Research has revealed that the average recruiter only spends SIX seconds looking at a CV. They’re often inundated with applications so will quickly scan through CVs to assess whether the candidate has the necessary skills and experience for an interview, and dismiss those who don’t. Here’s five ways to make sure you stand out in a sea of applicants and get recruiters to pay more attention to your CV.
1. Clear Up The Clutter
The sole purpose of your CV is to win you an interview. You don’t need to list every single job you’ve had and all your full education history with classes and grades, this takes up valuable space. Once you’ve secured an interview, you can go into more detail and provide the recruiter with extra information in person.
The recruiters simply do not have the time to read through paragraphs and paragraphs of text listing your experience, they’re only interested in the most relevant information. Ditch the long paragraphs and flowy language in favour of concise bullet pointed sentences. Bullet points make the recruiter’s life easier as they don’t have to dig for information buried in paragraphs.
Avoid rambling on and make sure your CV is MAX two pages long, preferably one page. You can keep your word count down by summarizing your points, for example: instead of listing out all of your GCSE results, only mention the most relevant e.g. 12 GCSEs, including Maths (A) and English Literature (B).
Font, text size, and infographics can help you stand out but can cause issues. Stick to inoffensive professional fonts like Arial, Georgia and Times New Roman. There’s a time and a place for Comic Sans MS, and your CV is not one of them. If you’re thinking of using infographics and images be careful as they can hinder your application. If a company uses a computer scanning programme for CVs, text on infographics and images may not be picked up, so avoid putting important information on them.
A good format to have is a one line outline summary, followed by bullet pointed responsibilities and achievements. For example:
Top Marketing Firm - Marketing Manager - 2014-2020
I spent 6 years working as Marketing Manager overseeing content creation and community management for five brands.
- Increased social media engagement by 147% to on average 400 clicks per link
- HTML trained and certified, created 7 websites using October CMS
- In charge of the Big Marketing Campaign working with stakeholders to increase sales by 28%
- Created viral videos for clients on TikTok and Instagram Reels
2. One Size Does Not Fit All
If you’re applying for jobs it’s tempting to just send out the same CV to each one to save time, but tailoring your CV to the job shows the hiring manager you’re interested in the specific job and not just applying for anything you see.
When recruiters look at CV’s they’ve got a checklist in their heads of required skills and experience, so you need to make sure you’re checking the boxes. Go through the job description and make notes on the key requirements and skills. Then add these keywords to your CV, use the same/similar language as the job description to avoid any doubt. Larger companies often use CV scanning softwares, the computer scans for key words from the job description and dismisses CVs that don’t mention the keywords. For example if the job description lists Python as an essential skill, don’t just say you have strong coding skills, specifically mention the softwares you’re proficient in.
When you’re creating your CV it’s also important to consider the industry you're applying to as it will determine the type and content you should include. For sectors such as law and finance a plain CV is preferred. The CV should be work focused and straight to the point. This is not the time to experiment with wacky fonts and layouts, use a no frills approach.
However, for a creative job the opposite is expected. Rather than telling the hiring manager you are proficient in InDesign/Photoshop - show them with your CV. Using a creative CV can demonstrate your skills and experience to give the recruiter an idea of what you can do. Use this as an opportunity to get creative and make a lasting impression. So long as the CV is still easy to read you can be as inventive as you like, from putting your CV on cereal boxes ato creating an interactive video game, the possibilities are endless.
3. Brag About Your Achievements
It’s human nature to be modest and downplay achievements, but you need to talk about them on your CV. Your competitors are definitely listing their major achievements, so make sure you don’t miss out by being humble.
Bring your CV to life by giving examples of your accomplishments instead of just listing your responsibilities and tasks. For example, saying “Whilst overseeing SEO I increased daily visitors to the website by 89%” is far more impressive than “I was in charge of SEO for the company’s website”.
Mention any courses and training you’ve completed, and the softwares you’re familiar with. Be careful with exaggerating, the information on your CV will be referenced in the interview, and hiring managers may ask for more details / a demonstration so make sure you only mention things you can actually do.
4. Hobbies & Interests
Don’t underestimate the importance of adding extra curricular activities and interests to your CV. Whilst this should be the smallest section on your CV, briefly mentioning your hobbies and interests can enhance your CV and suggest you have vital skills that will help with the job.
For example, if you’ve played for a basketball team for years, a hiring manager will know it’s likely that you work well under pressure, are goal-oriented, committed, and skilled in teamwork, all without you having to explicitly list the skills!
Interests and extracurricular activities help to add a sprinkle of personality to your CV, and brings you as a candidate to life. Hiring managers do want skilled workers, but are also interested in ones that are well-rounded and will be a good fit for the company. If your hobby is unusual it will help set you apart from other candidates with similar work experience and education background. You could even have a hobby in common with the interview, building common ground is a great way to make a lasting impression. Your hobbies and interests can also show the recruiter that you’re a good fit for the organization. For example, if you’re passionate about climate change and the company prides itself on their green initiatives and fundraising, mentioning this on your CV demonstrates to the manager that your values are compatible with the company.
You can also use this section to demonstrate your interest in the industry, and can prove to you want the specific job. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the travel industry and run a travel blog not only are you showing the recruiter you’re enthusiastic about travel, but you’re also suggesting that you have writing skills. Employers want employees who are passionate about the industry and eager to learn more.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with spending your time doing passive hobbies and interests such as watching football or enjoying going to the cinema, these hobbies are extremely common and mentioning them will not help your application.
5 Add Your Portfolio
You know what’s better than describing to recruiters what you can do? Showing them. Including links to projects, campaigns, and reports you’ve worked on that you’re proud of allows the recruiter to see first hand how talented you are.
This is very important if you’re applying for a social media or copywriting role, it’s expected you’ll be active on social media and involved in the latest trends. By including your social media handles you can demonstrate your creativity. It’s a good idea to work on personal branding before putting this on your CV, for example, using the same (or similar) username on all platforms. Make sure you add the links as hyperlinks not URLs to keep your CV from looking messy.
Double check for spelling and grammatical errors, then triple check, then ask a friend to have a look for ones you’ve missed.
Always send your CV as PDF unless required otherwise. Different softwares and versions of Microsoft Word/Pages can distort the format of your CV or can even be unopenable. PDFs avoid this.
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By Clarissa Ducie