Have you ever had the thought why, even after hundreds of job or internship applications, getting interviews seemed tremendously difficult? If you’ve ever wondered this, chances are, you are in the 95% of applicants going through this common struggle. In majority of these cases, your CV/Resume is the main culprit.
A CV/Resume predominantly works like a signal to recruiters that provides them information on what skills and experience you possess as well as how closely you align with the job they are recruiting for. Due to the number of applications recruiters have to screen, the average time spent looking at a CV ranges from 5-7 seconds.
Here are five tips that can help you transform your CV from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’:
1 – Structure
Firstly, the layout of your CV has to be organised and clear. There should be 4 sections with the experiences clearly summarised. These sections are Education, Work experience, Extracurricular and Extra. The ‘Extra’ section should contain elements such as languages (important), interests (important), volunteering, qualifications, certificates, awards etc. Keep the extra section short and only include 4 or 5 elements at max.
This example below, belonging to Jessica Pointing, is a typical example of a good, structured CV although the sections are a little bit different. Her resume was even featured in Business Insider. Adapt your CV according to sections that are most relevant to you.
Source: Business Insider
Reverse chronological order
The next tip to optimise your CV structure is to follow a reverse chronological order when summarising your education, work experience and extracurriculars. So, mention your most recent experience at the start of each section followed by the 2nd most recent experience and so on.
2 – Action Words and Quantifiable Results, direct impact
One of the reasons some CVs are not seen as impressive are because they lack information about the candidate’s impact and their contribution in their experiences. Make sure you mention what you DID, and what IMPACT resulted from your actions. Always try to use verbs to describe your action and quantify the outcome.
Example of a poor experience description:
- Worked as part of the fundraising team and helped with planning events
Example of a strong experience description:
- Played a key role in the fundraising team by organizing 5+ events which lead to £9,000 being raised
Note the difference here is that in the 2nd sentence, you are both mentioning what you did directly, and the result achieved (it also sounds more professional)
3- ATS friendly
Did you know that around 75% of CVs never even reach the eyes of the recruiter. This is because of the applicant tracking systems (ATS). ATS is used to significantly shorten the recruitment process by only allowing CVs that meet its ‘criteria’. Different firms use different types of ATS software, however, most of them do use it. Here are some tips to pass the ATS.
Tailoring to the Job
Firstly, using relevant keywords from the job posting will highlight relevance. Use keywords and jargons from the job posting on your CV and customise your CV for each application. Don’t insert these keywords randomly, make sure they fit well into the context of your experiences. For an investment banking job for example, words such as financial modelling and valuation often appear so do try to use them (if appropriate).
Additionally, there will be phrases regarding skills or responsibilities. Try to also include them if you can in your CV. If your CV is highly tailored to the job with relevant keywords, phrases and skills, you will most likely pass this stage.
- Pdf or docx (I prefer PDF)
- No text box, tables, colour schemes, special fonts, graphics, clipart, shapes
- Bullet pointed descriptions and Headings/Sections clearly bolded and underlined
4 – Length
The length of your CV should never be more than 1 page. Remember, a recruiter only spends about 5-7 seconds looking at your CV, so you do not want to send 3 pages about your random experiences from middle school. Focus on your more relevant, impactful and preferably recent experiences instead.
When it comes to describing your experiences, use bullet points and keep it to 1 line each bullet (2 lines if necessary). This ensures that you have made your points in a succinct way. I would personally write about 3-4 bulleted lines for the more recent experiences and about 2 bulleted lines for the earlier experiences.
5 – Formatting
The final tip for crafting an outstanding CV is the format itself. Here are some tips to optimise your format:
- PDF style to ensure the document looks exactly how you have structured it. Sometimes, when you save it in docx or other format, it may look differently on different devices. With PDF, the appeal remains consistent
- Keep a simple and professional font such as Times New Roman or Garamond. Font size should be 10-12. Header font size can be 14
- Make sure your grammar and language are correct, consistent and makes sense. This is very important
Ensure your margins are aligned either moderate or narrow (I prefer narrow) and also check that Headings, bullet points and description are also aligned vertically. It loses the appeal if different sections are aligned differently where one section is a bit too left or right.
That’s all! These 5 tips should enable your CV to be considered outstanding. Good luck!
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