There are some days where I feel like I should actually be working in HR! I’m usually the friend or colleague that people seem to go to for advice on their CV, cover letter or general job search tips. But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I got this reputation.
That being said, I do enjoy being an agony aunt and giving advice on occasion. And thankfully my advice generally seems to get the results people are hoping for – #win!
One of the most common requests (or cries for help in some cases), is advice on CVs. I’ve read a lot of CVs due to my own need to hire staff for my team. So there are some things I can share when it comes to considering new employees. In this post I’ll be sharing my top 5 CV hacks on what I think makes a good CV. There will of course be broad differences depending on the industry. However some things are relevant across all applications, regardless of the role you may be applying for.
Presentation is key
The first thing any hiring manager sees is the format of your CV. What kind of document is it? Is it a word doc, is it an infographic or a pdf? Unfortunately, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ in this case. The format of your CV depends on a number of things, such as they type of industry and role you are applying for. Or even the type of company you are applying to, are they a corporate organisation, start-up, agency?
To figure out the best format to suit the business, your best place to start is their company blog and social channels. What’s the company culture like? What kind of content do they share on their LinkedIn profile? Do they embrace creative ideas? If that’s the case, perhaps a word doc or PDF is not the best format.
Creative roles, in particular, will call for more adventurous formats. There are some great examples of creative CVs on pintrest or check out this genius idea of a CV in the form of beer! I also love the CV templates you can use on canva (and most are free).
More often than not, a word doc or PDF will suffice. But in reality that’s probably where you have to be more creative to stand out. One word of advice is to always convert a word doc into PDF. Word docs are prone to reformatting regardless of the version you send. A PDF is a global format that can be read easily on mobile or desktop and reads the same on either Windows or Mac.
So you like shopping and watching Netflix on weekends?
As interesting as your personal hobbies may be to you, the choice of activities you list says a lot about you as a person. In this case, I would advise you list certain hobbies that highlight positive traits. An obvious one is travelling – everyone loves to travel, but what does that say about you?
It’s all fair and well to say ‘I enjoy travelling…’ but how can you translate that positively to your future employer? I suggest something like; ‘I enjoy travelling and exploring new cities, trying new cuisines and discovering different cultures…’ This suggests you are adventurous and well-travelled, which would prove useful for creative roles where good ideas are needed and also make you an interesting person to have in a team.
Check out this article from Live Career for some other ideas on what types of hobbies to include on your CV. Also remember that any details you include on your CV or application are fair game for the interview. So be prepared to give further information on a hobbie or skill you might list. In terms of hobbies to include, the main takeaway is to ensure you list out hobbies that highlight personal attributes.
Don’t forget to spillcheck
Yes, typos are probably an ultimate pet peeve for hiring managers. A former manager of mine stated she would initially scan CVs for typos and errors and instantly trashed any with errors. Even the tiniest of mistakes! I’m not that extreme, although for me an error on a CV, application or cover letter suggests that the candidate doesn’t have great attention to detail or that they didn’t spend the time and care to review the documents.
The advice here is simple, spend time to thoroughly check any documents you are sending to prospective employers. Spell check is even automated in Microsoft Word, so there really is no excuse to not spot any errors! Perhaps even get a friend or colleague to have quick read through before sending.
Is that A you got in English GCSE more important than the last year at your current role?
As you progress into more senior roles and move upwards on the career ladder, your CV details will have also evolved since you left university or school. But many people forget to amend this part of their CV and still list their education details before their employment history.
When you first leave school, your employment history is usually limited to that summer you interned at your aunt’s office or that local high street store. Either way as you start to work your way through professional roles, the detail here is going to be far more interesting to a hiring manager than the grades you achieved in school.
Tailor to your audience
This is probably the most time-consuming bit of advice as it requires the most effort and work. In the job search process it’s easy to try and maximise on potential roles by applying to many different positions. There’s nothing wrong with applying to a number of roles, in fact, it’s the obvious thing to do if you want to try and give yourself every possible chance of being seen by new employers.
However, one role will vary from the other and each one will require a different cover letter, CV and application. The roles will likely be similar industries and positions but there will still be slight variants on what each role entails.
So in order to really maximise on the possibility of being seen for an interview, you need to tailor your CV to showcase your suitability of the position. It will of course be time-consuming. But the extra time spent will be worthwhile when you have everyone calling you back for an interview.
For other helpful information and resources to help you on your job search and professional development, check out The Muse.
Are you on the job search yourself? Check out my other post on interview tips here. Perhaps you have your own tips to share? Leave me a comment below or tweet me at @arcasela