Crafting the perfect CV
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How to make your CV the best one in the pile

4 Jan 2017

The new year is always a good time to start afresh. If you’re looking to move jobs or pursue your dream career in 2017, you’ll need a killer CV to get you those interviews.

It can be difficult to make your CV stand out when you’re following a certain structure – and not following that structure might get you noticed for the wrong reasons.

So, how can you give your CV that competitive edge amongst so many others? Susie Timlin, global director of people and culture at Hays Recruitment, has some top CV advice.

As someone who’s worked in the recruitment sector for a couple of decades, I’ve vetted a fair few CVs in my time – as a business, Hays receives more than 8m of them each year. With an average of 250 CVs being submitted for each position, making yours stand out is an absolute necessity.

The secret to grabbing a recruiter’s attention with your CV is understanding that its direct purpose is not to secure you a job – that’s the end goal – but for it to be enticing enough to take you through to the next step of the selection process.

On paper, there may be more qualified and experienced candidates than yourself but, come the interview, everyone is on a level playing field. Therefore, for now, your focus needs to just be on getting your foot in the door.

Your personal statement

A concise personal statement directly beneath your contact details provides employers with a snapshot of your key skills and work ambitions. It’s the first place an employer is likely to look, so succinctly detail your proudest achievements here.

One research body has put together a heat map based on an eye-tracking study of recruiters that they conducted, so you can see exactly what part of a CV recruiters prioritise.

Try to use adjectives that are similar to those used in the job advertisement, without replicating it word for word. If the employer prioritises someone with “effective leadership skills” then make sure you demonstrate yours during the early part of your personal statement.

Remember that employers are interested in tangible evidence of your abilities, not just a list of overused adjectives. It’s not enough to just say that you’re hardworking, loyal and a good team player, you need to be able to demonstrate it with solid evidence.

Provide hard evidence of your achievements

Similarly, when listing achievements, keep in mind that what really impresses employers is data. If you can illustrate your achievements with facts and figures – how much revenue you brought to the business that year, how much the client increased their investment by, and so on – then do.

Your job is to prove to the recruiter that you’re going to be more of an asset than you are a liability. You can do so by being specific with your numbers and data. Consider the differing impact of the following two statements:

1. I consistently exceeded sales targets in my last year.

2. I exceeded sales targets in the last four quarters by 10pc, 12pc, 13pc and 15pc, resulting in an overall annual increase in turnover of…

Remember that you are trying to sell yourself. Using phrases like “was involved in” and “assisted” implies that you were more of a bystander than an instigator – recruiters pick up on these things. Use strong action verbs and take credit where credit is due.

A couple of caveats, however: never claim involvement in something that had nothing to do with you and don’t bad-mouth former colleagues or employers – this is one of the most frequently cited reasons for candidate rejection.

Make it accessible

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious but often overlooked point, is to make your CV as accessible as possible. Send the document over as a PDF so there is no chance of the recruiter not being able to view it, make sure all the font is of a legible size and ensure your contact details are current and correct. Recruiters appreciate a streamlined process and will reward you favourably for it.

Of the many CVs I review each week, it’s those which are clear, concise and accessible that I appreciate most. Build your CV around a few key achievements, which relate directly to the job advertisement and you’ve got every chance of progressing to the next stage of the process.

By Susie Timlin

Susie joined the Hays group in 1997 and is now responsible for the Global People & Culture strategy for Hays Talent Solutions, our outsourced recruitment solutions business.

A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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