Did someone say CV?
Isn’t it strange how those two little letters, placed side by side can strike horror into workers everywhere? Update my CV? List my qualifications? Remember all the voluntary work I’ve done? It seems like an enormous effort but if it’s been a while since you were in the market for a new job, chances are your CV will need updating.
Some of you might choose to invest in professional support – there are a lot of CV writing services out there – but if you decide to tackle it yourself, as always Career Mums are here to help. We have hints and tips below to ensure you write a top notch CV. So read on and get ready to beat the competition – all you need to do now is dust off that suit for your interview…
It’s all about the keywords
Did you know that traditional recruitment channels use technology to match CVs with job descriptions? There is a fancy name for it too – automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).
ATS provide a way of filtering large numbers of applicants down to just a few ahead of the interview process. CVs that don’t contain sufficient keywords will be automatically rejected, as well as documents containing tables, logos, or images the software doesn’t recognise.
So, getting those keywords in is paramount and a key reason you need to update your CV for specific jobs – there’s little point talking extensively about your experience in catering if you’re going for a job in a zoo (unless you’re going for a job in the zoo restaurant of course…). Make sure you accurately reference skills related to the position you’re applying for and use ATS to your advantage.
It’s not just technology that filter CV’s quickly – humans do it too. Any obvious errors or unexplained gaps and your CV won’t even make it onto the boss’s desk. A recruiter wants the best possible candidate to jump headlong into the vacant role and hit the ground running as soon as possible. That’s often how traditional recruiters achieve their commission targets.
So double, triple, quadruple check your CV before sending and make sure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
Some of us are keen to shout about our achievements from the rooftops whereas others prefer a more reserved approach. Either way, your Executive Summary – (the initial paragraph on your CV and 9 times out of 10 the first part a recruiter will read) – needs to hook the reader in tight and outline exactly why the organisation should hire you.
Scan the job description for key words to include. Attempt to use specific, technical and expertise-based words rather than softer, subjective behavioural traits. Research the common industry terms to highlight your experience and, as always, tailor each CV accordingly.
You said what?
Organised? Check. Planned? Check. Created? Check. Using active verbs at the beginning of a sentence allows you to be specific and are a great way to begin sentences that demonstrate the impact you had in previous roles. Designed, operated, chaired, coordinated – all show exactly how you made a difference and avoiding more general terms such as led and responsible for will help you stand out from the crowd.
A perfect layout
With so many templates to choose from online, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are Career Mums top tips for a perfect CV layout and a summary of the guidelines we found:
- Length: Keep it brief. Never write more than two pages and use a standard font size.
- Style: Always write in the third person. Avoid pronoun where possible.
- Personal details: Include your name, phone number, address and email address. Don’t include your date of birth, a photo, or your marital status as these are likely to be irrelevant. Include a hyperlink to a website or LinkedIn profile rather than the full URL – it’s tidier and more professional.
- Executive Summary: 3 sentences is all you need here. Be concise, offer a brief personal synopsis and summarise why you should be hired. Use key words to reflect the role and include who you are, what you’re offering and what you’re looking for.
- Key Skills: before detailing your work experience, provide a bullet list of key skills. Use key words from the job description ensuring any skills referenced can be backed up with examples of work experience.
- Work experience: list your work experience chronologically, providing sufficient evidence of your ability to do the job. Showcase the most relevant experience. Rather than listing responsibilities, bring your experience to life by briefly telling the story of what you were hired to do and how you added value. Focus on achievements in each role, including facts and figures.
- Other information: include details of your education, qualifications, language skills and any other relevant information. Be wary of what you include as hobbies and interests. Only you need to know you enjoy fire breathing at the weekend.
Taking a break
Sometimes we need a career break. Fact. Recruiters might question why. Fact. Don’t let the fear of explanation put you off, there are loads of valid reasons for taking a step back from work and it’s important not to make a big deal out of it.
Use the term planned career break to explain the gap and list anything you did in this time that might be relevant to the role you’re applying for. Voluntary work, retraining, CPD. Don’t underestimate the value of what you’ve achieved during your break; the desire to learn and grow, as well as helping and supporting others, are valuable assets and any employer will be happy to see them highlighted on a CV.
Summarise any smaller roles by listing collective but relevant achievements. And remember, although you might have taken time off to raise children, it’s important to keep your language professional throughout. Functioning on two hours sleep a night and learning how to negotiate with a toddler mid tantrum might show resilience and perseverance but try to keep your tone of voice and the language you use relevant to your professional application.
Updating your CV requires time and focus. Here are a few more snippets of advice from us to make sure all that effort doesn’t go unrewarded.
- Get some feedback – share an initial draft with someone you trust. If they work in your industry, even better. Be prepared to receive comments nondefensively – there is no such thing as failure, only feedback and they might share some valuable insight. Anything they offer is likely to be subjective so use the constructive parts and don’t dwell on the rest.
- Adapt your CV – we’ve said it before we know. And we don’t mean to nag. But it really is the fundamentally most important thing you can do. Incorporate key words that the recruiters – automated and human – are likely to be looking for and showcase your most relevant work experience on the first page of your CV.
- Update your LinkedIn profile to ensure that it reflects you CV. Consistency is key. Your LinkedIn profile is likely to be more generic but make sure it supports your CV. It’s a great way to sell yourself on a different platform and another opportunity to impress and gain that all important interview.
Good luck! If you find that you’ve applied for a few roles without getting shortlisted for an interview, review your CV again in line with these guidelines and remember we are always here to support you! The Career-Mums team have been assisting working parents in their careers for over 5 years. If you’d like more personalised support to help you land your next role, book your Spotlight on your Career Coaching programme.
For further help and support around juggling life as a busy parent, check out our Working Parents coaching programme.
Join our Career-Mums Club free community on Facebook for regular support and inspiration as a working parent.
Career-Mums is proud to be a social enterprise