- Before you start writing your CV, read and understand the job description – and I mean really understand. When reading a job description and person specification, it is good to tick off the requirements, but even better, you should take time to understand the kind of characteristics and personality that would be needed in a job role. Lots of people might have the right skills – but having the right attitude and being a good ‘fit’ is just as, if not more important. If you include a personal statement in your CV, this is the perfect place to describe your(genuine)self as the ideal candidate.
- Draw up a matrix – compare yourself directly with the job in question by drawing a skills matrix with your skills, experience and attributes across the top row and the role requirements down the left hand column. Where are you ticking their boxes? This should give you a focus for your CV and cover letter structure and will help you identify your best examples for inclusion.
- Read about and research the business – get very familiar with your next potential employer; what they do, who for and how they make their money… How will this job fit in? What does the company believe in? Why does the job exist? How will this job help make the organisation more profitable and why would you be great for this? Is this a company you feel an affinity with and you feel you would ‘fit’ into? – Why? Nail that information and start constructing your ideas for your cover letter based on this.
- Write a unique CV (and cover letter) each time you apply for a new role or to a company – keep a master copy of your CV and use that as a starting point for each new job you apply for. Pull out the relevant information that an employer is going to be interested in for their job role in question or for them as an organisation.
- Put first things first – make sure the key skills and requirements needed for the job feature at the top of your CV. Make it easy for employers – your relevant skills and aptitudes should shine out! If they have to ‘dig around’ in lengthy text to find out if you can do something, they will give up. Refer back to your matrix and make sure you share your best examples.
- Use their language – when employers are shortlisting, they are looking for their requirements or to be bowled over by your potential. Sometimes employers (especially large employers and recruitment agencies) use software to help shortlist, which picks out key words in your CV. Even with software-free shortlisting, employers, in the short time they have, will respond positively to you ticking their boxes in terms they understand.
- Make your CV navigable – choose the right headers for each CV you put together. If employers know where to go in your (neatly laid out) CV to find the information they are looking for, this will pay dividends. Spend time considering what will work for the job you are applying for and consider what will engage the reader; it’s flattering for the recruiter to see a CV which is thoughtfully targeted and your application will stand out.
- Quantify and qualify – make sure you add contextual information about your achievements and activities in previous jobs, especially where they support your application and demonstrate your understanding of the job in question. For example: I increased new business sales by 32% between 2014 and 2015 OR I supervised a team of 3 people within the marketing department.
- Make every word impactful – every word in your CV is using up precious ‘real estate’. Is every word worth it? Make sure you keep adding value with your content, avoid repetition and align what you are saying with everything you have researched about the role and the business. Remember that being concise is often more effective than adding volume for volume’s sake.
- Remember Could I do it, Will I love it, Will they love me? – if you put yourselves in the shoes of the employer, these questions will be most important to them to understand, so make sure your CV and cover letter are reassuring them of those three key things.
And finally… if all that seems a bit over the top, remember that targeting like this for your dream jobs will take you a lot less time than reading endless job ads and sending out generic job applications. This approach, when undertaken whole-heartedly will attract more attention and more success, more quickly. Good luck!
Nicky Luke, Head of Talent Development, Unlocking Potential