At Head Hunt International, we know that candidates expend a lot of time and effort to craft their CVs, and we appreciate them for doing so. Your CV can be the key that unlocks a perfect job opportunity or it can be the very thing obstructing your path to success. On average, hiring managers take less than a minute to decide whether to give your job application further consideration, therefore, without a shadow of a doubt, your resume is a big deal, and will remain incredibly important for the remainder of your career. It is no wonder that many people attend CV workshops, courses and even have one-on-one consultation sessions with CV experts. A primary concern for most candidates is how to make their CV stand out from the dozens of applications received by recruiters and hiring companies alike, especially during periods when the job market is tight and competition is particularly high.
Below we provide our 8 top tips for creating an outstanding CV that not only passes the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) but also wins over the attention of the hiring manager, and hopefully, lands you your dream job!
- Tailor Your CV for Each Company
A common mistake that candidates make in their job application process is sending out outdated and generic CVs to every company. Your CV is not just your personal profile, it should also be seen as a selling point and should position you as a solution to the company’s specific problem or needs. That is the best way to catch the hiring manager’s attention.
Companies can have very different ideas of what their ideal candidate looks like, so by sending out a generic CV, you will significantly limit your chances of being selected for the job you’re applying for. Instead, you should aim to be flexible with your competencies and experience, and think and speak in the hiring manager’s language. The best way to do this is to research the company you are applying to work for thoroughly – look at their mission statement, their values and objectives, pay attention to the kind of language they use and the kind of attitude the company is conveying through their website and LinkedIn page. Having a good feel of what the company is looking for will allow you write a CV (and Cover Letter) with the appropriate words and formality. You will also know exactly what skills, experiences and accomplishments you need to emphasise upon in your job application. By researching the company, you will have information that extends beyond the job advertisement, and will certainly help you to stand out from the crowd.
- Use Key Words
Familiarising yourself with the company generally is important, but so too is understanding the job description and person specification. It is crucial that your CV contains all the key words mentioned in the job advertisement in order to pass through the ATS system, which so many companies use today in order to speed up the recruitment process. Without those specific buzz words, your CV might not even reach human eyes at all. For this reason, before you even begin writing up your resume, isolate the key competencies the company is looking for and make note of them. Ask yourself if you have those specific skills and where in your past experience have you used them? Then, ensure you incorporate those key words in your CV and Cover Letter, and wherever relevant in your job application – the more times they appear, the better.
To ensure you catch all the key phrases, read the job advertisement several times, avoid skimming through quickly or presuming you know what the company is looking for based on the job title – these can often be deceiving and responsibilities for the same position may vary from company to company. Use the job advertisement to your full advantage, as it contains most of the information you need to become a successful candidate. Thinking like the hiring manager and including the key words will mean you are literally speaking the company’s language, and will ensure you not only get past the CV screening software, but that you catch the attention of your target audience too.
- Be Specific About Your Skills
Following on from the last point, it’s really important to identify not only what competencies the company is looking for, but also what kinds of adjectives accompany the competencies and what skill level is being sought. For example, if the advertisement specifies that the candidate must have “excellent communication skills”, include that entire phrase in your CV. Likewise, if the candidate must have “fluent German”, don’t forget the word “fluent” in your resume, because there is a great variation of language levels!
Candidates often make the mistake of providing very general competencies in their CVs, but hiring managers are always looking for specific skills, at particular levels. Therefore, don’t just include “I have good IT skills”; clearly define the kinds of software, programmes and features you know how to operate, and use the job advertisement as your benchmark. Including specific skills is just as important as including specific words.
- Begin with a Strong Summary
One of the most important parts of writing a strong CV is having a very good opening summary. This section appears right below your name and contact information. Your summary should only be about three bullet points long but should nevertheless summarise you fully as a professional in clear and simple language. As described by career and business strategy coach, Professor Heather Austin, your summary is like a teaser for your CV - it provides a taste of who you are and should contain your value proposition – that is, what you can offer the company. The rest of your CV essentially acts as evidence to support the value proposition in your summary!
