Whenever you apply for a job, you know there’s always going to be one thing that you need: a great CV.
A potential employer is looking at your CV for only one thing. To see if and why it proves you’re the best candidate for the job. Essentially, along with your covering letter, it’s a sales pitch. This is your chance to tell employers why they should pick you and no one else. You want your CV to be a glittering, stand-out account of everything you've achieved.
YOU WANT TO BE NOTICED.
But here’s the thing. Lately, I've noticed people have been jazzing up the design of their CVs to make them look different. You can even buy CV templates! Now it’s great to want to make it look amazing.
But will an employer hire you just because something looks good?
To make a strong impression, you've got to stand out. But there are things an employer will be looking for in your CV and if they’re not there, you won’t tick that box.
So today, I'm going to go through seven basics that you need to include in your CV and a few other things to look out for. Let’s get going!
I know you’re not stupid, but hear me out. When someone submits a covering letter and attaches their CV, they think that because they've got their name in their covering letter, they’re OK. And they don’t put it on their CV.
This is an example of what not to do.
Believe me, I've seen CV’s like this. Who’s to say they’ll remember your name from an email?
The advice I've always gone by is to put your name everywhere. So put your name at the top of your CV in big bold letters.
You don’t just have to put your name. Oh no. Here’s a little trick I've got for you…
Take a look. Notice how I've put my field of work next to my name? That’s what you do to make yourself stand out. And the best thing is, you can tailor it for each job that you apply for. If I was a Graphic Designer, I’d put “Holly Sutton : Graphic Designer”. If I was a Small Business Coach, I’d put “Holly Sutton: Small Business Coach”. See how it works? That’s what will make you stand out.
Now don’t go spreading that secret everywhere. That’s just for you ;)
Just like your blog and social media platforms, people want to be able to match a face to the name. So I’d say definitely put a photo on your CV.
This is also a personal choice. Some of you might be thinking, no way – and that’s fine. But I just wanted to clear something up.
I read somewhere that candidates face an 80% job rejection rate if they include a photo on their CV. This is enough to instantly believe that you shouldn't include one.
But for all the jobs I've applied for, my CV included a picture. And I got every single one that I went for.
So sometimes, it’s always worth not believing everything you read.
Your Contact Details – including an email address
Your address, phone numbers and especially an email address are vital things to put on your CV. This is so any interested employers can contact you easily without any hassle.
It’s also important to put these at the top of your CV. Think about yourself when you’re searching for information. You want to find it immediately, right? If your contact details are at the end of your CV, is that making it easy for potential employers to find them?
But if you include these details at the top of your CV, you’re making it easy for employers to get in touch with you. And you’re also showing that you've got common sense, which is means more than you know.
Social Media & Blog Links
This is even more important if you’re applying for a digital or writing role. Some people chose not to have social media accounts or a blog, and that’s fine. Just prepare an answer in case you’re asked “why not?”
But if you’re like me, you want to include your most important social links on there and your blog link too. That way, when you send your CV to a potential employer as a PDF, they can click on the live link straight away. It’s all about keeping up with modern technology, and you want to show you’re ahead of the game.
Think of how many amazing skills you’ll have picked up over the years. In every single experience you have you develop your existing skills but you also gain a whole set of new ones. If you put these into an opening paragraph that instantly grabs someone’s attention you’ll stand out for all the right reasons.
Include everything you can think of, every IT Programme you've used (e.g. Photoshop), any foreign languages you've learnt, and any other special skills you've got. Anything that you think will make you stand out.
Here are some examples of what I've put on mine:
“Social media management, strategies and promotion, creating content, content strategy, marketing, e-commerce, storytelling, digital media, editing, web content, news writing, copywriting, social networking, blogging, design, photography and feature writing. Fluent with SEO, InDesign, Photoshop, Microsoft Office and a variety of content management systems. I also have six NCTJ qualifications including proofreading, editing and achieving 100 words per minute in shorthand.”
Your Professional Experience – In Chronological Order
Now here’s the important part. You must must must must MUST put all your professional experience on there. Simple. This is what a potential employer needs to see to know if you've got the relevant experience for the job.
I know when some companies shortlist, they’ll have three boxes to tick. As they’re looking through your CV, they’ll dig deep into your experience and tick one of these boxes to see how you match the experience needed:
- Don’t meet
That’s how they shortlist.
Scary how it can come down to a tick of a box, isn't it?
List your most recent position first and then continue from there. You want to put when you worked there from and till, what your title was and the company you worked for. Then include a short paragraph underneath (no more than four or five lines) to describe what your responsibilities and achievements were. This means an employer looking through your CV can quickly match up your experience with what they need.
Again, this should be in chronological order. Now, I used to just list everything. But here’s another trick for you.
Usually, your current or most recent qualification will be the most important. So here’s what you do. Split education up into “Recent Education" and “Other Education.” That way you can expand in a bit more detail about what you actually did.
So for me, in “Recent Education”, I include my Masters degree and a brief description about what I did on the course.
Then in “Other Education” I list my other education from most recent to least recent. So it goes from my qualification in Copywriting, to my degree, to my A Levels, to my GCSEs. For each one, I include the date I was in that form of education from and to, what I achieved and where I achieved those qualifications at.
You may not think some of your qualifications are relevant to the job you’re applying for. But they’re still important things an employer wants to see.
It’s a sales pitch, right? So just like you’d include the best features of a product, you want to include the best features of you.
Now your CV shouldn’t be any longer than two sides of A4. So depending on how much room you’ve got depends on how many achievements you put. I narrowed mine down to two main ones. The fewer you list, the more impressive they seem. They could be awards (both of mine are), qualifications, promotions, leadership. Basically, anything you feel is a huge achievement to you.
This is also a good place to put that you've got a full clean UK driving licence if you've got one!
I don’t know if you know this, but you don’t actually have to list your referees on your CV. All you have to put is “References available on request".
The likelihood is, you’ll be asked for one or two references.
You also don’t need to use the same references all the time. It’s best to choose references for each job that you’re confident will give you positive remarks. If these are the same two all the time, then great! But always ask if they can act as a referee for you so you know they’ll be easily contactable by potential employers.
Here’s a few final things to remember:
Check, check and double check for spelling and grammar errors
Don’t feel the need to “jazz up” your CV with different colours or lots of images
Don’t overuse bold or italic
Use a simple font – nothing too out there
Don’t use text speak or abbreviations
Make sure your font size isn't too big or too small – 11 or 12 is best practice
And that’s it! So if your CV looks good and you've got all the basics in there, then you’ll definitely be in with a chance.
Plus, look out for a comprehensive guide soon which will give you step-by-step instructions on how to create the best CV ever.
Do you make sure you include all these basics in your CV? Is there anything else important that you include? Let us know in the comments