8 Easy Ways to Improve Your CV
Many job candidates focus so much on other aspects of the process, like crafting the perfect cover letter, that they forget the most basic building-block of their application — the humble CV.
Submitting your CV is your first, and possibly your only, contact with a potential employer during the job application process so it’s important that you get it right.
CV is an abbreviation of ‘Curriculum Vitae’, a Latin term that means ‘life’s course’. It’s essentially a summary of your work history, qualifications, and education that gives an employer a greater understanding of your skills and experience.
1. Create separate CVs for types of jobs and customise
Get over your initial groan at reading this tip. Creating separate CVs might be labour intensive but it's also effective. It can improve the relevancy and success rate of your applications.
So, how do you do it? The easiest way is to think carefully about the jobs you’re applying for and try to condense job descriptions into a few types of roles. Once you have these key roles sorted, you can then tailor your usual CV to each them, emphasising particular aspects of your experience or skills to fit the situation.
This is a more streamlined approach compared to drafting a unique CV for each role you apply for (which is still something you should definitely consider if you have the patience for it!).
2. Summarise — don’t waffle!
You should aim to keep the text in your CV concise — short and sweet, as opposed to long and detailed. This is easier said than done though.
A CV needs to capture your entire career history and the skills that you have developed in it, whilst filling no more than two pages.
There’s no need to include every single job you’ve ever had — just include the ones that are most relevant to the role. Make sure that you include an explanation for any gaps in your employment too.
Here are some tips to make your writing more concise:
- Use bullet points to summarise related information
- Run your content through the Hemingway app to improve its structure
- Use active verbs, rather than passive
- Ditch adverbs and adjectives
3. Don’t repeat yourself
Some roles in your career history might be very similar and might have the same set of skills. In this situation, it can be tempting to copy-and-paste particular areas and hope that no-one notices.
This would be the wrong approach to take though.
It might be more effort but coming up with a new way of phrasing the same skill will help to make your experience appear more varied and (hopefully) keep the person reading it engaged for longer. This, in turn, improves your chances of convincing the person reading the CV to shortlist you.
Above all else, (at the risk of sounding like your old English Lit teacher) repeating yourself is lazy writing, so that should be reason enough to avoid doing it.
4. Improve your presentation
We’re often told that looks don’t matter. Whilst that statement holds true for most things in life, for CVs it definitely doesn’t. The design and layout of your CV is important and matters a lot.
After all, it will inform the first impression that an employer makes of you and will usually be the thing that influences whether they decide to call you for an interview.
An employer who’s spent all day sifting through applications that look like they’ve been designed on an etch-a-sketch is likely to pay attention when an attractive CV appears.
Of course, a showy CV won’t make up for one that’s light on details or relevancy. You shouldn’t prioritise style over content — you should be aware of the importance of style and how it can enhance the overall message of your content.
5. Pay attention to fonts
Pay close attention to the type of font that you use too — it can say a lot about your professionalism as a candidate.
Fonts are like tools — they’re designed for a specific purpose. Each has its own character and personality that makes it suited to a particular-setting and certain uses.
For example, Times New Roman, Arial and Helvetica are popular choices for formal documents, like CVs, essays, and reports, whereas fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus have (notoriously) been used for informal, DIY documents like party invitations and posters.
Always pick a font that is appropriate to the type of document that you’re creating. For a CV, you’ll want to choose a font that is professional, clean and legible. There are obviously hundreds to choose from, so choosing one will depend mostly on your own professional preferences but make sure that it’s appropriate to the purpose of your CV — to convince an employer to invite you for an interview and to hire you.
Above all, make sure that the font is readable.
6. Prioritise relevant content
Hiring managers, like all of us, have limited attention spans. That’s why you should list the experience or skills with the most relevance to the job that you’re applying for in your application first.
When Hiring Managers are screening CVs, one of the first things they look for is whether you’re a relevant candidate for the role. That often translates into them quickly scanning your current and previous job roles to see if you’ve got the experience they’re looking for.
If you’re applying to be an HR Director — a senior role that requires significant experience of the human resources sector — the employer will naturally expect you to have worked in many HR roles previously. Those candidates who don’t have experience will usually be passed over in favour of someone who does. Yes, it’s brutal. Unfortunately, that’s how screening for job applications goes.
Because of this, it makes sense to put the information most relevant to the job role as close to the start of your CV as possible.
7. Keep it professional
‘Professional’ can mean a lot of things, depending on your definition and context. In the context of CVs, a document that’s considered professional is one that follows the specific formats and style that society expects to see.
You can find a range of CV templates online to help you ensure that your own fulfils the expectations that many employers have.
Most are defined by the following:
- A simple serif or sans-serif font
- A clean layout
- Fits on two pages
- Has the following, basic structure:
- Contact information
- Professional experience
- Education history
- Professional memberships
8. Proofread like there’s no tomorrow!
If there’s one piece of advice that you take away from this article, please make it this: proofreading a CV is vital. Simple spelling or grammar mistakes in your CV can suggest that you don’t have focus, lack attention to detail and aren’t too bothered about doing a task properly.
Proofreading makes a real difference, and can help you catch easy-to-make mistakes that could end up making your CV look a lot less professional.
After all, there’s only a slight difference in spelling between ‘diary’ and ‘dairy’, which translates into a world of difference in meaning — you can either be a go-getting personal assistant or an ambitious bovine professional who’s moo-ving on up in the farming sector.
It might take an extra five or ten minutes, but proofing is essential if you want to improve the quality of your CV. Spotting just one error will make the time that you’ve spent checking worth it overall.
Take these tips into account and you’ll be able to transform your CV and your chances of securing your dream job.
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