Job hunting is now more complex than ever before. Advertised job vacancies receive hundreds, if not thousands, of individual applications, making it almost impossible for hiring managers to physically sift through a pile of CVs to find the right candidate. Last summer, research from CV-Library showed that over 4,200 applicants applied for an entry-level trainee paralegal job role, while a further 3,300 people applied for an HR assistant job opportunity. This confirms that competition is fiercer than ever before, so if you want to improve your chances of getting hired, you need to have a competition-beating CV that stands out from the crowd.
What are recruiters looking for in a CV?
Writing a great CV is an underrated skill. Knowing how to highlight your attributes and your experience concisely, while still capturing a recruiter’s attention, is something that takes practice and hard work. There are numerous resources online (including the Warwick Careers Blog) to help you develop a successful CV, but trends are changing, and new skills are emerging as must-haves.
Employers are looking to find someone with the perfect match for their requirements. They want to find a candidate with the skills they need, the experience to back up their claims, and a personality that would fit in seamlessly with their existing team. In fact, many companies take a personality-first approach to their recruitment processes, believing that it’s more important to hire for personality rather than skill.
Recruiter.com says: “Entry-level positions are often good places to hire based on personality. A candidate who fits with the culture and has the drive to learn and gain experience is likely to become the kind of employee who develops alongside your company. You’re not just filling a low-level seat: You’re investing in the future of your business.“
With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to ditch the meaningless cliches and buzzwords and focus your attention on letting your personality shine through when writing your CV. It’s an approach that could help you to write a competition-beating CV and give an employer a reason to give you a chance.
How to Write a competition-beating CV
There are many different ways to write a CV. Some people choose to write an experience-led CV. Others prefer to take a chronological approach. Some people, especially those working in creative industries, are turning to design-led and even video-led CVs in a bid to capture a recruiter’s attention. It is clear that with thousands of applications for each job opening, hiring managers are physically incapable of reviewing every single CV in-depth. It’s why many are turning to automation and HR tools to streamline the process and filter applications according to set parameters. If you want to give yourself the best chance of success, here are some practical tips for how you can write a CV that beats all of the competition out of the water.
Pay attention to the company
You should always tailor your CV to the company that you want to work for. This means paying close attention to the job description and researching the company values. Ensure that you cross-reference your CV so that you highlight the skills they want and that you mention personality traits that match their corporate culture. You could use Venn diagrams to map out any apparent similarities between you/your skills and the company/its needs. This simple technique will allow you to identify the attributes you should include in your CV.
Consider your formatting
It takes just 7.4 seconds to make an impression with your CV. Therefore, you need to pay attention to every little detail if you wish to make a good impression on a recruiter.
When formatting your CV, why not consider how it looks visually?
- Does it look professional?
- Is the most recent (and relevant) information at the top of the page?
- Are you using a professional, easy-to-read font?
- Can it be easily scanned and uploaded into the recruiters’ preferred system?
- Have you used bullet points/bold formatting to highlight key attributes?
A top design tip is to think about your use of white space. Don’t be tempted to fill the entire page with text – having space around your key achievements will visually draw the eye in and capture a recruiter’s attention.
Keywords are crucial
We briefly mentioned that recruiters are increasingly using automated software to filter through applications. It will help you if you assume that your potential employer uses some form of applicant tracking system to reduce the volume of applications. To ensure that your CV passes through the filter, refer back to the job description to confirm what keywords and phrases are used. Try to replicate this language and terminology within your own CV. This will mean that there is an immediate match between the job advert and your CV. It will ensure that the pre-set automated filters pass your CV into the ‘yes’ pile.
Your CV should tell a story
To capture a recruiter’s imagination, you need to sell your story. They want to know who you are, where you’ve come from, and what you can do for them. This is a tricky task – how can you do this when you also need to be factual and concise? To do this, you need to start by having an opening professional objective at the top of your CV. It should explain who you are and why the recruiter should continue reading your CV. Within one or two sentences, you should highlight what role you are looking for and what skills you have that make you stand out from others. For example, someone applying for a graduate marketing job could write something such as:
‘I am a resilient and resourceful marketing graduate looking for an opportunity to work creatively as part of a team. I am organised and enthusiastic, and my niche lies in data analytics, allowing me to identify new trends and make informed strategic business decisions.’
In just two sentences, this personal statement provides more insight into who you are as a candidate and explains why a recruiter may be keen to find out more about you.
Don’t be afraid to show your personality
Recruiters will be skim reading hundreds of CVs, and many of these will all follow a similar pattern. They may use the same format and include the exact phrasing that has been used for generations. As we mentioned earlier, recruiters are increasingly taking a personality-first approach to hiring. Recruitment is an expensive business, and they need to feel confident that any person they hire will seamlessly fit into their internal teams. This is why personality tests have become a mainstream element of any recruitment campaign. Within your CV, don’t be afraid to show your personality. Use a conversational tone of voice, and reference yourself (‘I’) within your statements. Think about whether a complete stranger would get an accurate picture of who you are and how you like to work.
- What are your talents and your accomplishments?
- What are the things that motivate you to succeed?
You should have the confidence to talk about who you are and give recruiters an immediate reason to believe that you will fit in quickly and easily, with an ability to get on with the job at hand. Forbes.com has published a helpful guide that explains how you can show your personality within your CV.
Back up your claims
Finally, make sure you show what you are capable of using specific examples. Try to quantify your previous experience by explaining the impact you had on the company. Your CV should be more than what you have done – it should go further and explain how those actions positively impacted the business. For example, if you are applying for a PR position, you may be tempted to say ‘I was responsible for raising a client’s profile within target media.’ However, you could elaborate on this and replace it with: ‘I built relationships with key media including [title name], which resulted in xx numbers of interviews and xx numbers of media clippings. As a direct result, referrals to the clients’ website increased by xx.’
As you can see, by quantifying the metrics and elaborating on what you did, the statement provides a ‘wow factor’ and will give the recruiter a reason to want to find out what you can do for them.
It’s clear that a templated CV that is merely ‘topped and tailed’ isn’t going to be enough to help you beat the competition. Your CV needs to demonstrate your passion and your excitement to work for this specific company. The more time you spend crafting a CV that matches a recruiter’s wants and needs, the better your chances of success.