10 life-prompts for updating your CV to keep it alive – from Nick Luke at Unlocking Potential

  1. Starting or ending a job – Obvious? Yes – and important! When you start a new job, pop in your end date of your old role – it’s so much easier than rooting through old P45s! Then summarise your new job description and start date. Moving jobs is risky; people and companies do make mistakes. If the worst happens and it doesn’t work out, at least your CV will be useable, quickly
  2. Starting or achieving a qualification – Just like jobs, it’s hard to remember all the details about the qualifications you are doing. A qualification in progress is often very close to the value of a qualification completed, so make sure it goes on your CV. This habit will also force you to consider how your CV could be formatted to accommodate all these accolades!
  3. Achieving something significant at work – Often forgotten on CVs are achievements you secure whilst working. If you have made something positive happen, consider including what and when e.g. ’won the 2015 ABC award for …..’ or ‘Shaved 20% off advertising costs in 2014 saving the business £20,800’.
  4. Being given new responsibilities – Job roles evolve and change and as such, this means that your CV needs updating to reflect any new responsibilities you have taken on.
  5. You learn a new skill  – How often are we shown how to use new software, equipment or asked to step in and do something which involves new skills? Add the skills to your repertoire – you never know when they might come in handy.
  6. You undertake a training course – Internal and external training which is not qualifications based can be important. In larger organisations, with mandatory training requirements, it may be crucial for the ‘what and when’ of these to be included on your CV.
  7. You upgrade your mobile or change your contact details – You would not believe how often contact details are not correct on CVs – a big ‘No No’ with recruiters! Be conscious of your phone upgrades, your changing email addresses and new homes and update immediately
  8. You achieve something significant in your personal life of value to your career  – If you join a significant committee or group which is offering you additional skills and experience which you need/want to demonstrate, personal commitments offer employers valuable insights into your wider abilities. So the PTA, being a local Councillor, Scout group, Football team captain etc should be included.
  9. You see a new CV layout you like and want to have a play – So often, I have heard people look admiringly at other peoples’ CVs. If you feel like it’s time for a change, or maybe it’s got to the point where quantity needs to be edited down, going for a new look is a great excuse to update.
  10. You feel that your CV no longer represents you as a person –Sometimes, you can look at your CV and it doesn’t feel congruent with who you are. If so it might be time to consider why and what you want it to be instead. Remember to keep a copy of your old CV when chopping and changing, though or you might find this is a longer job than you anticipated!

Make sure you keep a master copy of your CV which includes everything that you have ever done.  It doesn’t matter how long this CV is – it’s more of a record than anything so that you can keep a note of all the important information.  That way, when you are tailoring your CV to be relevant for a role, you won’t cut anything out you can’t go to your master copy and retrieve.   Enjoy!

Nicky Luke, Head of Talent Development, Unlocking Potential


10 Top Tips on how to tailor your CV – from Nicky Luke at Unlocking Potential

  • 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

Job Application errors – 5 things to avoid

Here are five of the things that have always annoyed me when short-listing job applications.

1. Poor covering letter or no covering letter

This is a missed opportunity (unless you are specifically told not to include one!) as the covering letter provides a chance for you to sell yourself and say why you want the role and why you’d be prefect for it. From spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, to a font too small to read, an error strewn letter never looks good. Take care over your covering letter. It is your first chance to impress, and first impressions count.

2. Incomplete sections on the application form / CV

This shows a lack of attention to detail, and a lack of interest in the role. It also means you are likely to fail to meet essential criteria for the role and so stand little chance of getting the job. Complete the form properly, or don’t apply!

3. A CV when an application form was requested (or vice versa)

Possibly the end of your chances as employers have to have comparable information on which to judge candidates. For some recruiters the wrong format immediately rules you OUT. What a waste of everyone’s time!

4. Further details that provide no detail

The early parts of the application are promising, there’s a good covering letter, the right qualifications, relevant experience and then you turn to ‘further details’ and there is nothing much there. No attempt to provide the information an employer needs to short-list you makes it very difficult for them to do so! If the form asks for detail, provide it. Demonstrate that you DO meet the person specification and requirements for the job.

5. Not being contactable

You’ve made it through the application sift and the employer needs to contact you to invite you to interview… the email bounces back and the mobile number doesn’t work. Yes this has happened to me when trying to get hold of a candidate. The result: no interview, no job, and the next person on the short-list got the call instead.

Deborah Watson, Director, Gradsouthwest Ltd.

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