Welcome back to my post series on planning and organising your latest job search! This week we’re covering creating a great CV or resume that is relevant and memorable!
If you have had to search for work recently, you’ll know that job hunting is no easy task. For most of us, the days of walking into a life-long career are gone. Instead, we face an endless slog of applications, most of which we’ll never hear back about. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, I know your pain! While job hunting will never be straightforward, I have some planning advice that should help you get some traction. I’m also sharing a free Planner & Tracker download, to help kick off your job search in style!
In this Post Series:
- Part One: Setting Job Search Parameters
- Part Two: Creating a Great CV (or Resume)
- Part Three: Know Your Worth
- Part Four: Interview Advice
- Part Five: My Personal Job Hunting Tips (Coming Soon!)
You’ve now set your job search parameters. The next step is, of course, to create an up to date CV or resume. While you can pay someone else to do it for you, a good CV doesn’t have to be complicated. Everyone’s career and educational history are different, but there are a few aspects of a CV that always apply.
Creating a Great CV: The Basics
- Keep it compact. Aim for one page or two full pages maximum. If you’re struggling to do this, remember you only need to list experience that is relevant to your current search. You can leave out the babysitting you did ten years ago!
- Include a summary; this is what kind of work you’re looking for, a sentence to summerise your previous experience and what you bring to the table. This is a short paragraph only; the aim is to catch attention and convince the recruiter to read the rest of your CV.
- Spelling and grammar check!! This is so important. Having a lazy typo or sentences that don’t make sense can be a killer. Always use a checking feature- Word’s basic offering isn’t bad, or the free app Grammarly is amazing for setting tone and audience as well as picking up grammatical issues. Having someone else have a read-through is also a simple way to pick up any language issues.
- Do I include a photo? Honestly, unless you’re applying for something that requires a face such as modelling or acting, what you look like should be irrelevant on a CV. Your experience should speak for itself, and most recruiters will research candidates on social media too, so there’s no need to include a picture on your CV.
- Send your CV as a PDF! While you may create your CV as a normal document, always save the finished copy as a PDF. If you send a file in the original format- for example Word- you can end up with table lines or other layout graphics ruining the look. If you save as a PDF, recruiters get a clean page they can annotate, without accidentally messing up the spacing and making the whole page a mess!
Creating a Great CV: Previous Experience
- When listing previous experience, only keep what’s relevant. If you managed a team in your last three roles, you only need to detail how in the most recent. You don’t need to repeat the same skills- you just waste precious space!
- Your most recent experience should have the most detail, with details from previous roles only included where they are relevant to your current search. For example, being good at teaching breaststroke is irrelevant to my CV for administration, but planning and implementing lesson programs is a transferable skill, so I include it.
- Use action terms to detail your previous experience. If you’re looking for examples, this post has a great table of ideas for you to use.
- Make your experience and achievements quantifiable where possible. Did you save money? How much? Did you reduce processing time? How much by? Think from the recruiter’s point of view; what achievements would they find attractive?
- Minimise time gaps in your CV. Even if you don’t have any relevant skills from a position, it’s still great to include its job title, company and dates; otherwise, you can be left with a gap to explain. It doesn’t matter if it was working as bar staff or volunteering at a local community centre, it shows you have a solid work history.
- If you’re a new job seeker use your life experiences to showcase relevant skills. Captained a local sports team? Leadership. School exams? Managed conflicting workloads. You do have plenty of experience, you just need a relevant way to frame it!
Creating a Great CV: What Else?
- Education can be tricky on a CV, particularly if you’re years out of school or university. If that’s the case, include your highest qualification and the major subject- if relevant. If you’re a recent school leaver, you can include more detail. For example, any extracurricular activities, as they can help demonstrate skills such as teamwork (sports) or creativity (drama.)
- Contact details; a phone number and email are essential. Don’t forget that your email should be professional- no email@example.com, please! It can also be a good idea to include a rough location; your town or suburb can help place you for recruiters looking at commute distance or local knowledge.
- Skills and interests are great to include as some quick dot points. These could be qualifications such as having a driving licence, or any relevant interests you have. For example, I have blogging and budgeting listed, but I wouldn’t mention I’m a huge Lego fan! Limit your list to things that have professional relevance or highlight your skills.
- References? I don’t include references in my CV. I’m happy to provide them when requested but I’d prefer to know when they’re going to be used so I can give my referees a heads up. At the end of the day, it’s personal contact information; how would you feel about your mobile number being sent out on dozens of applications?
- Some industries, such as design, require a portfolio of work to back up your CV. While this is normally a separate file, if you have it online you could include a link. LinkedIn details are another option; as my finished CV is a PDF, I have a clickable link to my profile. You could do the same for any relevant webpage.
A Great CV Showcases YOU
Don’t forget, you don’t have to create your CV in a vacuum. There are heaps of good examples online to cherrypick from, as well as lots of great templates. Even Word has some decent templates; my CV uses it’s Green Cube resume template, with some tweaks, which has had great results so far. I also recommend asking a friend or family member you trust to have a look at your finished product. We get so familiar with our work that a different viewpoint is an important way to check how a recruiter will view your CV.
At the end of the day, a CV is a hook to get a recruiter interested. You don’t, therefore, want to sound like every other applicant. Having a point of difference can make a reader curious and want to know more about you, rather than candidate number five. The balancing line between relevant and eye-catching can be difficult, but I believe both have a place in a successful CV. Given this, while templates are a great place to start, make sure to change them up a little, so they suit you and your brand rather than being generic.
Creating a Great CV: In Conclusion…
Don’t panic about your CV! It only needs to be one page long, and there are heaps of great examples and ideas out there. If you’re not sure about what to detail for your previous experience, have a look at the selection criteria for roles you’re applying for, then use those keywords as a basis for what you’re writing. While some advice recommends a fresh CV for every job application, I think that’s overkill. It should be changed if you’re applying for a different role or tweaked if you find your dream job, but otherwise, a solid CV will work for most applications.
If you want more job hunting tips and advice, including CV ideas, check out my latest Pinterest board. Otherwise, I hope this was helpful and don’t forget to subscribe below to receive your FREE job hunting planner & tracker printable worksheets!