Monday, 25 April 2011

How to Refresh a Tired CV

It's tough out there. Too many candidates going after too few jobs. Confronted by a large pile of CVs, many recruiters are becoming ruthless in rejecting those that don't make an immediate impact. Here are 7 tips on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

1. Grab the reader's attention
Remember that the recruiter may be sitting at home with a glass of wine and a big pile of CVs to wade through. When a recruiter picks up each document, their eyes fall naturally on the middle third of the first page. This is where your most impressive information should be, for example details of achievements in your current job, or a description of your key skills. Bear in mind that many CVs only get 30 seconds worth of attention, so you need to make an immediate impact.

2. What sort of CV do you need?
If you are applying for roles similar to your current position you can either have a Career History CV, which sets out your employment history in reverse chronological order, or a Skills-Based CV, which describes your skills and personal qualities before your employment history. If you are looking to move into a completely different sector, or undertake a career change, you should go for a Skills-Based CV as this emphasises your transferable skills.

3. Don't simply cut and paste from your job description
These days, simply listing your responsibilities isn't enough. Your CV needs to give the reader information on the roles that you've undertaken, but you also need to provide concrete evidence of your soft skills and achievements. Soft skills include things like your ability to build relationships, the way in which you motivate your team, having a 'can-do' attitude. When I surveyed 6 NHS Finance Directors recently they were unanimous in their view that, when there is a large field of well-qualified candidates, it's the soft skills that make individuals stand out. Your achievements can be things that you have initiated or changed, or simply examples of when you maintained a high quality service at a time of intense pressure (during staff absence, for example).

4. Consider starting with a Personal Statement
Sometimes these are called ‘Profiles’. They are becoming more common, and are a good way for the reader to get an immediate handle on what you have to offer. They also provide an opportunity for you to set out what you want from your next move. However, the big pitfall with Personal Statements is that they can turn into a list of self-aggrandising adjectives: “I am a resourceful, focused, people-oriented manager”. A better approach is to make the Personal Statement factual: “I am a qualified accountant, with seven years experience of working closely with clinicians in acute trusts”.

5. Facts and Numbers
Details of the size of your budget, the number of staff that you managed and your organisation’s turnover all add a sense of substance to your CV. One tip from an experienced recruiter is to alter the way that you describe your current role, depending on the type of job that you are applying for. For example, if you are sending your CV to a large private sector organisation, you might want to emphasise the size of your current organisation (6,000 staff, £500,000,000 turnover). Alternatively, if you are seeking a role with a much smaller organisation, for example a GP consortium, you might emphasise how you have provided a comprehensive service to a small group of budget holders.

6. No more than 2 pages
Curriculum Vitae means 'The Story of My Life'. And that is exactly what your CV should not be. Prune out all the content that doesn't make a strong impact (it makes it harder for the reader to pick out your impressive achievements). Don't name all the short courses you've ever attended. Summarise your GCSEs rather than listing each one. Leave out the more mundane elements of your current and previous roles.

7. Don't forget your hobbies
A surprising number of recruiters are interested in what you get up to outside of work. Your interests don’t have to be spectacular, but listing them as ‘reading and listening to music’ isn't enough.  Enthuse briefly about the kind of reading you enjoy, what sort of music you like to listen to.