Five rules for getting your CV into great shape

One. Before you do anything else, get to grips with the role description

I’m really giving away our trade secrets here, but we rewrite our candidates CVs for every single role they apply for. And we start with the role description. We pull it apart, looking at exactly what they employer is looking for, and we build examples from our candidates career history to show that they answer the call. We look at language and tone.  Find the examples in your history which allow you to answer the ask.

 

Two. Do write a professional profile

This goes at the top of your CV. It’s 50-200 words of a personal statement, written in the first person (we do not refer to ourselves in the third person without sounding like characters from Alan Partridge). It does three things –

  1. Allows you to position yourself for the role you are applying for (especially true if it’s a step up). Mirror the role title in the words you use to help the reader see you in that light – so if you’re applying for a strategy role, use the word strategy, and other related terms. Use senior, experienced, trusted etc). DO NOT use clichés.

  2. Shows up front what you bring to the role

  3. Gives a sense of energy and personality to what is otherwise a fairly bland document

 

This is always the bit that people dread. Understandably – it’s hard, and it can feel cringeworthy. But – writing your CV isn’t the moment to feel modest. Pretend you’re a cocky 23 year old bloke who is super sure of their place in the world if you have to. Write it without thinking too hard, save it, and come back to it at least 24 hours later and it won’t seem so painful.

  

Three. Don’t write a key skills section

You should show your skills through your achievements listed below. Anyone can write a list of skills. The ONLY exception is if the role description has asked for a specific and unusual skill or qualification. So – if you have PRINCE 2 or can speak Mandarin, if you built a newspaper in your spare time (and that’s in some way relevant), then can list it after your work history. It’s very unlikely that anyone cares that you can do a vlookup or change the font in Word.

Four. Tailor your CV

This does not mean fib or embellish. It does mean that you’ve doubtless done A LOT of stuff, and you don’t need to tell them EVERYTHING. It means:

-No more than two pages. Seriously. Never.

-Font size 12

-More detail for the recent, more senior roles

-Answer the role description – map the parts of your responsibilities and achievements to what the recruiter is looking for

-Mirror the employer’s language. If you call something X and they mean the same thing but call it Y, call it Y in your CV. Make it easy for them to both recognise what you are describing, and subconsciously makes you feel like a fit

-Be precise – details like size of budgets, numbers of people you managed, and most importantly the outcomes of your work – move a CV on from feeling a bit flyaway to grounded and impressive.

Five. Be succinct

This means:

-No more than two pages. Seriously. Never.

-Font size 12

-Lots of white space – give it room to breathe, and MAKE IT EASY TO READ

-Bullets – which should be no more than two lines long.

-Leave anything erroneous out. Really – paragliding and book club aren’t going to get you the job. Likewise, A-Levels if you’re over 30.

 

But if you need help, drop us a line.

Sara Allen