You already know that you’re the best candidate for the job, but how do you prove that to an employer? The most difficult part of any job hunt is in demonstrating how your skills and experience match what an employer is looking for, because you only have a CV and cover letter in which to do it. Given that some job posts will attract hundreds of applicants, it’s important for you to do everything possible to avoid the initial cull that will bring the number down to a more manageable size. A survey from the Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland found that 80% of recruiters rejected some CVs almost immediately, whilst describing only 11% of the applications they received as being ‘very good’.
It took me a long time to create and refine my own CV, but the effort eventually paid off. There are two sides to the design of a good CV: the content you choose to include as well as how you decide to present it. Below are some important pieces of advice to consider for each of these. Some of the best CV tips are often the easiest to implement and a small change could mean the difference between instant rejection and a job offer.
The importance of making sure that your CV looks the part can’t be overstated. Whilst some employers may not mind or even notice a minor error or typo, there are definitely people out there (myself included) who will toss your CV aside with little remorse at the first sign of a ‘there/their’ mix-up. Employers often judge a book by its cover – if that cover hasn’t even been spell-checked then it probably isn’t worth reading.
Something else to keep in mind whilst designing your CV is its readability. Employers will be looking to pull specific information from your application, so without a clear structure that allows them to find the relevant sections at a quick glance they may simply give up and move on. Make good use of headings, font sizes, bold and italics, even colours – but don’t overdo it! The last thing an employer will be impressed by is a CV written from top to bottom in fluorescent pink comic sans.â€¨
You might worry that some of your previous work experience won't be of any help in your current job-search, especially if it bears no relevance to the job for which you’re applying. However, if you sell these types of jobs in just the right way, they can still add a large amount of value to a CV.
When it comes to your employment history, focus on actions and achievements rather than duties. If you worked at a cinema, there’s no point in explaining that you sold popcorn – this much is obvious to anyone reading your CV. It’s a lot more effective to describe the transferable skills you used in the role, for example: “I developed my customer service skills by assisting customers with complaints”. It’s a good idea to give two or three bullet-pointed sentences like this one for each job, making sure to use active verbs such as supervising, designing and arranging - these showcase how you applied your strengths and initiative.
Employers can tell when they’ve received a generic CV and cover letter that also went out to 20 other organisations. Make your entire application targeted to each company you approach; this is your chance to show that you’re genuinely interested in working for their company and that you’ve researched and engaged with the job advert they put out. A good cover letter will do this by referring closely to the job specification, and a targeted CV will relate the skills from your employment history to that same job specification. It's startling how few candidates bother to tailor their application to each job they apply for, so this won’t go unnoticed by an employer and could help to put you at the top of the pile.â€¨
So, what is your CV like at the moment? Is it a well-structured demonstration of your transferable skills or an untargeted mess? Every day, Just IT’s career support helps people to improve their applications so that they stand out on an employer’s desk and don't end up in the bin. As IT training and recruitment specialists, we offer free CV consultations for anyone wishing to kick-start their IT career.