Your CV is the first window your future employer will have into who you are, so from the moment it arrives in their inbox, it needs to attract their attention - in the right way. Everything from formatting to language, typos and of course - content - will be formulating their initial opinion about you, and will be instrumental in their decision to invite you for an interview. Here's how to get it right:
Keep it concise.
Nothing is more off-putting than reams of paper, an online page that seems to scroll down indefinitely, or endless prose without paragraph breaks. If you can keep your printed CV to a single page, so much the better.
Keep it traditional.
The harder you try to stand out, the greater the risk it backfires. You are unlikely to know the likes and dislikes of the person reading your professional back story, so maintaining a standard format and easy-to-read font (no calligraphy or coloured paper) is the best way to keep them focused.
Make sure your CV or profile makes it immediately clear why they need to carry on reading. If you currently have a job that gives you the perfect experience for your dream role, then it needs to be instantly visible – right at the top. If you're not currently working, or your current role isn’t an obvious stepping stone to the job you want - but you’re convinced you have the skills necessary to succeed - then make sure those skills are the first thing your prospective employer sees.
Don’t make them cringe.
Avoid jargon. According to new LinkedIn research on the top buzzwords of 2014 – those that appeared most frequently in member profiles – ‘motivated’ was most frequently used (replacing 2013’s ‘responsible’ as the UK’s most worn-out career attribute). It was closely followed by ‘creative’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘passionate’. Prove it, don’t say it.
Focus their eye.
The chances are that whoever is reading about you is looking for certain phrases – soft skills, a particular job title or specific qualifications - that will indicate to them you need to be invited to interview. Use emphasis strategically to make sure that these words jump out by using basic text effects, such as bold, sidebars and larger fonts, selectively. And on LinkedIn, put keywords in your profile to make sure people who are searching for those terms come across your page.
LinkedIn is all about networking, but you can translate this to paper too. Highlight your social media credentials where they relate to work and mention relevant networking events you’ve been to that will demonstrate your commitment and contacts to a potential employer.
If you’ve sold them on your professional worthiness in the first five seconds, don’t be cast into the ‘reject’ pile because you forgot to mention your life outside. ‘Only listing generic hobbies’ appears in the top 10 CV faux pas, according to the National Citizen Service. So forget ‘culture’ or ‘socialising’. If you’ve run a marathon for charity, say it.
Forgetting to mention personal development is also a CV no-no,
Think about key soft skills that a future employer would hope to see and that may set you apart from others. Good examples are public speaking or presentation skills. Highlight situations where your focus on self-improvement has helped you.
Now you’ve won them over, be contactable.
Make sure your contact details are clearly set out, up to date, professional (no dodgy personal email addresses) and that you respond promptly.