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Careers Advice

The Winning CV

In this competitive market your CV needs to work hard for you and you need to make sure you are applying for roles that you are a strong candidate for.

The Selection Process

  • The first person to look at your CV is often a non-specialist in your field
  • They have a high level understanding of your role and will need enough detail to match your CV to the Job description they are working from
  • They stake their reputation on the documents they present to line managers or HR and as such they must be certain of the match and it must be obvious

The first sift: A quick skim (30 seconds to a minute) of the document to decide:

  • YES - I want to take time to look at this
  • MAYBE - I might take time to look at this again if I don't have enough YES's
  • NO - I will not consider this candidate further

You need to get on the YES pile at the first skim. In this market there will be plenty of YES's so a MAYBE is as good as a NO.

Getting onto the YES Pile

  • All relevant experience must be on the first page, it PROVES you can do the job and the recruiter needs it to make a match, if they are in any doubt you will be a MAYBE
  • You should have ¾ of the first page dedicated to the most recent / relevant role
  • Alter the margins to make best use of space
  • Take no more than 4 lines for you name and contact details
  • Create a profile statement - Include your current Job Title, total years of experience, Industries or Sectors, products or specialist areas and your key expertise
  • Use white space carefully, big blocks do not make the document easy to read. White space surrounding key information like the organisation and job title is where it counts
  • Job titles are a major influence, make sure yours are relevant to your audience
  • We read from left to right so keep the job title on the left with the date justified right
  • Use black bullet points of no more than 2.5 lines long
  • Do not leave a line between each bullet point it does not make the information easier to read and it takes up too much valuable space
  • Consider using bold to highlight key aspects of your experience. But remember less is more

The Detailed Review: To shortlist or not to shortlist.

Remember the recruiter must be certain that, on paper, you can do the job. So you must communicate your relevant experience in enough detail to PROVE to your audience that you are a strong candidate.

Getting shortlisted:

  • Communicate what you actually did rather than high level responsibilities that sound like the job description
  • Use achievement orientated statements not long winded narrative sentences
  • Start each point with the result followed by the action to achieve it
  • Use numbers and figures to illustrate depth and complexity, this is what differentiates you from other candidates doing similar roles in other organisations
  • Ensure you illustrate the level at which you are working, particularly for those of you at a more senior level
  • Do not leave information out to be covered at the interview, no one will assume you have the experience, particularly a non-specialist
  • Look at the job descriptions you are applying for carefully and ensure that your CV illustrates all aspects of the experience required
  • If you do not have at least an 85% match to the job description it is probably not worth applying

In this competitive market some organisations can afford to hire individuals with a 100% match to the job requirements due to high candidate numbers. Do not be discouraged by this though, it makes better sense to hire people with some areas for development as it encourages motivation.


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