You can start your summary with a strong adjective and your job title, and include your years of experience (if that serves to benefit you) and your fields of expertise. For example, “An accomplished accounting professional with eight years of experience in large international corporations in the technology and pharmaceutical industries”. As a second point, you could include your biggest accomplishments, again focusing on the value proposition to the company. And your final point can be your competencies, which should include both your hard and soft skills and must, of course, line up with those specified in the job description. Having a strong summary can certainly grab the attention of the hiring manager and distinguish you from the others.
- Focus on Your Tasks, not Your Job Description
When including your various job roles, it’s important to provide some details of your duties and responsibilities to ensure the hiring manager sees that you had similar experiences in the past, and are therefore fully capable of undertaking the current position. However, avoid just including your entire job description – pick the most relevant duties to the role you’re currently applying for and try to use as much achievement based verbs as possible, such as “developed”, “implemented”, “created”, as these will emphasise that you’re a proactive candidate who’s made real impact.
Furthermore, including just your job description may not be a true reflection of what you’ve actually done in your position; perhaps you’ve undertaken additional responsibilities and projects beyond the scope of your previous role that could increase your attractiveness as a candidate. Therefore, reflect carefully on your duties and identify the most relevant and impressive tasks you wish to draw attention to.
- Include Your Accomplishments
The best way to differentiate yourself from the many other applicants competing for the same position is through your career accomplishments, but surprisingly, candidates often don’t include these. Accomplishments don’t have to be huge in order to be noteworthy, they can be any situation where you were innovative, saved time, saved money, increased efficiency or profitability for your company. For example, re-organising the filing system to be more efficient or working on a special project in which your contribution was significant. Think about your previous customers or clients, who have you served exceptionally well? Consider your work goals, when have you not only achieved, but surpassed expectations? Have you ever faced a particularly difficult problem at work and successfully overcame it?
Ideally, you should include accomplishments for every role mentioned in your CV, and you should try to quantify the results if possible. Providing numbers to back up your accomplishments is the best way to communicate their impact, and will be sure to impress recruiters and hiring managers. So see your achievements in terms of percentages and figures whenever possible.
If you’re still stuck, think about what you are most proud of in your career and how something you did has had a positive impact on someone or something else. However, always try to link your achievements to the specific role you are applying for and stick to the most recent ones first. Upon some careful reflection, you may find you have more achievements than you initially thought!
- Include Your Career Goals
Including your career goals and your hopes within the company is a good way to show the hiring manager that your future intentions align with theirs. It also shows that you’re a future-focused individual, that looks and plans ahead, and has long-term vision. Ambition is an attractive quality in a candidate, and highlights your willingness to work hard and move up within the organisation.
Your career goals should be achievable with the company you’re applying for because hiring managers want to see that you intend to stay and develop within their organisation. Including this section is particularly important for new graduates and job applicants with limited experience in the industry to show the company that you can already visualise yourself being a star-performer and that you know exactly what kinds of opportunities this job can open up for you in the future.
- Keep it Concise
Finally, your CV should be a concise document, and include only the most relevant points for the position you are applying for. The ideal CV is one page long, but two pages are acceptable for someone with more extensive experience. A good way to keep your CV concise is by using bullet points throughout. Avoid writing paragraphs, not only do they take up too much space, but they also make the CV less reader friendly. Remember that recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of CVs every day, meaning that it’s impossible for them to read any one CV from start to finish. They simply skim for key information to help them decide whether to move you forward in the recruiting process or not, so make it easy for them to find exactly what they’re looking for.
Furthermore, quality over quantity is the golden rule to CV writing. Remember that your resume is not your entire career profile, it does not have to contain every detail of your working life, only that which is most relevant to the job description and the company you’re hoping to work for soon. Sending in a concise and relevant CV will not only make it easier for the hiring manager to identify all your suitable competencies and experience, but will also show that you’re an effective communicator too!
As you begin applying these tips, you may find yourself saving a lot of time and effort in your job search, as sending out a few strategic CVs can be far more effective than sending out tens of generic ones. We hope the above tips will help you create an outstanding resume that differentiates you from the crowd and helps you land your dream job within your desired industry and company. The team at Head Hunt International wishes you every success in your career. Good luck!