How to Create a Standout CV – My ‘Top Tips’

Jenny Durgan nina-iraq CV feature

by Jenny Durgan

When I thought about what I could write an article about for Nina I knew I wanted to provide some help and impart knowledge I have learned from my work experience so far. I have only worked in a professional environment for two and a half years now and therefore felt deep industry expertise was not something I could articulate fully. However, having gone through all the hoops of applying for various different jobs not too recently, I thought I would share my ‘Top Tips’ for creating a great CV that stems from personal experience, rather than recycling the generic advice that is easily available on the internet.

As a quick introduction to my background; after graduating from Durham University in 2011, I applied and was offered a job at Accenture, a leading Management Consulting company. I deferred my start date for a year so that I could travel and work abroad and started on the graduate scheme in October 2012. Working for a consultancy company can be like moving jobs every few months (new role, skills required, team, client, location etc.). Therefore we have to maintain an internal CV which is used to apply for new projects. This can only be one page long, meaning it has to be concise, factual, adapted to the role you are applying for and stand out. I have consequently learnt some key approaches for this I have shared below.

My Top Tips

Facts

Keep your CV short and to the point. Short, sharp sentences are much easier for an employer to read. Having stats and facts will help this. Think about what stats you can use, some examples:

  • $ xx revenue brought in for the company
  • Promoted after xx months
  • Managed and directly responsible for xx people
  • Saved the company x over a period of xx months

Order

An employer is likely to have numerous CVs to read and they may only spend a couple of minutes looking at yours. Therefore in the instance they may only pay attention to the first half, ensure your most recent and impressive experience is at the top. Work down in priority of what you would want an employer to know about you. Any part time jobs you had when you were much younger (e.g. working in a shop) can be listed after your current job assuming your responsibilities have since grown.

Length

Try and keep your CV to one or two sides of A4 paper max. Even a CEO of a global corporation will be able to fit their experience to this page limit! It is about picking out the key responsibilities you have had and not using long descriptive sentences to explain everything. Listing out the less impressive responsibilities you have had will downplay your experience.

Buzz words

Start every sentence with a strong ‘action’ buzzword if you can to impress and drive the point of home. Examples are;

  • Directly responsible for…
  • Proactive stakeholder management….
  • Driving work efforts of…
  • Owned and established new work process…
  • Led weekly checkpoint call for…
  • Championed and tracked quality assessment of…

Format

If you were an employer and even though you read a CV with great content, but the format was not tidy and professional you would be apprehensive about the writer being able to present to a client. Although common sense, it is easy to forget doing a spell check of your CV and using the same font and size throughout. Other ideas are splitting you CV into sections, emboldening titles and key stats and correct alignment (see below).

Previous Employment

Smith’s Corporation (2 years) – Senior Manager

  • Directly responsible for 10 resources work efforts over a 8 month period

Position it

Use the job description you are applying for to ensure you align your CV to match. Think about what skills and experience they would like to see and emphasize this throughout. If work experience is not relevant to what you are applying for, you either don’t mention it, or keep it very brief and list this last.

Stand out

Many people applying for a role are likely to have equally good past experience and skills, therefore you need to think about your story and what makes you different. Why would you employ you? Is there something you have done in the past or something about your personality that stands out? In a short few sentences at the top of your CV summarise your key skills (critical thinker, attention to detail….for example).

Confidence

Confidence in what you have written about yourself on your CV is key so that you can articulate and expand on your achievements in an interview. Having a CV you are proud of and does you justice by depicting clearly what you have achieved is the first step to this.

 

 

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