Hiring Managers are often inundated with CVs and have a limited amount of time to sift through applications; they need to identify suitable candidates quickly and easily.
So what attracts them to an applicant, what are they looking for in a CV? I asked three hiring decision-makers to provide their views.
1. A strong summary
This is so important and a great opportunity to explain concisely why you are the right person for the job. In around five or six sentences, you can use this is as a 30 second sales pitch. Don’t waste it using clichés such as ‘motivated’, ‘hard working’, ‘reliable’ etc, use it to highlight key achievements, relevant skills, experience and knowledge of the sector. Keep it unique to you, don’t use generic summaries or copy bland paragraphs from other CVs. Felicity Wingrove, Director of Zen Communications states, “For me it’s all about personality shining through. I look beyond qualifications (although they have to have some appropriate ones of course) to find some evidence of passion and enthusiasm for the field.” Beware not to overdo it and never lie on your CV. Amanda Jones, Marketing Manager at Lanyon Bowdler Solictors adds, “Personally, I know individuals need to sell themselves, but I don’t like seeing over-selling – too much confidence and making out they have done more than they really have, can really set someone up for a fall.”
2. An error free, grammatically correct document
Check, double check and get someone else to check your CV for typos, grammatical errors and inconsistencies with tense. If you read your CV over and over again as you write it, however careful you are to avoid mistakes, you will miss something. Your brain is designed to correct sentences when in fact, they don’t make sense. It is advisable, not only to get someone else to read your CV but to have a break from it, ideally a full day, and read it again with fresh eyes. You would be surprised what you pick up – missing punctuation marks, missing words and incorrectly spelt words. Do not rely solely on spell check. Amanda remarks, “It is vital that there are no errors in the CV, many people often confuse ‘stationery’ and stationary’ and regularly misspell ‘liaise’.” An easy way to remember stationery (as in office consumables) is to think of ‘e’ for envelope.
3. Relevant experience or qualifications
If you applying for an entry level role, you will need to focus on your qualifications, grades, and dissertations and show a real passion for the role or industry. If it is a role requiring specific experience, it is important to read the job description thoroughly (yes, you do need to tailor your CV to each role) and highlight relevant experience. Amanda adds, “My team is involved in a diverse range of marketing activities, but one of the key areas is for someone to have experience in organising events. It is important to understand the planning process and the need to be organised.” Felicity adds, “I’m just looking for a commitment to PR and a clear understanding of what the role involves by tailoring the skills they’re evidencing to me and Zen.”
4. A clear order of information
Your CV must be clear and provide a solid understanding of your career, experience and qualifications. It is essential that you add dates of employment (including months) in reverse chronological order (the most recent first). There is no need to go back more than ten years but you can add a line for previous positions if you feel they are relevant. Alison Yeomans, HR and Operations Manager at Dechra Pharmaceuticals Plc agrees, “I like a strong profile followed by Employment History in reverse chronological order followed by Qualifications / Academic Summary.” If you have recently graduated, you may need to add Qualifications before Employment History.
5. No gaps (or at least, explained gaps)
If you have gaps on your CV, you need to explain them, even if it is just one line. Perhaps you renovated the house, went travelling, looked after children or completed training courses. If it is just for a few months, it is OK to leave a gap but you will be asked in an interview why you left your previous role with no job to go to. If you were made redundant, it is wise to include that in the CV. Amanda states, “I don’t like seeing too many jobs on a CV.” Unfortunately, if you have a significant number of jobs, you do need to include them but you can just write the company name, date and job title if you don’t feel the role is relevant to what you are applying for. For example, if you are an Event Coordinator applying for roles in event management and worked as a Waitress for a year – add a detailed description of your responsibilities and accomplishments in the event roles but none about your waitressing role.
6. A suitable length
If you try to squeeze all your relevant experience, achievements, education and a good summary onto one page, it is going to look cluttered and will be difficult to read. Two pages is ideal, three is acceptable but any more than that is just too much and will prove very difficult to maintain the reader’s interest. Alison comments, “Certainly, the most important thing for me would be the number of pages, three is an absolute maximum.”
It’s all very well having great content but you must present it an easy to read format with a universal font that looks the same on a variety of systems. Don’t squash everything in using a size 8 font and narrow margins or try and fill space by using a size 14. Anywhere between 10 and 12 is acceptable. Alison explains, “Layout is so important, font size and type is not critical as long as it looks professional, not too busy and some white paper is left.” Professional, universal fonts, which can be easily read on screen and in print, include Calibri, Ariel and the more traditional Times New Roman and Georgia. Ensure there are plenty of spaces between headings and use bullet points for responsibilities and achievements to create a professional document.
8. Outside interests
Both Amanda and Felicity like to see evidence of voluntary work, fundraising, event organising or committee/club memberships. Felicity concludes “I love people who bring something new to the party so have volunteered or worked in an allied sector”
For more information and handy tips on CVs, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles – or to have your CV expertly written to increase your chances of securing interviews, visit www.redcvwriting.co.uk.
Member since: 22nd May 2013
I am currently director of Red Recruitment Solutions and owner of Red CV Writing, a professional CV writing service which also offers LinkedIn profile writing. For more information, please visit www.redcvwriting.co.uk