How to make your CV stand out from the crowd

14th July 2015

They say ‘You never get a second chance to make a good first impression’. And when it comes to writing your CV, this statement couldn’t be more spot on. Most CVs that are sent to employers end up in the bin. Harsh I know, but it’s true. If you can make your CV interesting, whilst keeping it concise and to the point you are more likely to be invited to attend an interview. Of course every employer’s notion of what the ‘perfect CV’ looks like differs, but there are some main themes you’ll want to consider if you’re looking to make your CV to stand out from the crowd.

  • Make sure you understand the job role. Then tailor your CV to it.

Don’t try to create a ‘one size fits all’ version of your CV to send to multiple companies. Most employers are switched on to this and can spot an untailored CV from a mile away. Result? It goes in the bin. Before you begin tailoring your CV, read the job description in detail and find out what skills are essential for the role and what the employer is looking for in a candidate. Use this to re-word your CV around these strengths. Pick out some of the key words the employer have asked for in the role profile and mention them throughout. If you ensure you back it up with real world experience then straight away, you’re ahead of the other candidates who have stuck to the one size fits all strategy.

All of your previous roles in your employment history should be complemented by key achievements. Show the employer where you can add value to their business by quantifying and qualifying your past achievements. If you’ve produced exceptional work or saved a business money, shout about it. Now’s your chance to flaunt what you’ve got. Don’t think ‘I’ll save that for the interview’ as without an outstanding CV it is unlikely that you’ll ever get there!

  • Size really doesn’t matter! Just concentrate on clarity.

Should your CV be narrowed down and limited to one page? Two? Three? The answer is, there shouldn’t be any length restrictions on your CV. Employers tend to focus on readability and clarity more than they do overall length, so as long as every point you are making on your CV has a direct strength and goal attached to it, it needs to be included. Having said that, don’t ramble on. It doesn’t need to be an essay. The more experienced you are, the longer your CV will be. So if you’re a Senior Manager with over 20 years’ experience it might be worth deleting that paper round you had when you were 14 off your CV and save some space.

Even more important than the length is guaranteeing that you have a clean, clear and easy to read layout. The easier an employer can identify your strengths, the more likely you’ll get that interview. Structure your CV logically. Starting with your personal details at the top followed by a short introductory paragraph about yourself. Unless you have just graduated and have no employment history, your employment history should always come first. This is the most important section of your CV so you should give it the attention it deserves. Always start with your most recent role and continue in reverse chronological order – adding dates of when you worked there and highlighting your responsibilities.

When it comes to listing your education keep it short and sweet. Qualifications become less relevant the more experienced you become, so only state the grade you received in your degree. For A levels, list the courses taken and for GCSEs just state how many A-C’s you have. Chances are, your employer won’t care that you got a B in GCSE Geography.

Be consistent throughout your CV, keeping the type and size of the font the same throughout and bolding or underlining headings. Make it clear and easy to read but don’t follow standard template formats and styles. The employer will have seen hundreds like that. Spice it up and make it stand out from the other CVs in the pile. Finally, ensure you proof read your CV more than once. A spelling mistake could cost you the job!

  • Fill any experience gaps with activities outside of work and show them you are human.

No matter your level of experience, there will always be a job that highlights a few gaps on your CV that your professional experience just doesn’t cover. This is the best time to use activities outside of work to fill these gaps. Show the employer how it’s easy to be dedicated at work when you are getting paid a salary, but that it is completely different to show passion during your free time. These hobbies and any other out of work activities that you undertake allow you to show qualities that you may not be given the opportunity to show in your professional experience. This is a common problem, particularly in young professionals. It’s almost impossible to prove teamwork if you haven’t been part of a team at work before. That’s where you can show the employer that you were a member of the football team or that you’ve worked as part of a group to organise a charity event.

The ‘personal interests’ section of your CV should be distinctive, cheerful and ideally include some interesting details about your hobbies. Keep it short and make sure it reflects you as a person. Show them you’re human. Talk about your passions and use it as an ideal opening for you to highlight features of your personality that an employer can relate to. Nobody wants to work with a robot, so don’t be afraid to show some charisma!

  • Be smart. Adding a word or two can make all the difference.

Add some expressive words to your job title and make it stand out. An employer will often only look at your CV for just a few seconds. So you have only a few seconds to make a positive impression — and you can do that within the title of your CV itself.

Instead of writing “Account Manager” why not write “Account Manager for ABC Organisation,” if the ABC Organisation is a recognised and inspirational company or brand. You can also write “Account Manager with 8 Years’ Experience,” or “Account Manager with Marketing Background,” or “Account Manager with BA(Hons) in Finance.” These may be the words that can grab the attention of the employer. It shows you as unique, different, and proactive — very employable traits!

So, the next time you are sending your CV in for a job, customize it for the job you are applying for and use significant words in the title. Employers will see the difference and this will improve your chances of getting you that well deserved job interview.