An employer or recruiter can spend less than thirty seconds reviewing your CV before deciding whether to continue with an application. With potentially hundreds of CVs to sift through, a hiring manager gets tired of reading the same words and phrases time and time again. The aim is to make your CV stand out through originality, relevance and personality.
Writing a good CV is crucial for making a strong impression on potential employers and showcasing your qualifications, skills, and experiences effectively. Here are some key techniques to consider when crafting your CV:
Clarity and Conciseness: Keep your CV clear, concise, and easy to read. Use bullet points, short paragraphs, and headings to organize information logically.
Contact Information: Place your name, phone number, email address, and optionally, your LinkedIn profile at the top of the CV for easy access.
Professional Summary/Objective: Write a brief summary or objective that highlights your career goals, skills, and what you bring to the table. Tailor this section to the specific job you're applying for.
Relevance: Tailor your CV for each application. Focus on the most relevant experiences and skills that match the job description. Remove or downplay irrelevant details.
Work Experience: List your work experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent job first). Include the company name, your job title, the dates you worked, and a concise description of your responsibilities and achievements. Use action verbs to start each bullet point.
Achievements and Accomplishments: Highlight your accomplishments and impact in previous roles. Use quantifiable results and metrics whenever possible to showcase your contributions.
Skills: Create a section for both hard and soft skills relevant to the job. Include technical skills, languages, certifications, and other competencies that make you a strong candidate.
Education: Include your educational background, starting with the most recent degree. Mention the degree earned, the institution, graduation date, and any relevant honours or awards.
Optional Sections: Depending on your background, you might include sections like "Projects," "Publications," "Volunteer Work," or "Professional Memberships" to further demonstrate your expertise.
Formatting and Design: Use a clean and professional design. Choose a consistent font, use appropriate font sizes, and maintain uniform spacing. Avoid using too many different fonts or colours.
Keywords: Incorporate keywords from the job description to increase the chances of your CV being picked up by applicant tracking systems (ATS) and to show alignment with the role.
Proofreading: Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and typos. It's a good idea to have someone else review your CV as well to catch any errors you might have missed.
Length: Aim for a CV length of one to two pages. If you have extensive experience, it's acceptable for your CV to be slightly longer, but avoid making it too lengthy.
Honesty: Be truthful in your CV. Avoid exaggerations or false information, as it can damage your credibility if discovered.
References: It's usually not necessary to include references on your CV. Instead, state that references are available upon request.
Remember that your CV is a marketing document that should showcase your skills and experiences in the best light possible. Tailoring your CV for each job application and focusing on your relevant accomplishments will greatly enhance your chances of getting noticed by potential employers.
Clichés to avoid
Unfortunately, there are some words and phrases that have become so overused that hiring managers have become desensitised to reading them.
According to a report from the Guardian, phrases such as “hard working”, “results driven” and “thought leader” are among the most overused buzzwords used when applying for a new role. The problem with these words - they carry no substance, are vague and non-descriptive. Instead, it’s suggested you should use examples that actually show the employer what you could bring to their company.
We asked our consultants here at Carrot what phrases or terms they’d suggest you avoid using to help you avoid those CV cliches. Here’s what they had to say:
“I can work well independently, but I also work well in a team” – You’d hope it goes without saying that you’re able to work in both situations, but if you really want to show how versatile your working ethic is use examples instead. Talk about that time you went the extra mile as part of a group project to ensure it was completed on time, or when no one else was available to meet an important client but you volunteered to go, even though it was your day off.
“Guru”- The definition of this term describes someone who is a “leader or master”, so to use it on your CV could come across as arrogant or self-absorbed. Instead, use directives to explain how you are an expert and what you've been able to achieve with your knowledge.
“&” – The ampersand should be used to abbreviate the word “and” in a select few situations, yet it is hugely overused, often as a substitute for writing out the full version of the word. Unless you are using the ampersand in a company name, where space is very limited (e.g. in a table) or as part as an academic reference make sure you are using the word in full.
Not quantifying a statement – Simply stating you managed a team is not relevant enough, as this could be anything from a team of administrators to managing one person who works only two days a week. Instead, our consultant Victoria recommends using the following as a framework to describe your own management skills: “I managed a team of six Health Economists with varying ability within technical modelling and observational research. This includes regular appraisal of work, training, developmental planning, performance reviewing with HR, and recruitment of new staff”.
“I’m a quick learner” – As jobs merge together and people are expected to have a multitude of skills this is possibly the most used phrase these days, but this needs quantifying with real examples of your biggest achievements and any projects you’re undertaken. Tailor your CV to the specific job explaining how you meet the criteria they are asking for.
Talking in the 3rd person – Most people would never dream of speaking in the 3rd person on their CV but it has been known to happen. Just as you wouldn’t use the 3rd person when speaking face-to-face with someone there’s no need to use this when applying for a job either. Just stick with 1st person tense and everyone will be happy.
Irrelevant hobbies – Make sure your hobbies are as pertinent to the role as possible, and try to avoid the usual “socialising with my friends” phrase. Other hobbies our consultants have come across include candidates stating their children are their hobby, having the ability to milk 100 cows in under an hour, and coming 3rd in a world bog diving competition (although the latter two are impressive they're not necessarily relevant!). Instead, pick hobbies that show off certain skills you have which may be applicable to the job you’re applying for.
Generic opening words – “I’m honest, hard working and conscientious” are just a handful of the most overused, meaningless words used on a CV Our consultant Louise suggests substituting this for phrases such as: “My ethos is focused on delivering client service excellence”, “I deliver innovative and award-winning projects for my clients”, “I use my initiative to contribute ideas to the project”, and “A collaborative and supportive leadership style suits my team-focused nature”.
“I’m a strong communicator” – Just by writing a coherent CV with no spelling mistakes and excellent grammar you’ll be showing that you are able to communicate, so don’t waste valuable space stating the obvious. *Speaking of space, on a side note, try to keep your C.V. to two pages long – don’t worry about getting everything down on your CV as it should be used for top line information which will be expanded on during the interview.
Using images – Again, the little space you have on your CV is highly valuable, so don’t waste it with unnecessary images. It seems to be more common on the continent to include a photo of yourself on your CV but this isn’t required in the UK. We’ve even had a case of someone using emojis to signify each section. Instead, keep a simple format with bolding or underlining where relevant, using the space you would have done for images to go into more detail regarding your successes.
We hope this article has been helpful and gives you some guidance and ideas for how best to craft your CV to portray your skills in the best way possible. If you’d like to find out more, we have also written the following guides:
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