7 tips to get your CV to the top of the pile

By: Lisa Spiteri

When the perfect job comes up the biggest challenge is making the interview shortlist, ensuring that your CV doesn’t end up being rejected but goes straight to the top of the ‘must see’ pile.

Competition for any job is fierce – there may be hundreds of applicants for the same position, so with so many CVs to screen employers will inevitably skim read and make relatively snap decisions about which candidates are of most interest.

Here are our seven top tips to get your CV to the top of the pile:

1. Be concise and succinct

Generally speaking, it’s best to keep your CV to a maximum of two A4 pages, three at most. If yours runs well in excess of this, go through it with a fine toothcomb and be ruthless in your editing. Avoid writing very wordy sentences – think ‘less is more’ in order to convey key information clearly. Using bullet points can make information far easier to scan quickly than densely written paragraphs. At the same time, don’t try and squeeze everything into those few pages – create a visual breathing space between sections to enhance readability.

2. Tailor your CV to the job

It’s very easy to produce a CV that you consider to be an accurate reflection of your career, even easier to send it off to dozens of companies. Unfortunately, this approach can leave you falling short and missing some great opportunities. Even if you’ve got a recruitment consultant working with you to open doors, it’s well worth analysing each job opportunity and considering how you can improve your CV to more closely align it to the requirements of that particular job. If a job requires specific skills that you possess, rewrite so that they come to the fore. You may also need to vary the achievements you detail from one version of your CV to the next. That said, this comes with a warning…

3. Don’t fabricate!

It can be very tempting to embroider the truth to make yourself look better on paper. However, it’s important to remember that employers will check your background and they will pursue references – you may well be found out. And just imagine the awkward moment when you’re questioned during the interview and you cannot give a convincing answer. Stick to the truth at all times.

4. Fill any gaps

Gaps in your CV, whether they are weeks, months or years, will automatically make employers suspicious. Everyone knows that the job market has been tough for some years now; redundancies are commonplace and not everyone is lucky enough to waltz straight into another job. If you have experienced periods of unemployment be honest about it and put a positive spin on it. If you did voluntary work or completed a course to enhance your skills make sure you include such details

5. Keep your CV up to date

Finding a new job can take months. If you prepared your CV six months ago it’s high time you reviewed it and considered whether anything significant has happened more recently. Maybe you’ve recently achieved your sales target for the year or have just won an important piece of new business for your company – adding this to your CV could make all the difference as to whether you are invited for an interview.

6. Include hard facts and figures

Be very precise about your achievements. Don’t just say that you increased sales, it’s far too woolly and employers expect you to be able to quantify what you’ve done. Include percentages, time periods and monetary value (assuming it’s not sensitive information) that will provide a tangible context to your work – an employer can then begin to imagine the positive impact you might have on their company and feel more inclined to meet you in person.

7. Check it before you send it

Spelling mistakes look bad. Rogue words left in a sentence after editing will suggest lack of attention to detail. It may sound petty, but employers will find the smallest reason to discard CVs and whittle down the interview list to a manageable amount. Check your CV carefully – if possible, and even better, get someone else to read it through. Fresh eyes will always spot the one thing you’ve missed.

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