Preparing and presenting a CV requires as much attention as the packaging and promotion of any important product. In my view, a CV is simply the document which packages and promotes a really important product…you. As I see it, success in today’s over-crowded recruitment market, relies on accurately matching the candidate’s unique selling points precisely to the employer’s needs.
Sadly, too many job-hunters simply don’t put the required effort into preparing and polishing their CV to make it really stand out from the crowd.
Does your CV really pack a punch?
A curriculum vitae (CV) is an overview, not only of your work experience and qualifications, but also of your key characteristics and achievements. In many ways it’s your key characteristics and achievements that will help you really stand out from your competitors, yet most people forget to add these essential ingredients to their CV.
Normally the first thing a potential employer will encounter, your CV needs to make an impact. In today’s competitive job market, no matter what level of position you’re applying for, you owe it to yourself to make sure your CV really stands out.
We all have strengths, we’ve all achieved stuff in our lives. When it comes to your CV, it’s a case of packaging these strengths and achievements in such a way that they appeal to your potential employer, making you memorable.
Have you identified your USPs?
I encourage all my CV clients, who are generally high-earning professionals, to try to think of themselves as a product. This approach helps cut through the modesty which often holds people back from writing winning CVs about themselves. Thinking this way enables my CV clients to speak confidently about themselves without feeling arrogant.
Also, thinking of yourself as a product helps you objectively identify your “unique selling points” or USPs. Like products, people have USPs and there’s no point in chasing after a job if you haven’t identified yours.
In order to pinpoint your USPs, you’ll need to put yourself in the employer’s shoes. What do employers “get” when they employ you? What value do you add to their business? By identifying and describing these points succinctly, you have a much better chance of standing out from the crowd than if you wax lyrical about the detail of the roles you’ve played in the past.
The importance of keywords in a CV
It is estimated that around 80% of all résumés sent to recruitment agencies and businesses in the UK are scanned into some sort of applicant tracking system or ATS. Once résumés have been scanned into these systems, they only get the “human treatment” if they come back out of the system as the result of a keyword search.
If these estimates are correct, not only is this hugely scary, but more importantly, it means that keywords in your CV are absolutely essential to even get the chance of being considered for your dream job. Knowing this will really help you add power to your job-hunting elbow.
So how do you play the keyword game effectively? How do you make sure that the appropriate keywords are embedded in your résumé, enabling it to be found in ATS searches?
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire, or easy way to do this. Here’s my top tips for identifying the right keywords for your CV:
- Search the net for a good sample of more than 10, and ideally up to 20 job descriptions for the type of role you’re looking for.
- Download or cut and paste the job descriptions.
- Work through the job descriptions and either create a word cloud to help you identify the keywords in the job descriptions, or work through the documents identifying the keywords manually.
- Make a list of the keywords.
- Apply them appropriately and thoughtfully to your CV.
It’s not rocket science and (unfortunately) at the moment, there’s no scientific way of getting the right keywords, but I guarantee that this approach will raise the odds of your CV being noticed by ATSs significantly.
The optimum length of a CV
In the UK (and most of Europe to be honest) 2 sides of A4 is sufficient to get anyone’s CV message over. The important thing when it comes to CV writing is to get your USPs at the top of the first page (often referred to as “above the fold”) because many people won’t bother to read any further down the page. Most job-hunters waste the space above the fold on their name, address and contact information. Don’t even be tempted to go this route…make sure you use the space above the fold to highlight key reasons why you’re the VERY BEST person for the job.
Make sure your covering letter’s spot-on
Sadly, too many of my new CV clients have invested hours and hours preparing and polishing their CV then allocate 5 minutes flat to produce their covering letter. This is simply bonkers.
More often than not, employers will reject an applicant purely because they submit a badly composed covering letter. What this means is, you may well be the right person for the job, but you won’t even get past “go” because you’re not putting effort into your packaging (ie. the covering letter).
The objective of a covering letter is to introduce yourself to your prospective employer and, more importantly, to sell yourself. Get this right and you’re well ahead of the game to secure yourself an interview. Here’s my Top Tips for your covering letter:
- Keep it short. Two hard-hitting, focussed paragraphs will work better than two rambling pages. When it comes to covering letters, less is definitely more.
- Refine your voice. We all have our own “voice” and this is good. In your covering letter you need to refine your voice to suit your prospective employer (do some research if necessary to help assess the voice the company speaks in).
- Address the needs of the employer directly. In your short letter, you must demonstrate that you understand the employers needs and state clearly and succinctly why only you can satisfy these needs.
- Include a clear and considered reason why you want the position. Seek to impress with this statement without being in any way cheesy.
- State your follow up plans. Don’t wait to hear from them. Tell them when and how you’ll be in touch to find out their thoughts about your application.
- Invest the time (and if needs be money) in having your covering letter and your CV proof-read. Nothing will shatter your chances quicker than grammatical or spelling mistakes!
Applying these tips will help you to be a step ahead of the pack. Recruiters routinely discard loads of applicants based purely on a poorly written covering letter. As your goal is to get in the door for an interview, taking the time to create a winning cover letter is a tactic you simply can’t afford to ignore.
The importance of LinkedIn in your job-hunting process
LinkedIn is arguably the best social medium to help you secure the job of your dreams. For this reason, it’s really important that your LinkedIn profile is up to date and appropriate for your job-hunting process.
Your LinkedIn profile is the perfect place to wax lyrical about your USPs, helping you showcase yourself in the best light to potential employers. A winning profile on LinkedIn will get you noticed, not only within LinkedIn, but also via the major search engines. Because of this, your LinkedIn profile is one place where keywords are really important.
Another important thing to bear in mind with LinkedIn is a complete profile. LinkedIn estimates that “users with complete profiles are 40 times more likely to receive opportunities through LinkedIn”. So if that’s not a great incentive to complete your profile, nothing is.
This is all good and well, sometimes knowing the theory is fine, but putting it into practise isn’t so easy. If you’re struggling with your CV, your covering letter or your LinkedIn profile, gimme me a shout and I can either coach you through the process or do it all for you. It would be my pleasure !