Writing and updating a good CV

This article serves as a brief reminder of the importance of keeping your CV up to date. We look at how recruiters process CVs and, with this in mind, offer tips for getting yours past the initial screening stages.

Good CVs open doors, bad ones don’t. So, regardless of how well suited to a role you may be, if your CV doesn’t reflect this, you’ll be screened out at the early stage of a recruiting process. However, by following proven techniques in preparing your CV - "designing the advertisement that sells you", you’ll enhance your chances of landing your dream role.

The importance of a great CV

Your CV is the summary of your professional life. So, as your career progresses, so should your CV.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep your CV updated as and when you gain new skills, achieve major career milestones or contribute to big organisational accomplishments. Also, always consider how relevant it will appear to potential employers.

You are selling yourself to them through your CV so you need to tailor it to the intended recipient and present it in a way that makes sense to them in terms of their expressed needs. How you say something matters as much as what you say!

Bear in mind, too, that once other people, such as recruitment consultants and hiring organisations, have access to your CV, you’ll probably have lost control over some of the messages that you want it to project.

CVs have one simple purpose: to put you in a position to grasp an exciting career opportunity as soon as you find out about it. So, if you leave it till then to create your CV, it’s too late. Do it now, so when that opportunity knocks, all you’ll have to do is tweak it to the specifics of the role you’re applying for.

What to include in your CV

Use your CV to tell employers:

  • What you’ve done;
  • What you know;
  • What you’re looking for in a future role; and
  • Who you really are.

Aim to make an immediate impact. If you’re applying for a position where there’ll be tough competition, expect to be filtered through a recruitment firm, an executive search firm, or an HR department. Be tailored, focused and impactful in your message as time is of the essence - recruiting professionals are trained to spend no more than 15 seconds looking at your CV. Worse, computer software might cut you out of the running before your CV even gets to them so make sure that you use the key words from the job advert in your CV and application letter/form to show that you get it - and you've got it!

Your persona must shine through. Your every word is the skin of a living thought, so make it count. Choose your words carefully and craft your messages with absolute clarity. Relevance is essential, so as long as you’re accurate, you’re free to mould your CV around the job description. This involves work as you need to find out as much as possible about your prospective new employer through word of mouth and online research. However, it will improve your chances of getting a positive response.

Think carefully about every potential recipient of your CV. How helpful will each person be to your cause? Everyone who decides to move you along the recruitment process is taking a risk, so make it easy for them. What is your target employer really looking for? Make it easy for them to tick all of their boxes when looking at your CV and application form so that you can get through to interview and tell your whole story!

Recruiters will look at the last CV that they have on file so, if you are looking or just thinking about it, make sure that you update the copy of your CV that they have on their files.

Get people you trust to look at your CV. Ask them if it really sounds like you and whether you’ve kept it on message and stripped out unnecessary or extraneous information.

Your CV is the story of your life. By its nature, it will always grow, never shrink. However, aim to keep it at no more than two sides of A4 if you are at the start of your career and four if you are senior by pruning older information down to the basics and making room for your more recent achievements. That said, keep the older information to hand – you never know when it may prove valuable in the future.

Make sure that you put a short summary of who you are and what you want at the top of the document and then follow it with the most relevant content first - not where you went to school!

Conclusion

In most cases, your CV is your first impression on a potential employer. Get it right and the chances are you’ll get an interview. Get it wrong and it’ll end up in Deleted Items. Have your CV 95% ready, so when a great opportunity arises, you just need to tweak it for that specific role. Choose your words carefully, so it makes an immediate impact and reflects the real you. Also, avoid going over two sides of A4 in length if you are at the start of your career and four if you are senior.