Ten tips to make your CV work for you

Sometimes when we advertise a role we get as many as 200 applicants.  As our clients rarely want to see more than a handful, we have to whittle this down to the 10-15 very best of the bunch.  Among the rest there will be a few more that we will have a chat with and might end up putting forward, but sadly the majority will fall at the first hurdle.

Improve your cv

It is possible that there will be some exceptional candidates among the CVs we rejected, but the reason we have not selected them or even opted to give them a call to find out more is the same one that is likely to explain why they are getting rejection after rejection from other agencies too.  And if this is happening to you, you need to acknowledge the following:

Your CV isn’t working for you.

That means you need to change it, and fast.  Don’t panic though, sometimes just the smallest changes can make the difference between getting a call and getting rejected.  Consider making the following changes, and we guarantee you will start to get results.

  •  If you don’t have the skills – don’t apply.  A CV that is just plain wrong for the requirement won’t do you any favours – don’t play the numbers game, it will de-value your reputation with recruiters and sends the wrong message.
  • Make it clear that you DO have the skills.  Each application you make should be tailored towards the vacancy you are applying for.  If this sounds like too much effort, you might as well quit now, as this is what your competition are doing successfully.
  • Use the covering letter to highlight what you can bring to the table, keeping it specific to what the recruiter is asking for.
  • List your achievements, not your duties.  ‘I answer the telephone and speak to customers’ says nothing about you – ‘I have been praised by managers for my excellent customer service skills’ says a great deal more.
  • Turn negatives into positives.  It isn’t unusual to see a period of unemployment on a CV – don’t leave it unexplained and worse still don’t try to cover it up.  Accreditations, training, voluntary work, caring for a family member or even simply pro-active jobseeking can be mentioned in this space.
  • Don’t include a photo, unless it is specifically required.  It isn’t expected in the UK and for this reason it can give the wrong impression.   If the recruiter needs to see what you look like, they can visit your LinkedIn profile.
  • Have a LinkedIn profile!  A professional-looking online presence, ideally with some recommendations from former colleagues and employers that the agent can refer to will do your prospects no harm at all.  In fact LinkedIn is valued by agencies and employers as an excellent source of talent.
  • Always do a spelling and grammar check, and ask a friend with a good eye for detail to have a glance over your CV for you, in case there is anything you have missed.
  • Have a good opening statement – this is your chance to grab the recruiter’s attention.  Briefly outline what your achievements are and what you hope to achieve in the future.  Avoid starting too many sentences with ‘I’ (don’t talk about yourself in the third person though).  Try to avoid clichés like ‘I’m a motivated team player’ – recruiters tend to take that as a given and it says nothing about you.  Much better to mention actual achievements in this space.
  • Your hobbies and interests don’t need to take up much space on your CV and again it is better to demonstrate achievements than a mundane list of sports that you like to watch.  Hobbies that are relevant to your career such as programming or repairing computers in your spare time, or that demonstrate that you are committed and driven (like training for a marathon), are more likely to generate conversation if you get an interview.

One of the worst things for us as recruiters is identifying one of those ‘maybe’ CVs, the ones who we might call and suggest improvementsto their CV, only to have the candidate say ‘I don’t have time to change my CV, I’ve applied for over a hundred jobs this month and you’re the only person that’s called me back’.  This happens more frequently than we’d like, and in these cases we have to tactfully tell the applicant:

Your CV isn’t working for you… your time would be much better spent making it work than continuing to apply with the CV you’ve got!

For further tips on CV writing, interview technique and other useful advice, please visit our candidate resources page.  There’s lots of good stuff on there.  And if you want advice on the IT market specifically, give one of our consultants a call on 01283 530923.