A big overhaul of your CV isn’t always necessary or even possible, especially when you’re still working at your current job and basically looking for the next opportunity in your spare time. Luckily, a few clever tweaks can be all it takes to turn an average CV into a sparkling one.
Cater your CV to the job advert
In this day and age, many recruiters use software to ‘read’ CVs and cover letters, and the computer technology will be looking for the kind of words used in the original job advert. Even if you’re lucky enough to have your application read by a human, it still pays to feed those essential words and phrases back so that person knows you understand what’s involved, and that you’re tailoring your CV to their needs. Anna Davies, Get the Gloss expert, recommends not being too wordy so those keywords really stand out.
Firstly, re-read the job advert and pick out the words that are most important: these will usually be spread across the main description of your duties, and the ‘essential requirements’ section saying what you need to bring to the role.
Just remember to put the keywords in the right context, and not just stuff them into your CV for the sake of it. Match the keyword to the most relevant part of your CV, so ‘data handling’ goes with your temping experience as a receptionist, and ‘presentations’ are mentioned in the education section, when talking about your degree course. Aside from what you’ve written, why not save your CV document with the job title included? So ‘Joe Bloggs CV’ becomes ‘Joe Bloggs Sales Team Leader CV’. Again, this tells the person opening your application that you’ve tailored it to their vacancy, and you aren’t just sending a one-size- fits- all document to anyone and everyone.
Quantify your statements
Blair Decembrele, a careers expert at LinkedIn, told CBS News that job hunters should ‘consider using metrics that can help quantify your skills’. In plain English, this means putting figures to the big claims you make. So, when you say you increased average monthly sales in your retail job, you could back this up with a percentage.
If you boosted those average sales by 25%, or maybe you streamlined a process in the stockroom to get something done in half the usual time, why not shout about it? An exact figure sounds much better than making some vague statement.
You might not have had a glamorous or high-powered job, but if you were named ‘Employee of the Month’ four times in a year, that says loads about your work ethic. Similarly, let’s say you managed a major project after just three months in a new role: your future employer would want to know about it, especially as it sounds more impressive than just writing ‘project management experience’ on your CV.
Refine your hobbies
The hobbies part of your CV is a tough one – some people think it shouldn’t be included at all, but evidence shows that some recruiters use the hobbies section to find out about your character, as Business Insider reported earlier this year.
Hopefully you have some kind of hobby or interest that’s worth reading about, and one that you’d be okay to discuss in a job interview if it came up in conversation. That means ‘watching box-sets’ is out, because it’s way too unremarkable, but rock climbing or up-cycling furniture is fine, because those hobbies involve developing skills as you go, and those skills could be transferred to your next role.
Your hobby could also be a good way to answer tricky interview questions, but if you haven’t mentioned it on your CV then it may be a bit late to suddenly bring up a love of rock climbing at the last minute…
Is your ‘experience’ or ‘employment’ section looking a bit thin? You could boost it with some voluntary work. This doesn’t have to be a weekly commitment; there are loads of ways to volunteer for events in your community, like helping with a local outdoor clean-up a few times a year (sometimes called a ‘green gym’), or joining a charity fundraising drive at Christmas. Find opportunities posted online and in local papers, or just contact a company directly to offer your help.
If you do set aside a regular block of time for volunteer work, this can make your CV stand out against the competition, particularly if the voluntary work relates to the job vacancy – for example, if you’re applying for a publishing or marketing job, and you’ve helped at your local charity bookshop. Those everyday tasks you took on, like creating window displays or sorting donations, could be really relevant to your career move.
As well as being great experience, and a good chance to pick up a referee for future job applications, volunteering makes you feel good, keeps you active and gives something back to the community. It’s a win-win situation. Volunteer Scotland found that only 27% of adults aged 25-34 are volunteers, so your input could really make a difference.
Polly Allen is a writer at Inspiring Interns, which offers up-to- date graduate careers advice, and a graduate recruitment agency to source your ideal internship. Use their graduate jobs listings to find the newest roles.