The seven deadly CV sins
Show your passion for the job you are applying for, and the company you are applying to, in order to demonstrate that you want the role.
Research the company to try to mirror their values, and the way they talk about the job and the organisation. Demonstrate how well you would fit their team and their culture. Try to imitate the language that they use without repeating their exact phrasing.
Take pride in, and ownership of, your achievements. A lot of people fall into the trap of talking about what their company has achieved, rather than highlighting their own personal achievements or actions.
Give quantifiable evidence of your achievements, using action words to grab the recruiter’s attention. For example, “Excellent negotiator” becomes “Successfully renegotiated several contracts, saving £500k on annual costs”.
Be careful not to overfill your CV with too much information. A recruiter will spend an average of 7 to 30 seconds on an initial scan of a CV. Some sectors tend to have longer CV’s, such as academia, but in general you should keep to two pages. Don’t try to get around this by shrinking your font or narrowing your margins – it will only make your CV stand out for the wrong reasons.
Where appropriate, use bullet points. Pare back details about older roles, avoid jargon and filter out irrelevant information.
Don’t be greedy and try to be all things to all people, be specific in targeting your roles. A recruiter can usually tell if you have sent out an untailored CV, and if you are up against hundreds of other applicants, a generic CV isn’t going to make the cut.
Look at your career history and identify your responsibilities, skills and achievements that will be valuable to your prospective employer and make sure your CV focusses on these. Use the job specification to help you decide what is important to them, and get rid of anything that isn’t relevant.
Never talk negatively about your previous experiences. Making negative comments about your previous colleagues or company is unprofessional, and will immediately suggest to the recruiter that you are not a team player.
Portray all of your experiences as positives, even if they have gone wrong. Highlight what you have learnt and what skills you have developed – for example, if you led an unsuccessful project or venture, then perhaps focus on the progress you were able to make and the learning gained by both you and your organisation.
Size up your competition – think about what you may have that other candidates might be envious of. Try to consider how you can add value to the role and go beyond the job specification.
For example, if you have any awards or qualifications, any positive feedback, if you have worked with prestigious people or brands – all of these will give you an advantage over other candidates. If you are making a career change and you don’t have a lot of experience in the industry, demonstrate how the skills and experiences you have acquired can be applied to this particular role. Use your differences as your strengths.
Don’t be lazy, check your CV at least three times. Incorrect spelling or, more commonly, poor grammar, can mean a recruiter doesn’t give your CV more than a glance. It is surprising how easily you can miss some mistakes (especially on the second page) – a spell checker won’t necessarily pick them all up.
Print it off to see if it looks the same as it does on the screen. Have a family member or friend read it through before you send it. Check, check and check again.