Six Steps to Your Best CV
There will probably be two reasons why you are thinking of writing a CV: firstly you are planning to speculatively send your CV to numerous organisations in the hope to get a job, or secondly you have seen or heard about a job being advertised and it appeals to you.
After more than 30 years in business management and having looked at countless CVs I want to stop you right now from doing the first. The reason why its a pretty futile exercise will become clear as you read through the six steps below which I believe will give you the best chance to stand out from the crowd and get a job interview.
Step One. Target your efforts.
It is likely that you will be competing against many people to get the job you want. Your CV is the first step. It/"s appeal will dictate whether you get an interview or not. And to be frank it is unlikely that your prospective employer will spend more than a few minutes on each CV. But that doesn/"t mean it/"s all the time you should commit.
When your CV is looked at what needs to shine through is that you have a genuine interest in, and admiration for the organisation you have written to. In order to do that you need to take the time to do some research. You can look at company reports online, you could ask the organisation to send you information, you could talk to someone who works there, you might be able to visit. As I/"ll explain later there are ways in completing your CV so that you can demonstrate that you have researched the company, and why you/"ll be a great employee for them. But you can/"t do that if you know little to nothing about you prospective employer.
After your love the most precious thing you can give is your labour. Be convinced about where you want to invest your work time and work life. I am told 42% of new hires leave their jobs in the first six months. Perhaps both they and there employers should have thought more about getting the fit right. If you visit www.engaging.works you can complete a personality profile and workplace happiness survey to help you think about which kind of jobs might suit you.
Step Two. An easy to read CV.
You have literally seconds to catch the eye of the recruiter or not. Anything which isn/"t well formatted and easy to read will be rejected no matter how good the content. Sorry that/"s the reality.
On no more than 2 sides of A4 your CV should carry the following information.
- Contact details:
- Personal statement: this is where you will convey in a few sentences your character and values and why you are a great fit for this job.
- Work experience: In date order, beginning with the latest, and going backwards for around 10 years. It should list your job title, the name of the organisation you worked for and time in post.
- Education: In date order, beginning with the latest, with names of schools/college, and qualifications gained.
- Other achievements: for instance a clean driving licence, language skills or business qualifications.
- Hobbies and interests.
- References: you should think about two referees to have on standby: one who knows you from business (or education if your applying to work straight from college) and one personal.
Don/"t worry if you have gaps in your working history. The recruiter will notice and you will likely be asked about why they happened and what you did. But as I/"ll explain later, in /"Tailor to Fit/", you might be able to use that to your advantage.
Step Three. Error free.
If you think of someone first looking at your CV as akin to walking into an interview and being judged on your appearance, what you write equates to what you would say and do. The benefit of your CV though is that you can change and improve your answers over time!
This sounds obvious but the first think to get right is who you are sending the CV to. Do not send it to the Chairman, CEO or Managing Director of large companies unless an advert specifically asks you to do so. They would only ever look at CVs for senior executive roles and only then when they have been shortlisted to say the top five candidates. I guarantee that if you write to this group you will be less likely to get an interview.
Get the name and title right of who is to receive your CV. Get it wrong and it/"s easy to reject as you will be seen to not pay attention to detail.
After these first two points the main reason for a neat and well presented CV to be rejected is spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Dull but true and probably half go because of that at this stage. Make sure you have spell check on, in the language of the country your applying for a job in. When you have finished your CV do not press the send button or seal the envelop. Go and do something else for an hour or so then re read it yourself. You/"ll be surprised how often you can find improvements. Lastly, if possible, get a parent, partner or friend to double check that what you have written makes sense to them.
If you are sending by post use an A4 envelope so that your CV isn't read through multiple folds. If you are sending electronically I/"m told a PDF is best as it doesn/"t change formatting.
A last point. If you have a quirky and fun email address or social media profile don/"t use it in a business CV.email@example.com is not likely to advance your interview prospects, even though you and your friends might find it highly amusing.
Step Four. Tailor to fit.
This is how you stand out from the crowd, the positive reasons to being selected for interview as opposed the the negative reasons for being rejected as set out above. I/"ll now go though the main areas of the CV to show how you can do that.
- Personal statement. In just a few sentences, you need to set out the events in your life that have shaped you and your character. Why are you, you. For instance my Dad own his own small business. I went to work alongside him from as young as I can remember. He taught me that everyone is equal and should be treated with respect. He told me there was no profit in prejudice, he explain that business was about building honest long term relationships with customers and suppliers. Those things shaped me. For others its been battling a condition or disadvantage or looking after someone. Giving a reader an understanding of what make you tick is important. Then you can set out the reasons why you wanted to apply for this particular job. You might admire the company/"s ethical stance, or products and service or perhaps the sector appeals. Then why you have the qualities or experience to be a great fit. To do this well you must have done your research on the organisation and have decided why you really want this job. And you need to know yourself well too. To do this you can draw on your engaging.me profile; what you enjoy most at work from the happiness survey and what your personality profile says about you and the way you will work.
