How do I write a CV that gets me on the Yes pile?

Jan Johnson

Writing a good CV has proved to be one of the toughest challenges of finding a job – and not just any job – landing the one you want, the one you’ll enjoy and be good at, all starts with that CV. It should give an employer a brief overview of who you are, what you’ve achieved and how you present yourself – it's all in those words.

People often ask me why a CV needs to be impressive and the answer is simple - Do you want a good job?

Your CV has 8.8 seconds within which to grab the reader’s attention – yes, just 8.8 seconds – go ahead and count that time out loud – it barely gives you time to read the first paragraph.

Getting on that YES pile is all down to that first impression.

Your CV should represent who you are, and while it’s tempting to show yourself in a good light when that CV grabs their attention you are very suddenly going to end up face to face. Keeping that professional, clipped and efficient tone is all very well on the phone, but pretty hard to keep up in real life.

So to the details – this bit is really important and I suggest you start with Calibri because its pleasant on the eye and readable – no irritating squiggly bits to decipher – font size needs to be 12 (you don’t want the reader reaching for their specs) and then focus on the header.

This should always contain your first name and surname, email address and contact number – that’s all! And remember if your email is inappropriate, silly or offensive, you will be dumped into the trash before 8.8 seconds has even started.

People often ask if they should add a picture and I always say no – why?

Because whether we like it or not, we are a judgemental bunch and assumptions can be made.

The Profile/ Personal Statement has faced many changes over recent years and used to be where you wrote about experience, qualifications and achievements, but now this is where your 8.8 seconds is spent and they want to know what you're like as a person. Cultural fit is very important in the workplace – every employer knows you can train keen, willing candidates, but you can’t train personality, values and ethics.

I’d suggest six lines and a maximum of two paragraphs. For example: ‘Sales advisor with outbound and inbound call experience within busy work environments. Self-motivated, enthusiastic and supportive team player, who can also be trusted to work alone or from home.’

Following this list six to eight Key Skills, (look up the key skills required for the position) and if you are not applying for a position in particular then think about a job you’d love and take a look at the skills required for that.

Word of warning - be very sure you have the skills that you’re listing and don’t just add them because they sound super impressive. While fabulous on paper this can seriously backfire when you get to the interview stage.

I’ve found that adding bullet points in the key skills makes them stand out and easy to read.

· Attention to detail

· Customer services

· Communication

· Organisational

Next list your qualifications, training and any awards. A lot of people put this at the end, but I feel it’s crucial to the prospective employer because it shows them your drive, personality, willingness and attitude to learning. Add the year, the date you attended and what you took from the experience. Ensure you include anything you feel proud of and that you want to share. If you're struggling with this, maybe ask your Mum.

Work history follows this, so list employer, date of employment (from and to) and your job title. NB, if you are no longer working then write the reason – e.g. redundancy, contract ended etc. Then record between three and five duties that you carried out in this role.

Many of us have a series of past employers – I certainly do – so at this stage, I suggest that you provide details of your past three employers. You can add a line that says, ‘other work history’, and leave that as a tantaliser for the interview!

So many people add hobbies and interests to their CV and I’m going to just say NO, don’t do it. Employers rarely get this far down the CV and if they do then they could draw assumptions which could be detrimental. I’ll leave that there.

References are an important aspect to employment, and I do look at references as a recruiter, however, employers are not going to call a reference at the CV shortlist stage, so my advice is not to. Simply put ‘References available’ and leave it there.

Finally, for the love of all that’s fabulous please spell check your CV. Do not release it into the world without having given it a thorough read-through – ask your Mum, Nan, best mate (the cat will not do) – and get it checked.

So, there you have it. No excuse now to not go out and land that job you want.

Good luck!

If you would like some friendly advice during your job search please do give me a call

Next time I’ll tell you how to write a killer covering letter so keep an eye out for my next blog.

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