10 tips to get your CV short-listed
Tip 1: Don’t be dull
Supercharge some of the statements on your CV by using the “So what?” test. Imagine you have an employer sitting next to you as you write your CV who asks “So what?” after every statement.
Look at these rather dull statements from actual CVs.
- Led a team of 20 sales staff
- Devised an incentive scheme
- Managed an office relocation project
Now transform those statements on your CV by adding a result to make those dull statements more interesting.
- Led a team of 20 sales staff... who exceeded all performance targets.
- Devised an incentive scheme... that reduced staff turnover by 20pc.
- Managed an office relocation project... with minimal disruption to the business.
Tip 2: Use Power Verbs
Use power verbs to give added impact to the statements on your CV.
- Drove the completion of projects
- Targeted new clients
- Identified new opportunities
Tip 3: Use keywords
Use keywords and phrases. Many organisations use automated screening of CVs (even for senior roles) so having the right keywords and phrases in your CV is vital. Scan advertisements for jobs in your field and pick out the words and phrases that come up again and again and make sure they are used in your CV. Remember that many recruiters also use keyword searches to find candidates online so it’s also very important to have a keyword-rich profile on platforms like LinkedIn.
Tip 4: Keep it short
Keep it short and sweet. You often see CVs of five or more pages. Unfortunately recruiters simply don’t have time to read very lengthy CVs so try to get everything on to two pages or three pages at the most. If you have had a lot of jobs (perhaps as a contractor or consultant) then consider referring to your early career for all jobs from more than 10 years ago. Just put the dates, job title and the name of your employer but leave out the details.
06/02 – 06/04 Sales Manager ABC Company
05/00 – 05/02 Assistant Sales Manager ABC Company
Tip 5: Keep it succinct
Don’t use 20 words when 10 will do. As well as using power verbs you can also use “CV Shorthand” to express your key points in a less “wordy” style.
Before: Facilitated the training and development of the management and staff of the business to ensure that the business grew and staff turnover was reduced.
After: Facilitated training and development to promote business growth and reduce staff turnover.
Tip 6: Keep your CV focused
Make sure your CV is focused on a specific role. A lot of people have multiple skills and experience and try to show all of these on their CVs, leaving recruiters uncertain what they do. If you are a project manager and a business analyst and you are interested in both types of roles then consider creating two versions of your CV with one focused on project management and the other on business analysis.
Tip 7: Consider changing your job title
Some companies use weird and wonderful job titles that make perfect sense internally but don’t mean much to the outside world. So if you are a “media fulfilment officer” when you actually manage your company’s website, consider changing the job title on your CV to “web manager” which accurately describes what you do and is a title that recruiters might actually search for. Equally if you are a “client relationship manager” when actually you manage sales then consider changing your CV job title to sales manager. Why? Well recruiters often search the internet and job boards for people by job title so if you have an unusual job title your CV may not be picked up in those searches.
Tip 8: Don’t send out the same CV for every job
Most job hunters send out the same CV for every job…this just doesn’t make sense. You should customise your CV for every job application. Check the job advertisement (or even better, the more detailed job specification) and see what skills and experience are required. Pay particular attention to the “Essential Skills and Experience” and be sure to include reference to each one in your CV (and covering letter).
Tip 9: List your achievements
It’s important to list your career achievements on your CV. Employers don’t just want to see a job description, they want to see evidence of what you achieved and how it made a real difference to your employer. You can use the STAR model (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to help you structure your achievements and remember these achievements need to be relevant to the job you are applying for.
Tip 10: Check for spelling and grammar mistakes
An obvious one but most employers agree that the single biggest reason for rejecting CVs is spelling and grammatical mistakes. Even senior level managers (who should know better) are guilty here. A CV that’s full of mistakes is almost certainly destined for the bin.
Spending some time improving your CV can dramatically increase your chances of getting short-listed for interviews. All you have to do is to use some of the tips described above. If you do, you should see an increase in positive responses from your job applications.
If you don’t have time to make all of the adjustments above, start by making sure that your CV is error free and that it is customised for the job you are applying for. Those two simple changes should increase your success rate.