The old adage states “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. When applying for a new job, the first impression you make is with your Curriculum Vitae and – more often than not – badly composed CV’s end up in the trash before they’re even read properly.
There are dos and don’ts when it comes to compiling a CV in 2016, and if you do these 10 things, you can be sure to make a good impression:
1. Construct your CV to suit the job you’re applying for
These days a CV isn’t a standard template that can be used to apply for any job – always edit your CV to suit the job you’re applying for.
List skills and qualifications that are applicable, or your potential employer will disregard you, even if you’re the perfect candidate. Your cover letter is also the ideal way to explain exactly why you’re suited for a particular job – don’t neglect putting effort into it.
2. Start with the most important information first
Your CV should follow a reverse chronological order, with your most recent qualifications and job experience listed first.
Make the heading your name, followed by your contact details. Then list your education history, also in reverse chronological order.
The most important part of your CV is your employment history: start with your current job and, listing everything backwards, describe the companies that you’ve worked for, as well as any achievements that are worth a mention.
3. Include all contact information
In terms of contact details, include every way of reaching you or seeing what you do and what you’re about.
Of course you should include your address and contact numbers, email address and ID number, but don’t forget about a link to your profile on LinkedIn – make sure to always keep your details up to date – people actually check it!
4. Never, ever lie
Dishonesty is an absolute no-no when it comes to your CV. Fact-checking is easier than ever in an internet age where information is readily and instantly available. It’s pretty simple: be honest.
If you’re in two minds about including information that you think might be detrimental to your chances of getting a position, rather leave it out than twisting it to better suit the position you’re applying for – you will be caught out, and dishonesty will harm your reputation immeasurably.
5. Keep it concise and to the point
The days of CV’s that are pages and pages long are over – it isn’t necessary to include every little thing you’ve done in your life.
Only include information that is relevant to the job that you’re applying for and don’t make your CV longer than two pages – a single page is even better. When something is too long, people don’t read everything, anyway.
6. Format the layout to guide the eye
The internet has changed the way we read. Our eyes don’t necessarily move the way they used to when we were mostly reading printed material. Format the layout of your CV to guide the reader’s eye.
Research by the Nielsen Norman Group has shown that our eyes follow an F-pattern when reading content on the web. Considering web content is the staple reading material of most people, try to make the layout of your CV conscribe to this pattern by starting of with the most important information at the top and using information-carrying words in your headings.
Keep the style short and succinct. People will be scanning your CV rather than reading it in detail – you want to make sure they get the information they need, and this will ensure you get hired.
7. Make sure your spelling and grammar is flawless
This goes without saying. Even the tiniest error in spelling or grammar will be off-putting to potential employers – especially if you say that you are attentive to detail.
Read it, read it again, and have someone else who has good language skills read through it, too, to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
8. Make it unique
Recruiters and potential employers sometimes receive hundreds and even thousands of CV’s the moment a job is posted online.
Research has shown that employers often take only 6 seconds to scan a CV and decide whether a candidate is viable or not. If your CV looks a little different than the rest in terms of formatting, style and colour, you might just force an employer to take a little more time and get the gist of who you are.
The internet has an abundance of examples of ideas to make your CV unique but still keep it professional. If you’re in a creative job, you obviously have a little more leeway to experiment with unusual layouts, whilst someone like an accountant might want to keep it a little more traditional.
Traditional doesn’t mean boring, though. You want to stand out before you’re even invited for an interview – this is the preface to being the standout candidate during the interview process.
9. Use the right keywords
Try to avoid cliché’s like saying that you have “excellent communication skills” or are “goal-driven” and “detail-oriented”.
These are overused and tired, and every second person has these characteristics, if CVs are anything to go by. Use language that puts a positive slant on what you do, like saying that you are innovative, reliable and adaptable.
When describing what a specific position entailed, use pro-active descriptions like: “Improved sales by implementing an improved strategy to bolster manufacturing”. Use specific examples of where you’ve excelled at your current and previous positions.
10. Don’t use a photo
Whether we like it or not, people do judge a book by its cover. If people want to know what you look like, they’ll look you up on Facebook. It isn’t necessary to include a photo with your CV, rather focus on those attributes that are not physical.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to make your CV look good – check out free resources and templates on websites like Canva to pimp your CV. Happy job hunting!