CV advice to maximise your career prospects

Maximising the impact of your CV is one area of the recruitment process that you the candidate can influence. We offer you six invaluable pointers on how to build a well-crafted CV and create that powerful first impression.

However, if you really want to be successful in your job search, you'll need to have more than one CV. We also have four tips on how to tailor it for every opportunity. 

Finally, we warn you on the perils of exaggerating - unintentionally or purposefully - your skills and experience.

6 Golden CV Tips

1. Tell the truth

Ensure the information you provide is accurate and truthful. Do not try to cover up any aspects of your career or experience. If you are found out, any exclusion or obvious inaccuracies will have a negative effect on your application.

It’s not difficult for employers to do background checks, and in most organisations this is now standard practice.

2. Be positive about your achievements

Make it clear why you are the best candidate for the job and try to tailor separate CVs for each vacancy you apply for.

Consider the contents of the advert or role profile and look at how you can demonstrate the required skills on your CV.

Be sure that your skills are stated clearly and not lost amid technical jargon or long-winded explanations.

3. Demonstrate focus & direction

Decide on a job objective that can be summed up in one sentence on your application.

Remember that a long and protracted statement suggests that you lack clarity and direction.

4. Skills matter

Draw attention to your skills and strengths as well as your qualifications. You can do this in the comments section of your CV. Don’t go into excessive detail though. Brevity is important in crafting a high impact CV.

5. Impress the employer

Provide examples of how you solved workplace or career problems, and what the results were. Innate personality abilities are as important as vocational skills.

6. Promote yourself

Your CV is no place for false modesty. Don’t just state what skills you have, also explain why they are beneficial.

Why one CV just isn't enough

For anyone who has gone through the curiously painful task of writing a CV, the headline to this article may not be a welcome one.

But in tailoring your CV to match each role you apply for, you will dramatically increase your chances of securing that vital interview. For the sake of a little extra effort, it would be a shame if all that hand-wringing and soul-searching went unrewarded. Here are four tips that make all the difference:

1. Make a statement

It’s increasingly popular for applicants to include an opening statement in their CV. In itself, this is a good thing to do.

But people miss an opportunity by failing to tailor it to a specific role. Instead, they fill it with generic statements and buzzwords which add little value.

An opening statement will resonate far better with recruiters, HR professionals and ultimately hiring managers if it spells out why you are suitable for the role, why it interests you and why you want to work for the company in question.

2. Compare and contrast

Examine the role profile of the job you are applying for. Have it side by side with your original CV and go through each point on the profile.

Include anything similar that you do in your CV. Fine tune and expand if necessary.

Harder still, remove anything that is superfluous. Think about each bullet point on your CV, scrutinize it. Is it relevant to the job?

3. Prioritize

From the job profile, try to work out what the most important aspects of the role are - and in what order.

Reorder your CV so it reflects this.

4. Expand and connect

Although you don’t want your CV to be pages and pages in length, you need to make sure that you provide extra detail around the things that are important to the position.

Do you have specific systems knowledge?

Do you have a relevant qualification?

Have you worked on similar projects? Include these where appropriate.

Avoid general phrases.

If in your CV you talk about ‘facing off to the business’, specify who you liaised with, e.g. external clients, internal stakeholders, etc. Be precise and connect it to elements within the job profile.

Close but no cigar

Once you’ve written your core CV, most of the work is done - perhaps as much as 90%.

This forms the starting point for any successful application. But your CV’s full impact will not be felt unless you tailor it specifically to the role you’re interested in.

Sometimes this may just involve tweaking your opening statement, reordering a series of bullet points or elaborating on an important aspect of the role.

Tailoring your CV is a crucial stage in your job search and one where many capable candidates fall down.

Make sure you don’t.

Beware the pyramid

You will have read countless articles and been given endless advice on the importance of a good CV.

Much of it will have focused on how you should place your skills and experience in the best possible light - without, of course, stretching the truth.

However, there are real dangers in inflating, amplifying or polishing your CV. Rather than helping progress your career an overly-enthusiastic CV can stall it.

1. Progression not promotion

Naturally you want to move your career on, but by over-egging your CV you risk being dismissed as overqualified and may lose out on an ideal role.

It may seem an obvious point to make, but as most people’s career progresses and they rise up the ranks of seniority, the number of relevant and exciting opportunities greatly diminishes.

This ‘pyramid effect’ is hardly felt at the start of a career but can often dominate the end.

So don’t use your CV to get a promotion, particularly, if you are higher up the pyramid.

Resist the temptation to craft a CV which reflects more what you want to do than what you actually do.

2. Expectations

As a candidate, you need to be mindful that clients are keen on matching people’s expectations to the role they are applying for.

If you are applying for a job which focuses on strong technical skills, but you pepper your CV with references to leadership and strategic strengths, the employer may feel you are overqualified.

Again, this danger is more pronounced if you are towards the senior end of the market, where your tendency may be to state achievements rather than outlining what you actually do, or did.

For example, as a senior accountant, you may focus too much on projects, initiatives, and achievements. By doing so you may lose sight of the fact - an important aspect for the employer – that you are a very talented accountant.

3. Don’t forget the day job

Often the worst response you can receive from an organization is their fear that the role won’t be challenging enough for you.

More often than not, this is often because your CV has gone too far.

So ensure it is more representative of your day job and it is task rather goal orientated.

If you are a passive jobseeker and at the start or midway point of your career, then you can afford to be a little more aspirational, as you have time and the opportunities to be patient.

But the more active your search and the more senior your position, you will need to tailor your CV for each individual role.

If it’s too niche and you are too high up the pyramid, you will need to make it more generic.

Producing a bespoke version for each opportunity might seem laborious, but it’s one of the most important aspects of a successful job search.

4. Know your audience

The importance of a CV in selling yourself cannot be denied, but another key element of marketing is to know your audience.

There is little point in having a CV which positions you for jobs which don’t exist.

And remember: you’re not just writing for the hiring manager.

Your CV may pass through several intermediaries - an agency, onsite recruiter, HR manager, etc. - before it reaches its intended audience.

So bear this in mind when drafting.

By knowing your market, tailoring your skills and experience accordingly, and being realistic, the dangers of the pyramid effect will be mitigated greatly.

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