At VIQU we believe everyone can use a little help with their CV, especially if you’re pursuing a career in a highly technical field. Your CV is likely to be the first time a prospective client will have seen a representation of you and your experience. Getting your CV right can be the difference between getting access to your ideal opportunity, or being just one of the crowd.
We have developed ten VIQU tips that can help YOU optimise your CV in order to secure interest from your next employer, and hopefully that crucial interview.
1. Understand attention spans
Keep in mind that people will often read a CV about halfway down the page/screen before deciding if they are going to continue reading, save it for later or hit the delete button. Make sure you grab their attention…anything marketable about you should be in the top third of the resume.
2. Make it an appropriate length
The optimal length of the CV will depend on your experience. Some might say a person with a single year’s experience and a four-page CV is excessive, as is a person with ten years’ experience and a one page CV. Be concise and ideally try to fit your CV into three pages. Need to cut down? You don’t need an objective, it’s a waste of precious space, unless you are a career changer. VIQU’s record was a 34 page CV, we helped reduce it to 3.5 pages!
3. General summaries bad, technical summaries good
General summaries can help if used sparingly and appropriately. Technical summaries are more helpful, because the first person reading your CV could be non-technical and only knowledgeable enough to look for keywords. However, there should not be a laundry list of every technology you have ever heard about.
4. Dates matter
Be clear about your dates of employment. Most companies want to see months, not just years — especially if you have some jumps or if you are currently unemployed (i.e. they want to see how long you have been out of work/the industry). It’s better to be upfront than to make them guess. VIQU has unfortunately experienced job offers being withdrawn by clients when background checks don’t tally to the candidate’s CV.
5. Highlight accomplishments, not just job functions
The descriptions of your positions should ideally be a mix of a broad overview and specific accomplishments/achievements. That way, clients will know what you did day-to-day, but also what effect your activities had on the overall company or department. What did you do to add extra value in your last role?
6. Quality writing still matters
Long-winded paragraphs or bullets are mind numbing, but short choppy sentences can appear simplistic. The ideal CV should have a combination of short paragraphs and bullets — or even just bullets. If you opt for bullets, combine related activities into one bullet where appropriate, to save room.
7. Use action verbs
The most overused phrases on CVs are “responsible for” or “participated in.” It’s hard to know if you were just a bystander or a true contributor or even a leader on a project. It’s okay to use these terms once or twice, but it’s much better to use something like “managed,” “completed,” “administered,” “developed,” etc. If you are having trouble coming up with action verbs, a thesaurus should be your new best friend.
8. There are no rules about education placement
Education placement is variable. If you went to a particularly good school, have an advanced degree or have a very relevant degree to the types of roles you are pursuing, then it might be worth putting at the top, but it’s okay for education to be at the bottom, too.
The same applies for certifications — but if you have many, then it might consume too much space at the top. Assuming your CV has the experience to back up the certifications, your prospective employer will be intrigued enough to get to them at the end.
9. People are not that interested in interests
The ubiquitous “Interests” section isn’t really necessary; however, if there’s something you are particularly proud of and it’s short, then feel free to include it at the end of your CV. There is always the possibility that when you put “competitive running” on your CV that the person reading it is a marathoner and gives you an interview for that reason. However, you should exclude any activities that could be seen as overly political or offensive.
10. Be prepared with a versatile CV template
Sometimes it’s valuable to have more than one version of your CV. For example, if your background could be applicable to manager or individual contributor positions, you don’t want to scare someone off with a heavy manager CV for a contributor role or vice versa. However, you should not make yourself crazy writing a new CV for every position that comes up (an especially tempting habit if you are unemployed).
You should develop a CV template you feel comfortable with, and then make minor tweaks if necessary. Also, be sure to update your CV annually to avoid having to revamp it in a panic when you really need it.
Most of all, keep it relevant for the role you’re applying to (obviously keeping within the boundaries of truth).
If you have a LinkedIn profile, make sure the content of your profile matches the information in your CV.
For further advice, and perhaps a second opinion, please call the VIQU team on 0121 227 8200. You can also say hello on VIQU Chat or contact us here.