Telling your story - How to build a brilliant CV
With exams over, and summer already here, it’s time to start thinking about how to spend those summer days ahead. Taking a break abroad or in the UK can seem like tempting options – and are well deserved after a tough few months! However, the extended summer holidays can also be a fantastic opportunity to start talking about your next steps towards a future a career. Whether it be securing that all-important work experience placement or applying for a job after full-time education.
If you are looking to plant your foot firmly on the first rung of the career ladder this summer, building a brilliant CV should be your first stop. I often talk about your CV ‘telling your story’ and it’s the first thing an employer sees from you. So it is vital that it shows what’s unique about you to help you stand out from the crowd.
But, with all of the advice out there, aimed at every level of an applicant, it can be hard to know how best to go about it. As the HR Director of a business in which nearly 40% of the workforce is under 30, at O2 I have seen time and again what can make a great CV sail through the application process.
With that in mind, here are my top tips for building a CV that is guaranteed to stay at the top of the pile:
- Be clear and concise: One of the major temptations when writing a CV can be to shout about everything you’ve ever accomplished. Try to be ruthlessly focused on which experiences or achievements are relevant. I’ve sifted through thousands of CVs throughout my career, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to get straight to the point. As a guide, keep your CV to two sides of A4 maximum.
- Make passion paramount: As with many leaving full-time education, you might not have much work experience under your belt. Instead, draw on the things you are passionate about to show employers how you’ve taken the initiative. I remember one 18-year-old apprenticeship applicant who loved vintage products. She’d set up an online business selling memorabilia and clothes. It took a tremendous amount of creativity and effort and certainly impressed me.
- Demonstrate your digital skills: Most employers recognise the value of digital skills, so it’s important you don’t take your digital talent for granted. I regularly go into schools to talk to young people about their career opportunities, and often get little to no response when I ask who in the room is digitally capable. Yet when I ask if anyone has used social media that day, a forest of hands shoots up! Don’t underestimate how much employers value this kind of knowledge, or how you have used it in the past, this could be anything, from publicising an event on social media or even blogging about your favourite band or music genre.
- Cram in creativity: A CV can be so much more than just words on a page. As the digital generation, you have so many other avenues to explore to illustrate your personality and creativity to your employer, while also showcasing your innate digital skills. For example, have you considered adding a link to a well-crafted blog post or an imaginative YouTube video?
- Tailor for your targets: If you already know what industry you want to work in, avoid sending your CV to every employer you can find. Seek out the businesses doing things which excite you, and approach them with a tailored CV and cover letter explaining why you want to work with them. In my experience, one tailored CV is worth one hundred generic applications!
A good CV is a gateway to many valuable experiences, from gaining the work experience that defines your future career path to landing your first dream job. So take your time to build it, devote the energy to refreshing it, and choose carefully who to tailor it for. Good luck!