20 tips to improve your CV

In a competitive job market, it’s often not enough to have just an “OK” CV. Here we’ve put together 20 tips to help get your CV to the next level.

If you’re a software industry professional and would like some feedback or further advice on your CV then please get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

1) Use the best keywords. 

In today's job search, keywords are critical. Be sure to use relevant keywords, and keep them within five words of action verbs or any numbers you’ve used to quantify your experience, this means that recruiters will be able to find you in Boolean searches.

2) Avoid objectives. 

Objective statements are passé. We recommend leaving off objective statements unless you are dramatically changing careers, from, say, a sales manager to a chef and need to explain.

3) Use bullet points. 

It's best to use bullet points wherever possible, hiring managers may be short on time and this will guide their eyes to your best qualities.

4) Try sticking to one page. 

Unless you're certain multi-page CV’s are your industry's standard, do your best to summarise into a single page and link to more information online. Remember, the purpose of your CV is to get an interview, where you can then expand on your experience and highlight your key skills.

5) Use numbers. 

Using numbers is the best way to quantify your experience. Have you led a team? How many people were on it? Have you increased sales? By what percentage? The more numbers you can attach to your experience, the better.

 6) Proofread it – aloud. 

Proofread, use spell check, then proofread again – aloud. Tiny typos and other mistakes can inadvertently signal that you lack attention to detail, which when compared to other mistake-free CV’s, can keep you from getting interviews.

 7) Keep your sentences under 30 words.

We recommend writing in short, punchy sentences like news headlines. They improve your CV’s skimmability.

 8) Use action verbs.

Starting your points with action verbs is a great way to show you are performance-oriented. (E.g., "Achieved 13 percent growth." "Saved the company 7 percent in quarterly operating costs." "Led a team of five engineers.")

 9) Place numbers near action verbs.

Your verbs and numbers should live in harmony. Hiring managers and recruiters often look for numbers to appear within five words of action verbs (see examples in No. 11.)

 10) Put your most recent experience at the top.

To demonstrate career growth, in most cases it’s best to list experience in reverse-chronological order with your most recent position at top.

 11) Put your education on the bottom.

Unless you are a recent graduate, we recommend listing your skills and experience first and education at the end. And even if you are a recent graduate, we still recommend highlighting specific, applicable skills and experiences above your education.

12) Consider images or icons (carefully). 

Experience and skills notwithstanding, it's critical your CV stands out. Many professionals, especially in creative fields, are now including images and icons to do just that. Charts and work examples can work well in moderation, but don’t force it. Text-only CV’s are still the most acceptable standard.

13) Vary your word usage.

If every point starts with "Responsible for...", or "Achieved...", you have more work to do. It's OK to have repeats; just don't overdo it.

14) Avoid jargon. 

While big and/or industry-specific keywords are sometimes appropriate, don’t overload your CV with big words or industry jargon. While it’s recommended to use industry-specific keywords, going overboard can have the opposite effect, like you're covering for shortcomings elsewhere. It’s important to strike the right balance.

15) Keep your points specific and measurable.

Avoid using clichés and general phrases like "highly motivated," "team player," or "hard worker." Your space is limited. If you are as specific as possible – including numbers that back up your claims – you will put your skills and experiences in the best light.

18) Be prepared with references.

If employers want references, they will ask. Your space is limited, so ditch the "References Available Upon Request" line and be prepared when asked.

19) Save as a PDF.

Saving your CV as a PDF file locks down the formatting and style so everyone sees it the way you see it.

20) Use an intuitive file name.

When you send/upload your CV – be it directly via email or through a job site like Total Jobs – the name of your CV file will be shared with the recipient. To get a leg up over your competition, consider including your name, the month and year of last update plus a tagline that speaks to your experience. (E.g., "Susan Smith - metrics-driven marketer - June 2018.") This can improve your name recognition with employers and is just one more way to stand out above others with generic file names like “CV.docx.”

Joanna Murphy, Managing Director @ Samuel Ross Group, www.samuelrossgroup.co.uk

Tel: +447834188626 | Email: joanna@samuelrossgroup.co.uk | Fax: JustKidding!

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