Expert tips to make your CV work for you

Dan Hodges General, Getting you back to work, Jobs

Every day, our employability team supports veterans throughout England and Wales on their journey towards employment – and writing a good CV is an essential step on that journey. Here our experts pool their top tips for crafting a CV that stands out from the crowd and grabs the attention of recruiters.

CV writing tips 1Getting started
  • You need to adapt your CV for each job you apply for so it feels relevant to the role and sector. Recruiters need to know who you are and what you have to offer. Make sure you read the person specification and essential job criteria, as this will help you use your skills and experience to create the mirror image.

  • Avoid writer’s block by leaving your personal profile till the end. Write the other sections first and they will help jog your memory about the key things you are trying to sell to the employer.

Take care with your format
  • Keep it simple. Your CV is a tool to generate interest from the employer – you can get into the detail when you reach interview stage.  Don’t wreck your chances by being too wordy, and try to keep it to two pages. A recruiter is not going to spend ages trying to understand your CV, they will just move onto the next one.

  • Use a strong, white, crisp border with plenty of white space. Don’t widen your margins to squeeze in extra room.

  • Divide your CV into different sections that are easy to navigate. A good layout might include a personal profile, key achievements, career summary, education and interests.

  • Use a simple font in a standard size, like Arial 11 point. Don’t be tempted to make it smaller so you can fit more in.

  • Avoid dense blocks of text. Use bullet points to call attention to your most noteworthy and relevant achievements.

CV writing tips 2Limit your personal information
  • Don’t include your full address – just a local area will do.

  • Don’t include your age or a photo. Discrimination can be real, even if the recruiter is not conscious of it.

  • Don’t use a humorous email address. If you don’t have a sensible-sounding email, create a new account that feels more professional.

  • Avoid including the names of your referees – it’s not your information to share at this point. Be data-savvy.

Highlight the skills that matter
  • Make sure everything you include is relevant to the job description, so your skills match those the employer is looking for. Give clear evidence as to why you meet the job requirements. Choose four or five key skills – a sentence for each will do.

  • Take time to understand your transferable skills, such as communication, project management, teamwork, leadership and problem-solving, and think about how they will add value to the role.

  • Don’t simply list a set of key skills – expand on them. For example, instead of writing ‘relationship-building’, you could write, ‘adept at establishing and maintaining positive relationships both internally and externally’. Instead of ‘management’ or ‘leadership’, you might say, ‘strong management skills, experienced at planning, organising and leading multi-disciplined teams’.

Explain why your experience and achievements count
  • Understand the STAR structure – Situation, Task, Action, Result. Any recruiter will want to know what you can do, how you will add value and what have you have achieved. Explain how the actions you took delivered results for your organisation. If you are a good team player, explain why, and how that adds value. Give evidence, evidence and more evidence.

  • If there are gaps in your CV, fill them with positivity.

  • Don’t feel the need to include everything you’ve ever done, with every little detail, unless this is demanded by the job description. Don’t include things that the employer doesn’t do or need to know about.

CV writing tips 3Choose your words carefully
  • In your personal profile, choose words that highlight your positive traits, such as enthusiastic, conscientious, methodical, efficient, professional or qualified.

  • Include buzz words from the job description in your CV, and try to include positive action verbs such as introduced, coordinated, established, reorganised, negotiated and developed.

  • Try to avoid the CV clichés if you want to stand out. Statements like ‘works well in a team or independently’ have been overused so no longer have impact. If you want to say that you work effectively in a team, include an example and the statement will become more genuine. Veterans should have many examples of teamwork!

  • Don’t use acronyms and abbreviations unless they’re relevant to the role you’re applying for, including those linked to your training and qualifications. If they have no or little or no relevance to the role you’re applying for, simply leave them off.

  • When writing your CV, try to think of yourself as a well-known brand. If you package yourself like an appealing bar of chocolate, people will want you.

  • If you choose to write in the first or third person, stick to that throughout. Using the first person can help to create a sense of ownership.

  • Don’t use slang!

CV writing tips 4Make yourself stand out
  • Recruiters are often inundated with CV, so make yours count. Your personal profile is your opportunity to set out who you are, what you can bring to the table and what you are looking for.

  • Use the personal interests or hobbies section to tell the recruiter a little about yourself and your interests. A little bit of personality can help your CV stand out from the pack.

Before you send it
  • When you’ve finished drafting your CV, have someone else proof-read it and then read it back to you. Choose someone who will spot spelling mistakes and give their honest opinion.

  • Congratulate yourself on a task well done. Writing a CV isn’t easy, but the hard work will be worth it when you get to interview and secure the job!

To register for The Poppy Factory’s employability support or for more information, click here.

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