The job market is a mine field. It is as simple as that
So how do you navigate your way through to find a clear path to your dream role whilst avoiding the unforeseen hazards?
We all know the importance of first impression, and our potential employers first impression of us will undoubtably be our CV. Therefore, we are in many ways reliant on a 2-3-page document we hope will show our capabilities and skills. A previous article I wrote titled ‘The Calling Card’ highlights the importance of this document. But how can you ensure that this vital document is presenting you in the best possible light? Before we get into the detail of what your CV should contain, ask yourself these questions;
- When was the last time I set aside a few hours to review and revise my CV?
- Would I hire me based on my CV?
- Does it impress me in 6 seconds?
If the answer to these basic questions are unfavourable, then my first piece of advice would be to take a serious look at what you are sending out to potential employers with your name on it. Try to step back from what you know, or think you know about yourself, and imagine you are reading your CV as if it was from a stranger, would you hire yourself?
You are being employed to protect and secure businesses, data, individuals. Will they trust you with such a vital aspect of their business, if you don’t make the effort on one document for them?
As a professional freelance CV writer, the most common excuse I hear is “I haven’t had the time”. This is of course very understandable; we are all busy. We all have commitments with work and home life. Life does take over, but if you are serious about getting that position then is any excuse acceptable?
Your CV represents you. It shows an employer so many traits about you before they even read the whole document. More often than not it is your CV that is being rejected, not your actual experience.
You have 3 choices;
- Don’t do a thing and hope that everyone else doesn’t put any effort into their CV either.
- Set aside a block of time to commit to overhauling your CV to make sure you stand out.
- Hire a CV writer
Back to basics
You know you need a new CV if the one you have just isn’t getting you anywhere. So, start afresh, find a new template and go back to the beginning. You need to have clear sections;
Personal Info > Profile Introduction > Career History (most recent first) > Qualifications> Education*> Interests* > Volunteer*
*Personal preference to include these sections.
When I am writing a CV, I do the foundations first. These are the sections easiest to fill out and take the least amount of effort. They are straight forward facts.
Personal information; include your contact number and email. Your location – but not your full address (it’s all about security as you know). Your email should be a professional one, if the one you have sounds too personal get a new one just for job hunting. Believe me, no matter how good your CV is if your email is firstname.lastname@example.org, you will be discounted by any serious employer.
That’s all you need. You should never include your DOB, NI number, Passport Number etc. Protect this information. If an employer needs it, it should only be after an offer of employment.
Education; this section isn’t always a requirement; it depends on your educational background and also what is required in the roles you are applying for. Include your degree, if you have one but GCSE’s or A Level’s are not that essential. Unless you are a school leaver, in which case there is a different format to follow.
Interests; I always suggest putting this section in as it gives the employer a more personal insight into you. It’s a good topic for discussion at the start of some interviews and can build common ground. Do however keep it simple for example “Diehard fan of Chelsea” doesn’t come across in the best light; swap this for “keen football supporter”. You are leaving it open to conversation.
Volunteering; always a great section to include if you can. It could be anything from helping at a local youth’s sports team, a member of the school’s parents committee, providing support in the local community at the weekend.
Now you have the basics in place it’s time to focus on the real content – your career history. Employers will be focused on the last 3-4 jobs you have taken / or the last decade, which ever covers the most content. Prior to this you can list your roles but don’t need to worry about going into detail on your CV. If they need to know what you did back in 1985, they can ask you at the interview.
Career History; split each role into ‘key achievements’ and ‘responsibilities’. Focus on your key achievements first, sometimes it can take time to remember when you have gone above and beyond in your role. Don’t be afraid to promote yourself, remember your CV is in effect your advertisement to employers. If you have excelled due to your expertise and commitment, then include this.
What is a key achievement? It could be a new security process or technology that you have implemented? It could be an improvement in a procedure that is more cost effective or time efficient. It could be leading a project of significant value; or completing it early or even just within a restrictive budget, a complex environment. These are achievements.
This part is the hardest. In the corporate world we are taught to use the words ‘We’ and ‘Team’ but on our CV it’s about what ‘YOU’ did. It’s a hard habit to change. Don’t expect to remember it all as you sit down to work on your CV. You may remember things over the following few days or weeks. It is a work in progress.
Now we move onto your responsibilities. Firstly, do not copy and paste the same responsibilities to all your roles. This shows an employer nothing. Secondly, they don’t need to see that you completed your admin tasks each week, this is expected as standard and not something you should highlight on your CV. Thirdly, do not copy and paste the job description for your current role. We all know that job specs are just a guideline and will generally not cover exactly what you do; so, explain it to them.
Job spec: Work with third party suppliers to purchase goods for the project.
CV: Established and developed strong working relations with third party vendors; lead the procurement process and undertook supplier negotiations to achieve a cost saving of £2million per annum.
Overall tips; these tips may seem minor but they are so vital to ensure you are impressing your new potential employer.
- Spelling and grammar. This is unbelievably easy to check as Word has a function that does it for you. There are no excuses for failing here.
- Font style and size. Keep it consistent and clear. Use size 12 for the general information and size 14 for headers. Don’t use a range of font style; one for the main content and possibly a second for your name. Make sure it is clear and easy to read.
- Formatting. Check that your bullet points and written content are aligned, anything not quite lined up will be noticed.
- Take the time to adjust your intro and cover letter depending on the job you are applying for. Highlight the most relevant skills and experience you have for the role. If you are applying for different types of roles, consider having more than one version of your CV ready.
- If you are lazy with your CV at application stage the hiring manager will notice.
Above all, remember that you have one chance to impress a stranger in 6 seconds. Have you done everything you can?
Created in 2017, LD Career Services is an independent business focused on coaching you to success
Lydia has established an international client base working with clients across Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, South America and Australia.
The most popular area is her CV Writing service; she works with her clients to understand their career aspirations; whilst extracting relevant information on their expertise and achievements to ensure they stand out to potential employers.
Another core aspect of the business is providing ad hoc HR & Recruitment Management support to corporate organisations. Not all businesses can justify, or require, a full-time resource for this area; Lydia works with her corporate clients to provide support when they need it; through the partnership she works to understand their business and needs.
Lydia is extremely passionate about her business and strives to excel within her field. She takes a great deal of pride in the work she produces and the support she provides to all her clients. With a strong reputation the majority of Lydia’s clients come from recommendations; a testament to her expertise and professionalism.
If you would like to discuss how LD Career Services can support you on an individual or corporate basis please email: Lydia@LDCareerServices.com