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10 Tips to Write a Winning CV

10 Tips to Write a Winning CV

10 Tips to Write a Winning CV

As part of Career Transition, Outplacement Coaching and pro bono Coaching I’ve been writing CVs for clients and friends for almost 20 years.  However, I’ve never been asked to write or update as many as in the past 6 months.  That’s a very sad indictment of the major negative impact that Covid-19 has had on organizations, their people and even whole families and communities.

Your CV is usually your passport to get an interview and in the most competitive job market we’ve seen for decades, job seekers have to find ways to stand out.  With some jobs attracting over 1,000 applicants it’s more important than ever to have a professional CV.  If you’re looking for work it’s also worth remembering that up to ¾ of CVs never get in front of a human eye as they are sifted automatically.  So, here are my 10 tips for writing a winning CV:

1. Choose a simple clear format and avoid fancy fonts and graphics which distract from your message – unless of course you’re a Graphic Designer wanting to show off one of your designs. 

2. Limit your CV to 2 pages only; a sobering fact is that once your CV does eventually get in front of a human recruiter, they tend to read only the first half of the first page, so your key words need to be in your Profile as well as listed under your key skills and your latest role.

3. Your CV should have your name, mobile number and email address at the top.  You don’t need to include your address unless you’re only applying for very local roles and want to demonstrate that you live just round the corner from the hiring organization.  Nor do you have to include your date of birth.

4. Start your CV with a Personal Profile or Personal Statement, which may include your main objective,  This is where you can be really specific if you know that the relevant roles exist that would suit you, for example, ‘I am keen to work as an office-based Account Manager for a Digital Media Agency in Central Birmingham.’  Apart from your Personal Statement, best practice is to write the rest of your CV in the third person, i.e. ‘managed a team of 15 in a high-pressure environment within the events industry.’

5. Use action words and the same tense throughout the body of your CV, for example, ‘delivered 50% increase in Sales  within first 3 months ’ or ‘key achievements included securing 10 new clients per month within the first month in post ’.

6. List your key skills and include a mix of technical and soft skills, for example, you may be a qualified accountant but increasingly employers are looking for flexible, self-motivated applicants with good problem solving skills and who are comfortable working from home in the likely future of hybrid working.

7. Next list your Career History starting with your latest role and include dates and responsibilities.  As with everything in life and in business, honesty is the best policy so don’t lie as chances are you may well be found out.  Your employer has to be able to trust you, now more than ever with the increase in remote working.

8. Then under each job heading in no more than 3 – 6 bullet points list what you achieved in the role which set you apart.  Provide evidence of how you went over and above the required duties and tasks, for example, ‘over-exceeded target by 25% in 6 months’ or ‘won Employee of the Month twice in 2 years.’  If you are struggling to list any key achievements from work then include activities outside work, which demonstrate any relevant key skills, such as ‘organized charity run for our HR team’  or ‘worked weekends as  a lifeboat volunteer’ or ‘worked one evening a week as a school governor.’

9. List some interests which occupy you outside work to demonstrate that you have a life outside the office and are able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.  Be very specific, so don’t just say that you like cooking or reading, specify that you enjoy oriental cuisine or crime thrillers.

10. Once you’ve checked your CV for typos, check it again, then ask someone else to treble check it!  Then make sure your LinkedIn profile matches your CV.  Remember that up to 80% of companies use LinkedIn to recruit and up to 60% of candidates source a new role via networking.  Employers like LinkedIn as applicants sourced through this media are 60% more likely to stay with the company for longer than 6 months.  In addition, make sure you don’t have anything too controversial or inappropriate across your other social media channels as up to half of candidates can be rejected if their social media profiles show values or behaviours which don’t match those of the hiring company.

Once you’ve uploaded your CV on to the relevant job boards, called the Executive Search firms and Recruitment Agencies and told the world you’re available for work, then contact two references, one should be your current or last employer.  Approach your job search as if it is a full-time project and create a spreadsheet to track your applications. 

‘With my old CV I didn’t get any interviews and was starting to become despondent.  But I wanted to let you know that I’ve landed 6 interviews in a fortnight  with your new version – thank you!’  Finance Director.

Nowadays don’t expect to hear back if you’re unsuccessful as unfortunately hiring managers are inundated and currently aren’t always able to respond.  Whereas previously it could take an average of 5 months for a candidate working alone to source a new role, be prepared for it to take longer.  Also, remember that usually only 4 – 6 applicants are interviewed so when you get the invitation to be  interviewed  don't waste the opportunity, start preparing, practising, preparing some more and then practising again so you’ve got the best opportunity to be successful.

Stay motivated and good luck!

About Jill Maidment

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