Practical advice for a winning CV
Getting your foot in the door of a company and securing an interview can be a tough ask. Employers spend on average between six and seven seconds looking at CVs and resumes.
So, how can you make a great impressions and use those crucial seconds to your advantage? Here are some top tips to help maximise your chances, provided by our very own experts here at Student Beans.
1. Be clear on the objective
First and foremost, take a step back. It’s too easy to tie yourself in knots and think your CV needs to be so good that it has to get you a job.
The CV is there to get you an interview. Break up the daunting process of landing that dream job by compartmentalising each stage.
The first stage is to get in the door, using a purpose built CV that can attract the employer’s attention. Once you’ve secured the interview, you can then focus on the next stage. So, think as you write your CV – how does this fit the job spec and secure an interview?
2. Get to the point
We all know how competitive the job market can be. Employers can be looking through an average of 250 CVs per job advert, so it’s vital that you can cut to the chase. To do this, ensure you speak directly to the job specification requirements and how you satisfy them- and make sure you use the same phrasing.
3. Layout is everything- remember the F word(s)
So we’ve established two key things. Employers see a lot of CVs, and they don’t spend very long reading them. This means you need to structure your CV in a way that makes it crystal clear to recruiters.
The ‘F Pattern’ describes the most common user eye-scanning patterns when it comes to reading content and it looks like this:
Using the above image as a reference point. Ensure you focus on points 1, 2, 3 and 4 to get across the most key points of your CV. Broadly speaking, the initial yardstick employers work against is your experience. Ensure you start addressing the job specification through relevant and transferable experience no later than at point 3.
According to a 2012 study by theladders.com, over 80% of time spent looking at CVs concentrate on the following points:
- Current title / company,
- Previous company title
- Previous position start and end dates
- Current position start and end dates
Prioritise these before any extra information such as hobbies, interests and profile.
4. Remember, the devil is in the detail
If you have a rush of blood to the head and think putting a headshot in will help – stop! 88% of job applications get automatically rejected due to having a photo on them. Just as alarmingly, 76% get rejected due to an unprofessional email address. Ensure you have someone proofread your CV for errors as just one could lead to it being rejected.
Additionally, keep an eye on the small things:
- Font – keep it simple and consistent. Something like Arial or Calibri.
- Dating and naming conventions – stick to one (such as mm/yyyy) throughout.
- Spacing – 1.15 gives a little extra room for white space and therefore greater readability.
- File format – unless otherwise requested, save and share in a PDF format.
- File name – Yep, even the file name matters! Keep it simple: JohnSmithCV / John_Smith_CV. Avoid versions, or just “CV” as the filename.
5. Remove any opportunity for unconscious bias
Putting the following information on your CV can sometimes lead to unconscious bias. You can minimise this risk by excluding:
- Your date of birth and education years (as employers can age you from this)
- Your specific address (in case employers assume you don’t live near enough. Keep your location broad such as nearest big city)
- Nationality / ethnicity
- Anything related to marriage / family status
6. Be accurate. Be concise
The days of ‘no more than two pages’ are over. Today, the challenge is keep it to one page. To do this, make sure you fill your CV with relevant, role specific content. If you’re struggling to fit everything onto one page, consider how relevant your content is for the job specification. Be ruthless – if it’s not relevant, delete it.
7. Show your transferable skills
Transferable skills can be a great way to showcase your suitability for a job if you don’t have any direct experience. Dig deep and think about examples where you’ve:
- Led a team (such as a university project or in sports)
- Organised yourself across multiple projects and deadlines
- Solved a significant problem
As ever, keep it relevant to the job you’re applying for!
If you feel like you are missing out on any of these skills, why not take part in a professional development programme? Check out our blog on the best transferable skills and the courses to help you hone them.
Good luck with the applications!