While your CV used to be an extensive biography – listing your complete working history in full detail – that won’t do the job in the current market anymore. The digital age completely changed the recruitment industry.
Today, duplicating your CV is as simple as copy and paste, which is why everybody is doing that… recruiters are being flooded by digital CVs! Recruiters don’t read your CV in the first round anymore. They scan. In other words… your first impression is more important than ever. You have to stand out. Fortunately, there are some simple strategies that will do exactly that.
Rule #1: Realise… the CV is not about you
I have seen so many people enthusiastically starting their CV with ‘I am a hardworking, motivated individual that is looking for a challenging position in […]’. The mistake? It says nothing and with that single sentence, you are exactly like everybody else and lost your authenticity.
Today, everyone is ‘hard-working’ and ‘motivated’ (and ‘flexible’). When I read that sentence, I literally think: ‘Oh, here we have another hard-worker.’ The terminology is way overused and you know what… what does that even mean!?
Remove these vague statements/opinions at all times and SHOW the recruiter that you are hardworking by listing all your achievements.
Your CV used to be your biography, but in today’s job market, you should change that CV perspective. Write your CV solely about what THEY are looking for. Stand out by thinking about THEM.
You see… the recruiters’ job is simple; finding the best possible candidate and making sure that that candidate is a SAFE CHOICE. He is looking for skills, achievements and relevant knowledge that proves that you will be able to do the job. Your job is simple. List everything the recruiter is looking for, making you that safe choice!
Don’t waste valuable CV space with writing what YOU want. Focus only on the key aspects that will make you an interesting candidate. And then, in the interview, you can talk all about yourself and figure out if you are a match.
Rule #2: Be the specialist, not the generalist
Would you hire a common doctor of a specialised (expensive) brain surgeon when you need brain surgery? I thought so… and so are recruiters.
Often, the company has an open position because of a specific problem. You need to figure out what that is and be the SPECIFIC solution to that problem. Meaning, if their job is all about email optimisation; they are not that interested in ‘just’ a marketer; stand out by being the ‘psychological email marketer’, and write all your relevant achievements/projects towards these key differentiating aspects.
One more example of being the specialist instead of the generalist is with the skills section. I have seen so many candidates, making endless lists of their skills or responsibilities, losing focus of what they are and thus becoming ‘no one’ in that massive CV pile. You should pick the 5 most important skills and stick with them; in fact, make them the red line throughout your CV and you will be instantly perceived as the expert in those areas!
Rule #3: Use a standout CV design
Imagine the recruiter looking at the 50th CV of the day, all looking the same, and then there is your CV that is designed for the first impression. My secret? Include a sidebar in your CV and use this space to highlight your greatest value to the company. This could be either skills, achievements or smart interests/motivation.
Including a sidebar has a psychological benefit as it will stand out in the first few critical seconds, setting the context of the rest of your CV. Meaning… if you highlight how you have the right skills, the recruiter will unconsciously look for confirmation of those highlighted skills in the rest of your CV. You can choose where the recruiter will focus on!
Furthermore, including eye-catching items like skill-indicators or a work-experience timeline will automatically draw the attention of the recruiter, making sure he can’t ignore you.
Tip: While these items might be hard to create in a text editor. The online cv builder cv-template.com is specialised in stand-out CV designs. Just follow the CV format and you will have a professional-looking CV in a matter of minutes (every CV format supports this clever sidebarstrategy).
Rule #4: Include Stories in your CV
Humans love stories. In fact, after hearing a resonating story, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, literally boosting emotions like trust and empty. Meaning… instead of being ‘just a candidate’, you can make an emotional connection with the recruiter. Simply by writing appealing stories in your CV.
You might already know that including bullet points in your work experience descriptions improve readability. But you can take these bullets to the next level, converting them into complete ministories that arouses curiosity. (And give you amazing speak material during the job interview!).
The purpose of these story-bullets is not to explain the full story. You should create just enough curiosity to make you an interesting candidate, and thus getting you that ticket to the interview. It’s simple; explain in a 2-3 sentence what you did, what the result was, and a little about the context. Moreover, make the story specific (using exact numbers & percentages) to improve trustworthiness and memory retention.
An example of a bullet point could be; “Increased online conversion in 2 months with 26%, from 1200 to 1512 customers per month, by optimising headlines, bullet points and call to actions.”
Specific, interesting and to the point!
Rule #5: Let every word add value
You might have heard this one before. But still… on average 50-60% of the words on a CV doesn’t have to be there! They take up valuable space but even worse, they actually harm your chances; because either you don’t know how to write a CV or you don’t have anything better to show!
Make sure your sentences are as compact as possible. Remove useless details and focus solely on the most important aspects. And, at all times, avoid vague words like ‘many’, ‘considerably’ or ‘a lot’ – be specific!
As a final check, go through your CV one last time and ask yourself ‘does every word add value’? Are the main keywords there?
After that, look at the readability of the CV design. Have you broken up large text blocks to make it more inviting to start reading? Are you using the same styling consistently throughout your CV? (My CV builder does this for you). And… are all the asked requirements there?
Finally, use the free tool Grammarly to check the spelling and off you go – having increased your chances drastically! Take 2 hours to optimise your CV and your job search will be so much easier. You won’t regret it.
Author: Wouter Lenting
Wouter is the founder of the free CV builder CV-Template, a tool that allows everyone to create a professionally designed CV with ease. With over 350,000 CVs created, the tool has become a leading CV maker online.