How to stand out

A good CV will make it easier for an employer to pick you out from the crowd, says Carol Banks

Every day, hundreds of CVs and job application forms land on busy managers’ desks. How do you make sure it is your CV the employer picks up and reads? How do you stand out from the crowd? A good CV must immediately create a positive impression by highlighting your value to the employer and presenting your skills and qualities clearly and precisely. Generic CVs are never acceptable and you must tailor your CV to the post you are applying for.

Curriculum vitae means ‘the course of your life’ and so it should be absolutely accurate. You should never invent, copy or lie in your CV because you will need to prove your claims in the interview. You can also be dismissed from a job if misrepresentations are discovered later.

Well-presented CVs are word processed on good quality paper using no more than two fonts. Make limited use of capitals and italics, also avoiding colour and uncommon fonts. These may look good but do not scan, photocopy or email well. Long CVs are often rejected as the employer struggles to extract relevant facts. Try to keep your CV to two A4 sides.

Make sure that your CV reads well by using short sentences with no jargon or acronyms. To maintain interest, vary the format between prose and bullet points and vary the language to avoid repetition. For example, ‘I am good at’ can be changed to ‘skilled at’, or ‘an expert in’ could be written as ‘competent in’, ‘qualified to’ or ‘with ability to’. Remember that the employer will be assessing your communication skills too. If in doubt, ask a friend for their view.

“A good CV must immediately create a positive impression.”

The layout of information on your CV is also important. The top half of the first page is the prime position and high impact information should appear here. Personal information should include a minimum of name, address, telephone and email. Other personal information such as date of birth, nationality, work permit details if appropriate, and general interests should appear at the end of your CV. That is, after your career profile statement, employment and education details.

Your career profile is a brief and punchy statement giving the reader an impression of your achievements and characteristics. Remembering to select relevant qualities for each application, a standard profile might read, “I am an A with B years’ experience of C, D and E. I have excellent skills in X and Y and a good record of achievement in Z”.

Employment details should follow in reverse chronological order. Include dates, job location, employer name, job title and a brief outline of the main job activities for all the posts you have held. Relevant achievements should be included for recent roles. Each achievement statement should include a positive, active word such as ‘led’, ‘managed’, ‘drove’, ‘expanded’, ‘developed’ and should then be quantified in terms of results and outcomes.

For education details, you should include dates, institution names and qualifications from the age of 11. If qualifications are unusual or gained outside the UK, it can be helpful to note the equivalent UK level. Also note other skills which are not evident elsewhere such as IT or language skills, and a driving licence if this is a job requirement.

References should only be included on your CV if specifically requested by the employer and then only after the named individual’s permission has been sought. CVs should be completely error free as mistakes show carelessness and lack of atten- tion to detail. Make sure your whole career is cov- ered – gaps raise questions in the employer’s mind. Focus on your successes and do not draw attention to areas of weakness. Show the reader that you meet the requirements and your CV will end up on the shortlist pile.

Carol Banks is an independent management consultant and trainer

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