Create a Strong CV or Resumé: 10 Tips

Now that you have found a job posting, or more than one, that you want to apply for, what should your next steps be? Keep reading to discover key guiding elements and learn how to make your application stand out.

Follow the Instructions

First and foremost, make sure to examine the job posting for all the things that recruiters would like to receive from candidates. Look for indications about whether a CV (the equivalent of a resumé in the United States) is sufficient or whether they also request a cover letter, certificates, or other credentials.

Another key element to pay attention to is the form in which they want you to there an apply button on the job posting? That link will probably take you to an online application form page or to a page with additional information. You might also find  an email address to which you should send your application or contact information of the HR or recruiting department where you can ask questions. 

Make sure you reach out to the listed contact if you are unclear about the expectations  regarding how to apply for a specific position.

Now you know what you need to provide for the application, but, let’s face it, you probably won’t be the only candidate for that position.

Stand Out from the Crowd

How do you make your application stand out from the rest in fewer than 60 seconds?

Yes, you read correctly, fewer than 60 seconds. Various studies have shown that recruiters spend under a minute reading a candidate’s application. Additionally, those studies also found out that the most important document for an application is the CV (or resumé).

Several key elements can help your CV really stand out. Let’s explore in detail what you need to focus on.

  • Make the match: Make sure that your expertise and experience as well as your competencies and skills match those required by the position. When describing your previous job positions, it is very important to focus on those elements that highlight the match. Your statements must also be honest and true.
  • Word it wisely: Show what you bring to the table in your own—correct and fitting—words, avoid  overused expressions such as “team player,” “hard-working,” or “passionate.” Find alternative wording, but remember that an effective CV will demonstrate those attributes without your having to say it. Keep it positive..
  • Less is more: Keep those work experiences that are not relevant to the new position to just a mention  and focus the description on the items that are relevant—see “Make the match.” The two-page rule is  generally welcomed by recruiters; however, this guideline is highly dependent on industry standards/expectations as well as seniority.
  • Check your spelling: And not only your spelling. You should also double-check your grammar, punctuation, and structure. It is important to show that you take good care of your output. Recruiters do check for mistakes and use that criteria to  eliminate candidates. Use auto-correct and other online tools to ensure best results. Ideally, you should ask someone else to look over your documents as well.
  • Make it yours: The style you choose for your CV must reflect your personality, within the given guidelines. Choose an appropriate font—one that you like and at the same time is easy to read. Are you rather classic? Then you might choose a traditional font with serifs. A font without serifs, on the other hand, is cleaner and more modern. Another element you can play with is color. You can use a different color for your text on the headlines or graphical elements, such as bullet points. Just make sure to be consistent. Use the same font (not too many different sizes) and the same color throughout the document.
  • Be complete: Cover it all; don’t leave out key items. Have you been unemployed for a significant amount of time (more than three months)? If so, list that on your CV in the correct time frame. If you have been on parental leave, mention that as well. Unexplained time gaps in your CV could raise suspicion.
  • Your hobbies: Definitely mention hobbies that give key information about who you are. However, you should make sure that they are interesting and show a certain level of dedication, continuity, precision, or demonstrate social skills. Sports, especially team sports, are good examples. Mentioning that your hobby is going to the pub to socialize, for example, is not relevant..
  • Picture… yes or no?: This is a very interesting question, that has a lot to do with the culture into which you are applying. In general, it is much better to let the recruiter focus on your experience and competencies, so the default recommendation is no picture. However, in some countries, it is common practice to include a picture.
  • Sum it up: If your CV is quite extensive (that is, more than two pages), you may want to make the recruiter’s life easier by starting with an executive summary. This should be very short, with a maximum of five or six bullet points with short sentences highlighting the key elements of your expertise matching the job requirements.
  • Not a CV: If you are applying for a creative position, then you should show that you are creative instead of just talking about it. In this case, make sure your creativity is in line with the company style—some extensive research will be needed here. In terms of a “non-CV,” you might include a short video, narrated visual presentation, portfolio, or anything else that fits the company’s style. Ideally, this kind of application gets in the hands of the manager of the open position rather than the HR person, as they would be more receptive to this approach.

Finally, you will need to rewrite your CV for each position that you apply for. Recruiters can tell if your application is too general and therefore being used for all kinds of jobs. In this case, they don’t feel valued, and it gives the impression that the position offered is not interesting enough for you to work hard for it. 

You can maintain the overall  structure and general items of the CV; but they need to be adapted each time and  double-checked against the job description. You should also  share your CV and job description with someone for proof, not only for grammar and spelling but also to make sure it fits the requirements. Choose someone you trust who will not be afraid to give you the honest feedback you may need.

You can find CV examples and more in the resources below.

Learn More

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