It's a hard time to be applying for a job right now, which is why you want to do what you can to help yourself stand out for the right reasons. Step forward: knowing how to write a CV.
In many industries – particularly in entry level or junior roles – you can be up against hundreds of people applying for the same role. To make sure you get a chance to wow the hiring managers with your dazzling personality, it’s all about nailing the CV – the tool designed to get you an interview.
When a recruiter receives hundreds of those resumes that look and read the same, it can be really difficult to know how to make yours, you and your credentials for the job stand out among the masses.
For CV specific advice from the experts, read on.
How to write a CV
Don't make your CV too busy
You might think fancy formatting and bold choices are guaranteed to help you make your mark. And maybe they will - but not for the right reasons. "What can you do to make a CV stand out? Don't try to make it stand out!" FutureLearn's Director Of Insights Hanna Celina says.
"You'd be surprised at how low the number of CVs are that actually are just correctly formatted and very simple, letting the content do the talking. Too many people sacrifice clarity for originality."
Don’t send the same old CV to everyone
One of the most time consuming but important pieces of advice when it comes to CV writing is to tailor each CV to the company/role you’re applying for. We know, it's a long process - but almost all the recruiters we spoke to insisted it was the best way to stand out.
"It's critical you show on your CV how keen you are for that specific role," James Reed, the chairman of Reed recruitment and the author of new book The 7 Second CV told Cosmopolitan.com/uk. "The same generic CV sent out for multiple job applications limits your chance of making the cut.”
Likewise, Bill Richards, the UK managing director at job site Indeed, says the one keyword to remember when editing your CV is “relevance”.
“A single page of relevant detail is far more likely to be successful than four or five pages listing everything you’ve ever done,” he tells us. “Aim for a concise and focused CV that contains only relevant skills and experience; this will always trump pages of waffling.
"Ensure you highlight the skills you gained in past roles that will be required in the role you are applying for – even if the work was different. Give particular focus to previous roles that were similar to the one you are targeting. If you have done other roles in the interim that were not relevant, don’t leave gaps, but a small mention will suffice."
Start off with a short profile
Obviously, the first place a hiring manager is going to look is the top of the page. Make sure you kick things off with something memorable and quick that gives them a clear idea of who you are.
Kay Harriman, the senior director for HR in UK and Ireland for Hilton hotels, advises that the best way to do this is to include a short profile as an introduction so that companies can get a sense of who you are and your career goals.
Avoid cliche words like 'passionate', 'specialised' and 'focused'
"This is crucial for any job role," she tells us. "We want our team members to learn and grow – so seeing a clear definition of a candidate’s ambitions not only helps us see whether a job is right for them, but also gives an idea of how they could progress within our company."
Don’t just write out all the requirements of your existing job
It's tempting to want to tell potential employers exactly what you do all day and how this could be beneficial to the role you're applying for. But there's a particular way to do it.
"Try to include what you have achieved rather than listing duties you are responsible for," Heather Byass, partner and resourcing development manager at the John Lewis Partnership says.
Sinead Bunting, the Vice President of Marketing Europe at Monster Jobs, explains how this could be done: "Many jobseekers underestimate the achievements they have made and undervalue their impact on the business as a whole. Don't just say you were 'ordering stationery', say you were 'responsible for ensuring the company had the necessary resources to operate efficiently'".
To make these achievements more readable, Byass suggests using "bullet pointed lists and shorter sentences".
Back your credentials up with examples
Even if yours are true, anyone can make up empty claims on their CV with no real evidence. So use examples to back up the roles, experience and tasks you say you are responsible for, as proof and to help your job history stand out.
"When you’re writing about relevant skills, qualities and experience, try and give some short examples to bring your CV to life," Kirstie Mackey, Head of LifeSkills at Barclays tells us. "Whether you’re just starting out or looking for a career change, think about all the things you’ve done over the last few years – whether it be education, previous jobs or even activities such as volunteering."
Bunting adds: "Try to pick at least one specific example per job you've held and explain briefly how it improved the business. It can't be stressed often enough that your CV is designed to get you the interview, not the job, so remember not to delve into too much detail. Provide enough information to entice your potential employers to call you in so you can explain face-to-face the exact details of the tasks you've undertaken and the skills you have learnt... Always keep examples relevant to the role you are applying for."
Stop underselling yourself
It’s human nature to play down your achievements and instead draw out the modest card for fear of being too boastful, but these insecurities should be left at the door when it comes to CVs. Think of it like this: if your worst enemy was applying for the same job and you knew they were going to make a big song and dance about their achievements, would you be coy about your own? No. There's no room fo modesty on this occasion.
"As well as giving us a sense of who you are, people often forget that hobbies can translate into valuable experience"
"One of the best ways to make your CV stand out is through showing your personality," Reed says. "Your CV should be the one document where you shout about all your impressive achievements. It’s natural to undersell yourself when writing your CV, however recruiters want to see what the person is like behind the words."
Avoid the obvious
There are so many clichés when it comes to what people write on their CV, even down to the words they use. Avoid the likes of 'passionate' and 'specialised', and consider whether you'd use phrases like 'team player' in every day life. The chances are you've actually just wheeled it out for your CV - much like everyone else.
Bunting says phrases like "project management skills" can be avoided unless that’s actually your job as "it’s just a fancy way of saying that you are organised". In the same way, Harriman advises against writing that you are "results orientated", as most people work in a company that needs to produce results, and so this isn't actually detailing anything other than the obvious.
Include extracurricular activities
Emily Austen, the CEO of Emerge PR, tells Cosmopolitan she always pays attention to the added non-work bits about a candidate which they might not typically think are that important. Wrong.
"I always look at extra-curricular activities, as a work/life balance is so important," she explains. "Sports you play, any achievements, challenges, other qualifications, side hustles, or events you’ve been to, memberships you have to places such as Chatham House, for example. Being interested immediately make you more interesting as a candidate."
Hanna Celina agrees, adding that she loves seeing extra online courses or qualifications people have completed on their CVs. "It shows off a genuine interest and I'm always impressed by the depth of knowledge. Having an undergraduate degree in history but five courses in data science and coding, for example, shows a real commitment to learning and the area."
Include your LinkedIn profile or portfolio
As well as getting noticed, you also want to make life easier for the hiring manager. If there’s a quick link they can click on to get a better idea of you as a person and potential candidate, why not include it? Whether it directs them to examples of your previous work, or even a blog.
As Jenna Prescott, the recruiting manager at travel company Expedia, says: “Keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and putting a URL within your CV can also come in handy, as it means that even if your CV is looked at months down the line, recruiters can keep up to date with what you have been up to.”
She adds that should you be applying to a role in the creative field, your portfolio should be visible too so that hirers can easily see evidence of your work and accomplishments. Plus, this all only adds clout to the claims you've made on your CV, and entices your potential employer to want to know more about your work.