What does your CV say about you?


Make your CV stand out - and in a positive way by following these tips.

Over recent weeks I have been asked by a number of relatives, friends and friends of friends to take a look at their CV and give them suggestions for improvement, says Hilary Jeanes of PurpleLine Consulting.

Whether it’s people applying for their first job, a few years into their career or senior managers with lots of experience under their belt there are a number of traps that they have fallen into which I (hopefully!) have helped them climb out of. What sets them apart is the fact that they have sought a second opinion from someone who has a lot of experience of recruitment.

So here are my tips for making your CV stand out – and in a positive way:

One size doesn’t fit all
Your CV needs to be tailored to each and every job you apply for. If not you are leaving it to chance that the recruiter will spot that skill or knowledge they are looking for lurking somewhere in your CV. If you are provided with a job description and/or person specification, this will help you to shape your skills, knowledge and experience around what the organisation is seeking.

Your unique qualities
Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter sifting through tens, maybe hundreds of application forms or CVs. What makes you stand out?

Most of the CVs I have seen tell me little about the person, their strengths, their passions and most of all their achievements (apart from academic ones). Most give bland descriptions of the jobs and the responsibilities they've held.

Employers are looking for what candidates have achieved in their jobs – this is what sorts the men from the boys. Avoid woolly words like contributed to, assisted or worked on and use specific words to describe those achievements like wrote, designed, developed or managed.

The further into the past the less detail you need to give
One CV I saw gave more information about a two-week temporary job 10 years ago than the person’s current job that she’d been in for several years. My interpretation was that she did not enjoy her job and hankered after the type of work she had done in the temp job many moons ago. Not a positive impression!

Think critically about the impression your CV will create
Leave out passport numbers, names of spouse and children, wacky hobbies. Include dates and if you’ve got a gap, explain it. Check whether the things you are saying support your application rather than detract from it.

Avoid jargon
Yes, you know what a wonderful PDR you had and how this fitted in with the TALENT programme, but will your reader? Steer clear of acronyms and just give the full version.

Use writing your CV to prepare for the interview
As you say something in your CV, think about how you will demonstrate that it is the case if asked a question about it at interview. If you say that you are able to work with minimal supervision, think of a time when you did this successfully. This sounds obvious, but believe me, it isn’t!

Make your CV visually appealing
Again this sounds obvious – but do lay it out clearly with a decent size font (10 or 12), check for any spelling mistakes and print it on good quality white paper. Aim for a maximum of two or three pages.

Covering letter
Use this to make it easy for the recruiter to select you for interview. Highlight three to seven things you have or you’ve done that meet their needs and demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for the job.

These tips will give you the best chance of securing that next step – an interview. Good luck! Or even better, for support and advice on securing the job you want, contact us for a no obligation discussion.

Hilary Jeanes is Director of PurpleLine Consulting. A coach, facilitator and HR consultant, she helps organisations get the best from their people and people get the best from their organisations.

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Working with you to realise your potential at work by

- getting clear about your strengths and aspirations
- increased confidence and self belief
- identifying and securing your ideal job
- supporting you to thrive and enjoy your life.

Leadership and career coaching for individuals.
Coaching & mentoring for HR leaders and practitioners.
Coaching senior leaders in isolated roles.
Coaching individuals to design the life you'd love on retirement.
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Hilary Jeanes (trading as PurpleLine Consulting Limited)