How to supercharge your CV

Itís no surprise that after 15 years spent in the staffing business you can come across many techniques and ideas to present a brilliant CV. Having been in that position myself, receiving 30 - 50 CVs per day, I know from personal experience that you develop a knack for picking out the better CVs that you plan to shortlist and interview.

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The bottom line is that you have 20 - 30 seconds to grab the recruiterís attention: once you have achieved that the chances are your CV will be read in full. So itís worth making the effort to write a compelling opening paragraph, because if you do, nine times out of ten your CV will be read and you will be seriously considered for the role.

I have chosen ten top tips to help you get to the point of success and increase the probability of your CV being shortlisted, leading to more interviews. Follow them and you will experience a marked improvement in your ratio of CVs sent, to interviews arranged.

  • A powerful opening gambit is to outline your ambitions, in the context of the role for which you are applying. This technique is rarely used, so it will grab the eye of a recruiter if you reveal your true ambitions, backed up with clear reasons for your objectives. This will make you stand out and help you to be shortlisted for a role. All employers like ambitious, hard working individuals, and by displaying what you want to achieve and how the vacancy being applied for will be an excellent vehicle for doing so can inspire the mind of a recruiter. Immediately, they will want to find out more about you as a potential candidate, and ultimately have you shortlisted in the interviewing pile of CVs.
  • The layout of your CV is very important. It should act as a sales and marketing document for your skills and background. Start with your personal and contact details. Follow those with a section covering your greatest achievements. You should always use achievements that display your capabilities very clearly. Next, you should present any written references, or, even better, testimonials that you have from previous or current clients, supervisors or managers. This is a great place to show future employers what other people say about you. Educational achievements are next on the agenda, and including dates, establishment, subjects and grades awarded is a must. Finally list your career history, including the name of your employer, the title of your role, the dates you started on and left the company, and a brief description of the position you held.
  • Your personal details are the contact point employers use when communicating with you. You should include your full name and title, but not your date of birth. It is now law, due to anti-discriminatory legislation, to no longer request your date of birth on application forms or CVs. Your full home address should be included, plus your postal address if different. It is becoming more and more common for employers to use clearing-houses to confirm peopleís personal details. Your telephone contact details should include your landline and mobile number, together with your email address and/or fax number in case the employer wants to send you documentation. You may also include the fact that you have a provisional or full driving license, and are a passport holder, especially if the job youíre applying for might involve local, national or overseas travel. Other points you can include are your sex, and whether you are flexible regarding location. If you have the technology, inserting a passport-style photo of yourself will make your CV stand out and personalise it more for the reader.
  • Good references and testimonials can be a great asset. When organisations or companies present themselves to a new client, they go to great lengths to present testimonials showing their ability to do appropriate work. Itís no different for you, and having testimonials in your CV will strengthen your application. Try to find a previous employer, internship manager or supervisor who is willing to write a testimonial explaining your personality and work ethic. Testimonials have greater impact than a list of references, and also save time for the employer, since each interviewer who expresses an interest doesnít need to contact the referee immediately, because the core information is already in your CV.
  • Make the most of your education. Many employers are interested in where you were educated, so itís important that when you list your educational achievements you also include the names of your schools and colleges as well as the dates, subjects taken and grades awarded. But donít create a long list covering every single O and A level. To keep it short and to the point, the further back you go, the more you should try to abbreviate (e.g. 10 ĎOí levels including Maths and English, all grade B or above).
  • Fine-tune your career history. This part of your CV should define the types of companies you have worked for previously and the roles you held, as well as the duration of your tenure. All dates must specify both the month and year for the start and ending of a role. It is also advantageous to explain in brief what types of work the employers did, because if the interviewer spots relevant similarities, it could work in your favour. Itís also worth mentioning whether your role was permanent or temporary: if you donít clarify this you could seem like a job-hopper, which is a clear disadvantage. Always begin your career history with the most recent position, and then work your way backwards to your first job. With each position you should present the duties and responsibilities in brief, in no more than three to five lines per position. The recruiter will have already identified your true skills from your achievements section, provided that you wrote it well.
  • Less is more. A two-page CV is the ideal maximum length. If your document is longer than that, itís worth working hard to reduce the information, because itís critical to maintain the interest levels of the recruiter. Too much detail may not only make the CV too long, but might also make it boring for the recruiter! Your CV should be clear, concise and easy to read; the use of bullet points is a good tip to help achieve this. Any information that does not have a positive impact on your CV is probably not worth including. Donít fall into the trap of presenting a long list of key skills: experience shows that these are becoming increasingly unpopular with recruiters. Finally, referees tend to only be contacted in the later stages of the recruitment process, so it is not necessary to include them on your CV Ė a sentence stating that ďReferees can be provided on requestĒ should suffice.
  • Pay careful attention to presentation. If you are sending a hard copy of your CV with an accompanying letter, always use an A4 envelope and be sure to choose an appropriate quality of paper (and envelope) with which to showcase your skills and capabilities. Although you shouldnít send your CV on photocopier paper, donít go to the other extreme by choosing something so heavy it becomes overkill. Always make sure itís on white paper and presented in a professional manner. Having something too design-led can turn recruiters off as this may distract them from crucial statements about your skills. On the other hand, if you are posting your CV on a job board, think as a recruiter and use the words they would want to see to describe your skills and attributes. As with Google AdWords, itís about choosing the right words and phrases that on one hand describe you, but on the other hand are highly searchable by recruiters. If you follow this strategy, your CV will be identified on most recruiterís searchers for the positions that are of interest to you. One last point: remember that you have just 20 - 30 seconds to make an impact with the recruiter, so on your first page you should make sure your brilliance shines through within the first paragraph. If it doesnít, the recruiter will switch off and place your CV in the reject pile. Your CV is your core sales and marketing tool; read it with care before you send it. If it doesnít excite you, what chance do you have of grabbing the attention of the reader?
  • Finally, I have two important warnings for you:
    Be careful what you reveal on social networking websites! More and more offers of second interviews and employment are being withdrawn when employers discover unpalatable facts about interviewees after searching through their social network 'footprints'. You will probably have heard of the lawyer who lost his job after boasting on his blog that he did nothing at work but shop on the internet, pick up a six-figure salary and regularly partake in recreational pharmaceuticals. Amazing detail of your lifestyle, behaviour and beliefs can be uncovered with one Google search, especially if you have an unusual name. Employers will not admit to doing this as part of their recruitment procedure Ė but, be warned, they do!
  • Donít be economical with the truth! Be warned, most recruiters can identify BS when they see it. Itís a known fact that 60% of the information on CVs is not true. My advice is to get into the habit of stating the facts about your background and backing them up with solid evidence. By doing this, your CV will stand out from the crowd and be very interesting to read, as your statements will ring true and the recruiter will believe what you say you can do. This in turn will inspire them to find out more by putting you in the interview shortlist pile.
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