Our Head of Permanent recruitment, Ryan Ollerenshaw talks CV's and exactly what hiring managers are looking for in an application. Ryan believes he’s seen 50,000+ CVs in his career (20 CV’s a day, 20 days a month, 11 months of the year for 12 years if you are doing the maths) and so he is without a doubt, the best qualified to explain what he and hiring managers expect to see in the 'perfect' CV.
In a Nutshell
- Don’t waffle
- Use a recruiter to help tease out the right information
- Tailor each one to the job you are position for
- Profile – Your USP
- Career History – In chronological order and easily identifiable
- Key Skills – Don’t lie but don’t leave anything off that’s relevant – tailor to the role!
- Education & Training – Headlines are fine – your a-Level Biology coursework title isn't needed
- Interests – Recruiter and hiring manager perception is critical here – choose your words wisely!
WHAT DOES YOUR CV SAY ABOUT YOU?
Whilst in my area (UX) I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a great portfolio, your CV is probably one of the most important documents you will ever write. Despite this, a large number of CVs I review on a daily basis are rehashed versions of a document used to gain a position year's ago. Your CV is the first impression both my team and potential employers will have of you and therefore, careful attention should be paid to this often overlooked document.
Firstly, there is no need to use a professional CV writing service. I have seen many good CV’s that have come from them but I have seen my fair share of shockers too. A good recruiter will always help you to bring out the best of your abilities whether that’s a project you haven’t emphasised enough or a skill set you hadn't documented.
It is important to tailor every single CV to each job you are applying for; if you are applying to a travel firm say and you have past experience which directly relates to that sector, emphasise it. Tailoring your CV to the position/company you are applying for can make all of the difference!
Your CV should ideally be no more than three-page document (many clients like 2) and each page is valuable real estate, don’t waste it with waffle. Whilst concentrating on not waffling, do not go too far the other way and purely bullet point you experience. It is a delicate balance, but a balance that does make the difference.
It should be easy for potential employers to find key information about you at a glance and so it’s crucial you highlight your key points in the most efficient way without skimming over any important details. The ideal CV can be broken down into 5 core components:
1) Profile Summary: Your profile should be a concise snapshot of you, it should summarise your experience in a couple of sentences and serve as a unique identifier that will either make an employer engage with you and want to read more, or switch off and start considering the next CV.
In order to get that attention, try to demonstrate tangible effects you have had on a previous project or within an organisation. If there is something that highlights you as a superstar, now is the time to shout about it. If you are struggling, your recruiter can help you define your USP
2) Career History: Your career history should contain clear information about key projects you have worked on and further examples of the tangible effects you’ve had on projects, ideally to highlight a return on investment. Awards won for previous work and different platforms you have worked on are all important factors of a good CV. As a rule of thumb, use more space for your most recent position, and if your CV begins to look a little lengthy, cull the older experience into dates, the company worked for and job title. Regarding lineage, cut to the core of what you were doing in each position and revise the information a couple of times.
3) Key Skills: Should highlight your core skills (tailored to the role you are applying for). This area shouldn’t be used for soft skills that are far too predictable; trustworthy, responsible and confident are fine qualities but allow no differentiator to any other responsible candidate who has chosen to list this on their CV. To take it a step further, rather than listing years’ experience, you could list core competence with each skill and if you are in digital, why not demonstrate your creativity using; infographics, icons and images etc.
4) Education & Training: Training is often overlooked but both personal development and training that is enforced are far more important to a potential employer than your GCSE results – (try and bring the role specific highlights to the top!) On the education front there is no need to list each individual topic of study, an overview of education need only include – School / College, Years Attended, O-Levels or A-Levels Achieved and Further Education.
5) Interests: Rather than struggling to think of the interests to list on your CV, I suggest taking a different approach. List the meetups you go to, the publications you have written, the blogs you regularly read and contribute to, and the conferences you’ve featured in but remember to keep it relevant. What doesn’t help at this stage is a long list of hobbies as they can often be misconstrued when taken out of context. For instance, DJ’ing can be interpreted as you being out all nights of the week and unable to work well during the day. You get the idea. It is important to list out those that could be of interest in an interview. Going a step further if you are working with a decent recruiter if they know there is a common synergy between yourself and the hiring manager they’ll let you know to bring it forward!
To sum up; your CV should be an organic document, forever evolving as you gain new skills and experience and consistently updating alongside your portfolio.