- Work experience. In this section as well as listing the roles you have held, dates, and organisation, list 3 bullet points to evidence your achievements in that job like: * grew sales by 20% * reorganised the records system * implemented new software. And think about what skills and experience will be required in the role you are applying for. How might previous job achievements help you evidence you have those attributes? Don/"t say general bland things like /"developed good communication skill/" or /"good team player/" rather /"gave regular 10 minute updates at team meetings/" or /"department representative in office forum meetings/".
- Other qualification. This is again a good opportunity to demonstrate you have built up the right skills and experiences to make you a strong candidate. Does the company need you to travel? Then a clean driving licence is helpful. Does it have suppliers, offices, customers abroad? Can you speak those languages? Does it have software programmes you have been trained in before?
- Hobbies and Interests. This was always a section I took great interest in as through it could learn a lot about the candidate. If the applicant said they played team sports, were the captain or organised a charity event I would have a different view of them than someone who said they liked reading and visiting museums.
Let me make it clear I am certainly not suggesting you lie on your CV, which you will either be embarrassingly found out about or live to regret. Rather that having thought about what the job requires you tailor your response. So if the role requires you to be a team player but your hobbies say you enjoy reading and visiting museum, you could add that you are a member of a reading group and enjoyed discussing the latest books with others. Or do the same with friends or an old colleague group. Or perhaps were looking to see how you could help those with reading disabilities. If you are keen on a job that requires working alone, or in a small group, and have out going hobbies and interests try and evidence how you have worked alone, perhaps preparing analysis or working on individual coaching.
But I cannot recommend highly enough completing your engaging.me profile to help you really understand what kind of work or working environment suits you best. Please don/"t try to be something you are not to get a job. You/"ll regret it, be unhappy and leave quickly. By researching the company/"s requirements for the job, knowing your own needs and strengths you can make sure that you apply for jobs which really will suit you and be the best fit.
I do recommend you send a cover letter. It shouldn/"t be long but it should say that enclosed is your CV for X role and that you hope you application leads to an interview as you would very much like to work with Y company. If you know the persons name you are writing to you sign off yours sincerely, if you don/"t, and say its address to the HR department, it/"s your faithfully. Apply the lessons from the previous chapters to your letter.
Step Five. Turn the table.
Before you finally press the send key or seal the envelop take the time to sit back and think about what the person who will be opening your CV, glancing at it and then reading it is looking for. For them it/"s not about you! Their job will be to replace someone who has either happily or unhappily left. They might be adding to an existing team or building a new team from scratch. As well as looking for skills they will be trying to place you in the context of the personal skills they need at that moment. /"Chemistry/" as many people might call it. The interview is the best place to test for that in practice but by following the steps ahead you can give yourself the best chance of matching, or not, the requirements you are not likely to see in a job advert. If you have an engaging.me profile at www.engaging.works you will know your personality profile. Job matching on www.engaging.works already uses that data to provide the best match between applicants and employers, but I would suggest you list it either in, your other qualifications section or personal statement, so that employers know how well you might suit a particular role or situation.
The manager you might be working with will have a personality profile too which the recruiter needs to match to, and the team you might join will have work profile gaps, as well as experience gaps, which ideally will need filling. Having the experience to do the job is just one piece of the jigsaw. You can read more about how to build the best functioning teams at www.engaging.works.
Now having thought about all that in the context of the job you are applying for, is there anything you might now want to bring out in the various sections of your CV to give the recruiter a better sense of who you are, and how your personality might fit in? Better to flush that out at this stage than through the time, effort and cost of interviews.
Step Six. Keep it fresh.
You are constantly developing at work and I would recommend you regularly update your CV with your generic skills, experiences and achievements. You/"d be surprised how easy they are to forget. You can do that at www.engaging.works where your CV is securely held and helpful prompts are given. If you want to be open to job offers there, your CV is confidentially matched to employers who have completed the same personality profile questions for the role, as well as experience and other requirements such as pay expectations. That way the aim is to find the best possible match with the least possible effort. You/"ll be told if there's a job match but it/"s up to you if your interested in taking things forward.
If you wish to print off, or mail, your more standard CV for an advertised job, you can do that too.
Wondering what to do next? Sign up to EngagingWorks for free here and go to https://engaging.works/me/cv/create to populate your profile and export your first CV.