Making your CV stand out

How can I make my CV stand out from the pile?

Focus on creating three or four really memorable highlights that the reader will remember after they’ve finished reading. These might include a line in your personal or career goal that shows your passion for what you do, or key skills written to show a depth of understanding about the employer’s business. It could be something in your About Me section – something intriguing, inspirational or funny that makes the reader want to meet you.

Your career summary should focus on what you delivered and the difference it made – don’t write too much about how you did it: you want them to ask you this at interview!

Don’t fall into the trap of using coloured paper, coloured type or pictures – these are generally a turn-off and make the CV look home-made rather than professional.

For more tips on creating a fabulous CV, go to our CV pages.

October 6th, 2009 | Posted in CV, job hunting, stand out | 2 Comments

Unfinished training for career change

I left work to start a degree after 16 years in IT. Unfortunately, personal circumstances meant I did not complete the degree. How should I cover that off in my CV?

Making such a big career decision, and then not carrying it through, can send all kinds of unwanted signals to employers, such as: this person makes poor decisions, is not a completer, may be flighty, doesn’t maximise an investment, takes unreasonable risks, and so on. All this may be completely unfair – after all, you’ve suggested you had some personal problems that meant you couldn’t finish the course.

However, you can dig yourself in even deeper by trying to explain. All excuses, no matter how true or understandable – are a potential black mark in an employer’s mind.

If I had any direct advice for you, it would be to go back to college by hook or by crook and complete that degree, even if you don’t intend to use it. For now, while you are considering what to do, infer that you intend to complete it (ie that it’s ongoing), but really, really, do consider completing it if there is any chance at all of doing so.

September 17th, 2009 | Posted in CV | No Comments

Two year ‘gap’ in CV

I’ve been out of the workplace for 2 years and I’m wondering how best to present this fact! I’ve taken some full time courses in education, and filled my spare time with volunteering for a local charity and evening courses in counselling skills. How do I get around this gap on my CV?

When it comes to your work record, there really isn’t a ‘gap’. I’d include your time in education, your counselling and your volunteering just as you would as real jobs, with dates and places, putting whatever you are doing currently, or for longest, at the top. Bring out all the skills and qualities, and the achievements, in those fields just exactly as though you were talking about formal jobs. It doesn’t matter if the dates overlap, as it is getting increasingly common to be doing two things at once. If the overlapping dates look odd just say: ‘concurrently with x, I have been doing y’.

September 17th, 2009 | Posted in CV | No Comments

Online job searching

I have been registering with job search sites. I load up my CV, but most sites still take me from section to section, asking me to add in things like the job titles I’ve had, my key skills and companies I’ve worked for. Some even ask me to cut and paste the whole of the text of my CV into a text box, as well as uploading my CV as a file. Do I only have to fill these extra boxes in if I don’t upload a CV?

You should fill in every section in your profile, even if you feel as though you’re repeating yourself. To understand why, it helps to understand how this information is going to be used.

Recruiters access those same sites not only to post vacancies, but to actively search for potential candidates. They do this by word searching, which brings up profiles which match aspects of job vacancies, such as particular skills, qualifications or prior experience. The recruiter can then download the CVs of the best matches. However, the word search will only work on the terms you’ve put in the different fields on your profile: it won’t work on whole files you’ve uploaded, which is why you have to put so much of the information in twice.

September 13th, 2009 | Posted in CV | No Comments

Experience, but no qualifications

Despite having no formal qualifications, I grew with the hotel chain I joined at 17, becoming a sales manager, and eventually an area sales director. Now that we’ve been taken over, I’ve been let go. I have no idea how to start with my CV – if it’s all about what exams I’ve got, it’s going to look rather bare!

You have had an amazing learning journey that’s stretched over 20 years, so your CV certainly isn’t going to be bare, just different. And different is OK. A CV isn’t about exams, it’s is all about making a connection with the person who’s going to hire you.

Go back through your career, highlighting particular times when you learned a lot. How did you learn to run budgets, manage teams, set targets, win customers? What were the stand-out times in your career that you’ll never forget? What qualities did those times bring out in you? In addition, make a list of all your training, whether formal courses or on-the-job.

Most people evidence what they learned and how they were tested by showing exam passes, so your work and training records will need to do double time, illustrating how you learned the things you needed to know, and how your key skills were tested and proven in the field. Include real figures – revenues vs target, growth, sales units, team sizes, time frames – wherever you can.

You certainly shouldn’t let your lack of qualifications hold you up in your job search, but if you still have most of your career ahead of you it might be worth at least looking into whether getting some would further your ambitions. Start with your most relevant trade or professional association, and also take the advice of a professional recruiter who specialises in your trade.

September 13th, 2009 | Posted in CV, unemployment | No Comments
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