Making your CV stand out from the crowd

Jul 01, 2019
On average, each job attracts hundreds of CVs. How do you make yours stand out from the crowd? Having gone through this process a few times, Neil Murphy ACA gives his top tips to help you achieve this. 

According to Glassdoor, each corporate job offer brings in roughly 250 CVs on average. Out of those 250 applications, four to six will get called for an interview and, as we all know, only one will get the job.

So, in an increasingly competitive market, how do you make your CV stand out from the crowd, and more importantly, how do you create an outstanding CV that helps you get called for that interview? 

Oh, the effort...

Chances are a few years back you put a CV together for a summer job. When it came to seeking advice on what to include and how to structure your CV, you will have searched the internet, or may have asked family and friends for their advice. You then probably saved your CV somewhere and haven’t looked at it since. 

Now as you work your way through your ACA exams, it’s likely you’re starting to think about your CV once again. The idea of updating it seems like a chore, especially as you have exams to focus on.

But trust me, even though it feels like a big ordeal and lots of effort, starting early and perfecting your CV will take the pain out of it in the long run and will most definitely help you to stand out from the crowd. 

Top 5 CV don’ts 

Here are my top 5 tips on what not to do when writing your CV.

1. Get your spelling wrong
This may seem like an obvious one, but you wouldn’t believe the amount of CVs we see on a daily basis with spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure to pay attention to the detail too. A colleague of mine once got called for interview (and subsequently got the role) partly because she noticed the hiring manager spelt his surname (FitzGerald) with a capital G!! 

2. Fancy formatting 
With so much access to editing and design solutions online, it can be very tempting to add some fancy formatting and design to your CV in an effort to make it stand out. In our experience, simple is better. Focus your effort on the content and demonstrating your skills and experience, not the colour or font style! 

3. ‘Flowery’ language 
It’s so tempting to bump up your CV with ‘flowery’ descriptive words and adjectives like ‘dynamic’, ‘exceptional, ‘hard-working’. Chances are you don’t use these in real life, so why would you use these in your CV? Dump the descriptive words and focus on including what makes you unique – where have you been successful and what is it that separates you from others? 

4. Copy and paste your job description
Another common mistake is a ‘copy and paste’ job. Of course, your job description – with a few exceptions and additions – is what you do, so it makes sense to do this. However, no recruiter or line manager is going to trawl through a formal job description: they will want to be able to quickly understand the core elements of your role and what you have achieved. 

5. One size fits all 
Having perfected your new CV to a tee, you might be tempted to use this ‘perfect’ CV for every job you apply for. Our advice is: don’t! Your CV absolutely has to be tweaked and tailored depending on the role you’re applying for. Failing to do this will not help you in any way. 

Top 5 CV dos 

Here are my top 5 tips on what to do when writing your CV.

  1. When it comes to describing your roles, try to identify the core objective of your role and the top five priorities. Keep it short and concise, link it to your measurables/KPIs and detail these in a clear bullet point format.
  2. Think about your achievements, even if they aren’t obvious. Take a step back and reflect on all the different ways you, directly and indirectly, contributed to the successful delivery of specific projects or how the company benefited from what you delivered in your time with them. 
  3. Keep it short and concise. Avoid listing every role you’ve had since school unless it is relevant to the role you’re applying for. Make sure to showcase your more recent roles and achievements. 
  4. Include a personal aspect to your CV. Remember, the reader is reading this in black and white, so it can be tricky to get a true picture of you. Make sure to include a brief outline of some more personal aspects on your CV, such as your interests, hobbies, and whether you’re involved in any volunteering or pro-bono work. 
  5. Make sure to use bullet points (much easier to read), and provide context about your past roles to give a sense of your ability. Focus on the information that sets you apart from others and, if you can, engage a specialist recruiter to help you draft your CV. 
Writing and updating your CV is an art form in itself, so make sure to take time and put the effort into it. It will pay off. 

Neil trained with Deloitte and qualified in 2011. He then worked in corporate banking before relocating to Australia. In Sydney, Neil worked in financial accounting and analysis across MacQuarie and AMP, before taking a leadership role as Performance Reporting Manager with Commonwealth Bank. Neil currently works with Barden’s recently qualified accountant recruitment team.