Query: I have been working as a department head in the same advertising agency for the past eight years. However, the New Year has made me examine my career and where I want to be eight years from now. I thought this would be a good time to get myself back out into the jobs market and am confident that I would impress at interviews. My one big issue is that my CV is so out of date I am afraid that it won’t stand out enough to get me the interview in the first place. How can I update my CV and make it shine?
Answer: Congratulations on deciding to take the plunge and get back into the job market. While you need a wider plan to progress your career, it is vital that your CV is well-structured and current, so updating it is the starting point for a job search.
However, you need to bear in mind that hiring managers don’t have the time to go through your CV to find that spark or the right information. If they don’t find it in 20-30 seconds, they will just move on to the next one – and you could miss out. Your CV needs to be clear, easy to read and all the key data must be easy to find.
You should declutter your CV and tailor it for specific jobs. My advice would be to save a generic CV and when you come across the perfect job opportunity for you, you can quickly tailor it to highlight relevant skills and experience that suit the job being advertised.
As a recruiter, I have seen many CVs over the years. For me, the ideal format is one that is easy to read, with clear headings and no unusual graphics. Your generic CV should contain your personal details, introduction/personal profile, education, employment history, skills, etc. You can then customise it to highlight your relevant skills. Many CVs which have been sitting on a laptop for five to 10 years will need some decluttering before being sent to prospective employers. Here are my top tips for decluttering your CV:
- Keep it simple. Most companies now want you to upload CVs. Usually, these systems don’t like elaborate graphics, text boxes or photos;
- Keep it clear. Word is the best format to use and PDF should be avoided. I would use Calibri or Arial font in size 11. Use a bold font for headings, but avoid using italics;
- Ensure your contact details are correct;
- Be brief. Ideally, a CV should be no more than 2-3 pages long. You want recruiters/hiring managers to get all the facts at a glance;
- Structure it correctly. Avoid putting large indents in text, as this wastes valuable space. Bullet points for responsibilities/achievements are ideal. Clear headings help it flow better;
- Avoid spelling/grammar mistakes. The best way to do this is to read it first for meaning and a second time for mistakes. It is always good to get a friend to proofread your CV.
Tailoring your CV
Making your CV as relevant as possible to the job advertised is vital if you are to earn yourself an interview. Sending the same CV out for every job you apply for just doesn’t work. It’s important to customise your CV, highlighting skills and experience that are applicable to the job you are applying for. Here are my top tips for tailoring your CV:
- Read the job spec in detail. Print out the job description and read it thoroughly to identify particular skills, experience or personal characteristics that the hiring manager is looking for. Write down what you feel is important.
- List your skills and experience relevant to the role. Cross-check against what you have identified in the job spec. The list you come up with is what’s going to make your CV stand out.
- Customise your CV. Make the most important skills and achievements stand out. The hiring manager may just scan down through CVs looking for keywords. It’s important that these keywords are well positioned on your CV and match skills/requirements in the job advert.
By following these simple tips, you should have a professional, well laid-out CV.
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group
This article was first published in the Sunday Independent on Sunday January 13th 2019, and the original publication can be viewed here.