The GRL Blog

Six simple steps to an impactful CV

In a candidate driven market, YOU need to stand out from other, similarly excellent candidates, but how?

Our expert consultants continuously sift through many thousands of CV’s for our roles, often receiving many hundreds of applications.

Whether you are applying directly to a small or large firm, or through an agency, your CV will always be screened for suitability. So how can you make sure your CV makes an impact and gets passed the screener?

Getting the format right

Always debated, but it MUST be fit for purpose. As ridiculous as it sounds if you are applying for an HR role and have experience in HR, but don’t put heavy emphasis on your HR strengths and experience, it’s game over, don’t assume the screener will work it out! In fact, don’t assume anything from the impersonal process of screening.

Personal statement: Write a short (3-5 line) description of you (in a professional / business sense of course), well written, it will reflect personality, and describe briefly why you are suitable for this role and why I should read on (think a synopsis of a book enticing you to buy it). Getting this section just right is particularly important when applying to an industry that you haven’t previously worked in.

Skills, attributes and key achievements: Possibly the most important section of your CV. Think about this carefully, be honest, perhaps only list skills and traits that have been said about you (in a past appraisal for example). CV’s listing thirty key skills with just 6 months’ experience as an office junior are wholly unrealistic!! If you have been working for a while, you will have numerous key achievements. The handful you list should bear direct relevance to the job description (JD) for the role you are applying for.

Work experience: Always list the most recent first. Dates should include the months. 2015-2016 could, in fact, be just two weeks but could also be almost two years! Do not list half a page on a 6-month largely irrelevant (to your application) role you had 15 years ago and just 6 lines of a four-year post identical to the one you are applying for. Always think “relevance and recent”. You should have a line under the company name telling the reader what type of business it is. Jackson LLP, for instance, means nothing and the screener will not have the time to look it up. The nature of Jackson’s business could, however, be totally relevant – sell the environment and highlight its strengths.

Qualifications, memberships: Again, most recent first, also list relevant courses that you have attended, – if the course qualification has expired, it’s likely to be irrelevant.

Interests: Some consider listing interests as tacky or unprofessional and many candidates leave this out, don’t! It adds personality and can highlight what makes you tick. In most processes, as well as appropriate skills, clients want to ensure the right ‘fit’ – placing almost as much emphasis on personality as relevant experience.

References: Where possible, offer client as well as the standard employer/personal references. Particularly useful when applying for a client facing role.

  • If there are gaps in your dates of employment, explain them. Career break? Further Education? Travelling? Taking care of someone? list it. It happens to the best of us, you have nothing to hide, but don’t give the screener the opportunity to draw conclusions.
  • Name your CV document “Name Surname CV Month Year.doc”. – PDF always looks smarter.
  • Do not add a photo, unless one is requested, which is unlikely.
  • Do not use a bright colour font anywhere in your doc (especially red), the same applies for fancy fonts or layouts. Keep it simple.At what point during the process is your CV considered relevant/not relevant?

At what point during the process is your CV considered relevant/not relevant?

  • Will the screener find enough relevance to this role on the first half page? If it’s not quickly evident that you have the required experience in years, industry, skills or job criteria, it’s likely you won’t make stage two of the process.
  • Typos / formatting issues? Most programs have auto spell check, and underline errors in red for you. With so many good candidates to select from, an eye for detail is imperative, so if there are obvious errors, your CV will quickly end up in the “no” pile. More companies than ever now use screening software (not GRL Legal), which searches for key words as well as identifying errors, meaning it might be over before its even begun.
  • Applying for 100 jobs a week? Nothing wrong with this, but the reader must think you are applying for, and are particularly enthused by, the opportunity this role presents. So, personalise it.

Keep it simple but take the time to do it properly to give yourself the best chance. After all, the intention is to be seen in person so you can impress the panel and give them no choice but to add you to their shortlist.

This is the first in a short series of blogs to assist candidates and employers in the process of securing the right job/hire. Please follow our LinkedIn company page to ensure you get the most up to date content from GRL.

GRL offers one-on-one career coaching, CV reviews and interview training.

Paul Reece
Business Development Director

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