or a VCE certificate, your chances of securing your dream job are pretty slim.
Carefully Cull Irrelevant Experience
There really is no need to include every job you’ve ever had. Include only experience relevant to the role for which you are applying. So, if you are in your mid-30s, and you are submitting an application for a role as a Marketing Manager, do not include your part-time gig as a Coles check-out chick from your uni days. There really is no overlap. There are no transferrable skills. All your potential employer will glean from this sort of inclusion is that you really don’t understand the role for which you are applying.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a career change, previous although not-exactly-aligned experience might be relevant. So, if you are in your mid-30s, and you were employed as an Executive Assistant for five years, including this role in your application for a Marketing Manager position would be highly relevant. You just need to demonstrate that the skills you learnt as an EA (like attention to detail, organisation, time management and liaising with clients) are transferrable.
If you have been with the same company for more than 10 years, include the various roles you have had within the company. Demonstrate career progression. Use long-term roles to sell yourself to a potential new boss; show that not only are you loyal, you are capable of performing in diverse roles within a business.
Keep it Sharp, Concise and Compelling
An effective CV is clear, concise and compelling, like any powerful marketing collateral. After all, aren’t you using your CV to market yourself? So, cut out the waffle. Keep it short and sweet and under two A4 pages in length. Employers usually receive mountains of job applications. It is unlikely that they have time to read every CV from cover to cover. So, fit as much information as you possibly can as quickly as possible (without taking short-cuts).
Demonstrate Your Achievements
Use assertive, positive language (like achieved, developed, organised) when describing your work experience. Rather than simply listing your day-to-day activities, also highlight your achievements and any goals or objectives you satisfied. For instance, ‘I developed and implemented a content marketing campaign for brand X. As a result, sales increased by 80% and employee engagement was at its highest in three years.’ This demonstrates to potential employers that you care about contributing the bottom line, and improving your working environment.
To Referee or Not to Referee
The inclusion (or omission) of references is really a personal preference. If you decide to include referees, make sure they know to expect reference checks about you. There is nothing worse than your potential employer catching your referee off-guard, with nothing complimentary to say about you. If your preference is not to include referees, it is still a good idea to make mention of the fact that referees are available on request.
Check, Re-Check and Check Again
Be 100% certain that your CV is without spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t just rely on the automatic spell check on your computer either. Print out your CV. Go through it line by line and make sure you haven’t left words out altogether or used a correctly spelt word in the wrong place. Sloppy CVs, full of mistakes, indicate a lack of thoroughness. A lack of attention to detail.
P.S. I have a favour to ask. I’ve entered my blog ‘Wordly’ in the 2014 Best Australian Blogs Competition. The People’s Choice Award category is now open for voting and I need your support! You can vote here: www.surveymonkey.com/s/BAB2014. You will have to scroll to the very last page (they’re in alphabetical order). Thanks in advance!
P.P. S. If you’re wondering what a night-time city scape has to do with tips for CV writing, let me enlighten you…not a thing! Rather than relying on boring stock imagery, we’ve decided to go with beautiful photos. Photos that inspire. Photos that make us smile. Fingers crossed; they make you smile too!