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How to write a standout CV

We’re going through a time of very striking contradictions. There are jobs aplenty out there, but there’s a candidate shortage. However, for those of you actively looking, it’s proving hard to get a response from a recruiter.

Our recent candidate survey found that over 40% of respondents were applying for jobs but not hearing anything back, which is clearly not helping to shift the jobs market. As a result, we’ve also seen an increase in candidates asking us for advice on writing a strong CV.

Although we respond to every application, it is a busy time for recruiters at the moment, which means it’s more important than ever to write a CV that stands out and gets you through to that all-important interview.

Here are our tips on writing a knockout CV

Consider your audience

Creating a one-size-fits-all CV for every application runs the risk of looking like there hasn’t been much thought put into an application. Instead, tailor your CV to match the role.

If you’re using a recruitment consultancy, it’s important you take into consideration that the CV needs to not only catch the eye of the recruiter to make it on to the shortlist, but also the employer. A blanket bomb approach won’t reflect your understanding of that role you’re applying for.

With that in mind, think about the key points you want to communicate for that specific role. This proves you have the relevant expertise and understood the job ad or job description.

If you’re contacting recruiters while also applying for jobs within large organisations, then make sure you create two distinct CVs. Most corporations use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which uses an algorithm to scan CVs for keywords. This requires a more keyword-led CV.

Using the same document for a recruiter or human eye will look a bit like Buzzword Bingo, so it’s best to make sure you adapt every CV for different purposes and different roles.

Never underestimate the importance of a personal statement

This is your chance to sell yourself and explain any gaps in your career. Repeating what’s on your CV is a wasted opportunity and doesn’t highlight your key skills and potential, not to mention the talent you can bring to a business.

Instead, focus on the following:

  • Be clear about what you’re looking for. If you want a Financial Director hybrid working role at a tech scale-up, then make that clear upfront.
  • Highlight your key skills and explain why you’re a great fit for the business
  • If you’re looking to change careers, it’s important to highlight crossover skills and use relevant examples wherever possible.
  • Clarify any breaks in your CV. Don’t attempt to gloss over it or leave blank. Life happens and employers will understand that. Recruiters are also there to promote your skills and support you, so always be clear and transparent.

Evidence your achievements

This is all about bringing your CV to life. If you created and grew a new department within a growing business, then look at quantifying that achievement.

For example; can you outline the percentage growth of the department? What was the return on investment? Did it increase profits? If so, by how much?

Not only does this pack a punch, but it also gives the recruiter or employer a clear and concise picture, therefore saving time and enabling everybody to get straight to the point during the interview.

Don’t overshare

The sole purpose of a CV is to help get you a great role that helps you balance family, personal life and work. Attempts at being witty or being too informal blurs the boundaries and makes it harder for everybody to understand your skills and experience.

If a recruiter or employer has one CV that is professional, clear and to-the-point, and another that’s a bit jokey and, well, overshares, then they’re more likely to pick the more professional candidate.

Interviews are there to gauge personality fit and for the employer to get to know the candidate, so it’s best to leave a little bit of humour and personal insight for then.

Embrace experience

This is a point that divides opinion. Some recruiters suggest only showing recent experience and others state you should be clear on everything.

Our position is that we believe in highlighting all your skills and expertise. As a recruitment consultancy that focuses on senior level appointments, it’s important to show how much you know and the amazing work you’ve done over the years.

You may be concerned that showcasing all your years of work may look too ‘mature’, especially if you want to work for a startup or scale-up business. However, in our experience, fast-growing businesses are looking for highly experienced professionals to help them grow. We say, embrace it!

Dotting I’s and crossing T’s

This may sound really obvious, but always do a final check before hitting the send button. Talking turkey here, typos aren’t acceptable, so always make sure you ask someone to proof.

Keep the layout clear. We don’t need emoji, icons or complex pdfs, just a straightforward Word doc with bullets or numbering. Stick with the safe option and keep it simple.

In summary, a clear and easy to read CV that quantifies your proudest achievements, combined with an impactful and knockout personal statement, is a great start to getting your name through to that all-important interview.