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Streamline Your CV and Stand Out From The Rest

There could be thousands of candidates with the same work experience as you, so how do you stand out from the crowd? You show prospective employers who you are, rather than tell them who you are. And you do this in your CV by revealing how you think.

First things first

A CV is essentially a personal advertisement that showcases who you are and what you can do. And while using a tried-and-tested formula will make it easy for HR departments to navigate your CV, your CV – like an advertisement – should contain an element of surprise that will keep readers reading.

Be bold, be brave, be unconventional

Use short, simple statements like I’m good at, I enjoy, I’d like to learn. These will clarify from the outset what your areas of strength are, what your ideal position and/or work environment is, and what your goals and capabilities are.

For example, stating “I’m good at…” shows employers immediately that you have confidence in your skills and competencies.

A statement like “I enjoy…” makes it easier for HR to match you with the right position, the right organization, the right environment, and the right coworkers.

A statement like “I’d like to learn…” illustrates that, while you already possess certain skills and experience, you’re also willing to learn and grow.

Lead with who you are and what you want

A statement like “Operations Manager with five years’ experience in the construction sector” tells HR at a glance what your experience is and what position or field you’re aiming for.

Personal details

Include your personal details but keep it to the essentials: your name, email address and telephone number will suffice. Give social media handles only if appropriate, and include a link to your LinkedIn profile. Mention your nationality and language skills only if they are relevant to your skill set or the location of the position in question.

Opt for authenticity

In order to sound professional and impressive, it is commonplace in the corporate world to use complex language to explain simple concepts. However, as Albert Einstein points out, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” Opting to use simple language to explain complex concepts (rather than the other way around) illustrates that you have a thorough understanding of people and professions, and a willingness to simplify and clarify. Which brings us to…

Ditch the jargon

Avoid generic corporate speak, jargon and job-search lingo. List your skills or key competencies by relating them to specific hands-on experience. For example, “Managed a sales team of six people for four years” sounds more grounded, more specific and less wordy than “Extensive experience in a sales managerial position.”

Avoid redundant descriptions such as “motivated”, “team player”, “hard working”. These traits should be a given for any position.

A tailored fit

Tailoring your CV to fit the position you’re applying for can be tedious – especially if you’re applying for multiple positions. However, this is an excellent strategy that will allow you to match your skill set with the skills/responsibilities outlined in the position for which you’re applying.

Format: reverse chronological vs skills/experience

Choosing whether to employ a reverse chronology or skills/experience format for your CV will depend on the continuity of your work experience.

If your most recent position is ideally matched with the position on offer, then a reverse chronological format would work best. However, if you have date gaps in your CV or various changes in roles and industries, then crafting your CV around skill/role categories is a better strategy to employ.

Lastly, if your previous jobs have not been in the field or industry for which you’re applying, be sure to clarify how the skills you learned in previous positions can be transferred and applied in a new context.

Design, layout, look-and-feel

When it comes to the design and layout of your CV, simplicity rules. Make it easy for readers to navigate information by using clear headings in bold or different fonts. Be sure to use white space to break up the text, and limit your CV to no more than two pages.

Use bullet points rather than paragraphs wherever you can, but don’t overload the reader with too many bullets either – this can rob your CV of personality. Don’t use too many colours. This can make your CV look like a school project.

Graphics and photographs

Graphics are notoriously ‘buggy’ and can jam up networks. They also tend to be distracting rather than engaging, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.

Photographs can create bias. If you want to be judged and selected on your skills, knowledge and experience, leave your photo off your CV.

References

Don’t include all your references – instead, suggest that they’re available on request.

Redundant or relevant?

Exclude any information that is outdated. For example, if your schooling and school results are from a decade or two ago, leave this info off. If you speak any additional languages, list only those in which you are fluent.

Before you go

If there is one takeaway piece of advice for crafting a punchy CV, it this: keep it simple, and be authentic.

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