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Five ways to make the most of your CV

Aug 12, 2019

By Sinead Smith

recent study found that recruiters only spend roughly seven seconds on a candidate’s CV before deciding if they are suitable for the role. The study found that recruiters are most likely to look at eight items on a CV to assess suitability:

  • your name;
  • current job title;
  • current company;
  • current position start and end dates;
  • previous title;
  • previous company;
  • previous position start and end dates; and
  • education.

While we prefer to give CVs a thorough read-through, those eight items listed above got us thinking: how can the candidate make the most of their CV?

1. Have a clear layout

It’s always a talking point in the office when a well put together CV lands on our desks. It’s not that all other CVs are bad, but it is definitely a breath of fresh air to come across a CV that looks neat and tidy, and reads easily.

We suggest you choose a clear font (Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, etc) and stick with it throughout the entire document. Don’t make the font anything but black – you may think that a dash of red here or a highlight of yellow there draws attention to the important parts of your CV but, it is off-putting for the reader and, let’s face it, all the information on your CV should be important!

Be sure to use headings and subheadings to mark the end of one section and the start of the next. Doing so helps the recruiter or employer easily navigate through your CV and quickly find the information they are looking for.

Line spacing should be the same for the whole CV to make it easy to read. If you’re unsure what spacing to use, 1.5 tends to look the cleanest and gives an excellent overall appearance to the document. Similarly, bullet points are a great way of clearly presenting a lot of information.

2. Make sure it’s relevant

We often recommend that candidates have multiple versions of their CV saved to suit a variety of different roles. Making subtle changes to highlight relevant experience and skills could be the difference between qualifying for a position or not. It is important to remember that, if the information isn’t on the page, the recruiter/employer won’t be aware that you meet the requirements.

For instance, if you work in corporate finance and are interested in applying for a corporate finance role with an energy company that is largely financial modelling-based, you should tailor your CV to reflect any modelling experience you have as well as any previous work you have done involving energy, renewable energy, etc.

3. Know your future employer

Loosely following on from our second tip, it is advised that you keep the possible-employer in mind when constructing your CV. After reading the spec, and understanding the job requirements, imagine you are hiring for this job. What kind of relevant information would you want to see on an applicant’s CV?

Learn about the company’s business, their industry and what experience you could bring to the table that would set you apart from all of the other applicants, and then structure your CV to highlight what they would want to see.

4. Keep it concise

How long your CV should be is a bit of a grey area. Too long and the reader gets bored; too short and you risk leaving out vital information.

Generally, we recommend that a CV is two to three pages in length. If you only provide information that is relevant to the role and company, you should be able to keep your word count down and ensure that only the essential aspects of your education and career-to-date are included.

This is only a guideline however as, quite obviously, a CFO will have more to incorporate into their CV than a recently-qualified accountant.

5. Forget the cover letter

Traditionally, we’re taught to send a cover letter along with our CV. As an agency, we don’t consider cover letters necessary or particularly useful. For the most part, they tend to be a summary of what is contained in the accompanying CV and repetition is never beneficial.

However, if you don’t want to relinquish the cover letter altogether, keep it to few sentences containing two or three selling points about yourself (e.g. immediately available, suitable location, relevant qualifications) that will pique the reader’s interest and, perhaps, make them consider your CV in a different light.

Remember: it shouldn’t be hard for a recruiter, hiring manager or potential employer to find the information they need on your CV. Keep it clear, neat, concise, relevant and structured to have the greatest chance of getting their attention and landing yourself a new job.

Sinead Smith is Director of the Industry & Commerce team at ACCPRO.