Search online, and you’ll be able to find an infinite amount of tips and advice for improving your CV, and making it more likely to get past initial screening. While most (be careful-not all!) of this advice is valuable, it can often be quite nebulous, and can make it difficult to know where to begin. Tips like “think about your formatting” and “be aware of the tone of language you use” are undoubtedly sound, but can be time consuming, and sometimes confusing to implement in reality.
Below, we’ve listed 5 pointers that can transform your CV in less than 10 minutes, with one goal in mind: to make the job of the recruiter or hiring manager (HM) as easy as possible. Remember that if a company has an open role, they want (and need) to make a hire, so when they’re giving your CV the once-over, they’re looking for reasons to call and invite you in for interview, not to dismiss your profile. Help them! While it can be easy to lose track of the entire purpose of the CV, and only be concerned with your own goals i.e. cramming in everything you want to say, remember who the end client is, and make their job as easy as you can.
- Include a professional title. Much as you would on your LinkedIn profile, it’s a good idea to follow your name with what you do. Bonus points if this matches the profile you’re applying for! Be specific-instead of “Construction Professional”, try “Senior Site Manager”. This eliminates guesswork around your level, and the exact type of work that you do. If the HM or recruiter can see you’re broadly a match for their requirement at this point, they’re far more likely to read on, or even click “shortlist” immediately.
- List your education first. The proverbial jury is still out on where to include your educational background (before or after professional experience?), but keep in mind that some companies demand a certain level of education i.e. a Bachelors’ Degree, or even a qualification in a certain discipline, such as civil engineering. If this is a box that needs to be ticked by the hiring manager, and he/she can’t see this immediately, they may assume it isn’t there and pass over your profile rather than waste time following up to check. Similarly, some roles require candidates have a professional certification such as a Chartered Engineer qualification to progress-get that box ticked immediately!
- Consider including a skills matrix close to the top of your profile. When a role demands a certain combination of skills, particularly if they’re technical, a busy and impatient HM isn’t going to spend lots of time sifting through your professional experience and cross-referencing with the list on the spec. When they’re right there, together in black and white, it’s an easy decision to pick up the phone. Strong documentation skills like this are usually key in most roles too.
- Change your font. Definitely the quickest one on this list to implement, and one that can have a transformative effect on your CV. Serif fonts like Times New Roman can look blocky and outdated, while a sans-serif choice like Arial or Calibri is immediately fresher and more pleasing to the eye. When you’ve been staring at CV after CV all day, the little things can really make a difference to a recruiter, and make that all-important first impression.
- Bullets! It’s an obvious one, but too many candidates, particularly those who have worked on complex, multi-stage projects, still resort to dense blocks of text. Much like “listicle” articles are the easiest to read in a hurry, breaking up large paragraphs make CV’s much more attractive to skim through, and thus enable the HM to make a (hopefully positive) decision quickly.