CV – How To Use Your CV The Right Way
Job-hunting is one the most stressful things you can do, but if you do it right it can also be one of the most rewarding. Finding a job to apply for in the first place is hard enough, especially in a world full of scary words like ‘recession’, ‘redundancy’ and ‘cut backs’, but when you then consider how much competition you’re likely to have for every vacancy you may feel like giving up before you’ve even started. Don’t! The secret to success in the job-market lies entirely with your CV and your approach, and I’m about to tell you everything you need to know in order to beat your competition, impress the employer, and get the job.
Underestimating your CV is the biggest mistake you can make, and it’s a mistake made by the majority of job applicants. By following our advice you’ll be ensuring you put yourself head and shoulders above the crowd.
CV First Impressions
Your CV is your first impression, and first impressions count for an awful lot when there’s so many people for the employer to be considering. If you don’t impress immediately, you’ll be pushed to the bottom of the pile and swiftly forgotten.
Have you applied to hundreds of jobs in the past without getting a call-back? Well, that’s a definite sign that your CV needs a makeover and your approach to job hunting needs a shake-up. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, can be a great prospect if they present themselves well enough, so don’t feel disheartened anymore!
When re-writing your CV it’s best to start with a template. This way everything you have to say will be presented in a formal and structured manner that’s easy to read and understand, and importantly, that gets to the point quickly so your prospective employer doesn’t miss your winning credentials! Focus on your skills as close to the top as possible, and avoid the fatal mistake of talking about your previous duties rather than your previous achievements at work.
Also remember to always keep your target audience in mind. Targeting your CV to various companies is a MUST, as every company has a different mission and every company is looking for something slightly different in their employees.
For instance, if you’re seeking a job as an accountant you may feel it’s appropriate to have a very ‘straight-laced’ CV, presented on a generic template and kept very business-like. However, look to the company image itself for ideas. Take Virgin for example: a fun, ‘different’, extraverted company that’s got a huge focus on customer service but an equally big focus on being unique. If you’re looking to become Virgin’s accountant then a ‘typical’ or ‘predictable’ CV will not get you the job.
If you’re hoping to distribute one CV to many employers it may be best to prioritize which job you want most. Tailor your CV to that particular job, and then create a good ‘general’ second draft that isn’t specific to a particular company. By having an effective un-targeted CV you can distribute it to numerous social media job sites, such as Monster.com, but bear in mind that your chances aren’t as good by taking this path.
Regardless of whether your CV is targeted or not, ensure you add a passport sized photograph of yourself. This is a great way of ensuring you use psychology to your advantage, as your employer will feel more connected to you once they’ve seen your face. You can bet that most of the CV’s they look at don’t have photographs, and so by ensuring your employer has seen YOUR face means you have a greater chance of establishing a connection between the two of you – and once there’s a connection, there’s a greater chance of your employer feeling obliged to favor you over all others.
The physical content of your CV is of course important too – after all, even if you talk the talk you’ll have to walk the walk to get the job. If you can afford it, using a CV Service is a good idea as not only are they used to writing thousands of CV’s, but they’re offering a third party perspective, ensuring your CV gets a genuinely good presentation.
You may think your greatest skills and achievements are one thing, but when you speak to someone else you may get an entirely different perspective, and so using a CV Service is a great idea in this respect. However, if you can’t afford that luxury then speaking to your family and friends is the next best alternative. You’ll be surprised what favourable skills they think you have, and you may well have an awful lot of new things to add to your CV by taking this route instead of coming up with it all on your own.
Once you have the perfect CV and you’re satisfied that it’s a great impression of who you are and what you can do, it’s important to remember that there’s lots of ways to submit it to your employer.
As previously mentioned there are job sites that allow you to upload your CV for employers to browse and find of their own accord. You can also send this same CV to jobs you like, and although it’s a great way of actually job-hunting, it’s often best to be specific about which jobs you’re after and send CV’s specially made for those companies.
One site that’s often utilized by many Kiwis looking for work overseas is Jobsite.co.uk, but their statistics directly demonstrate how targeting an employer and making yourself stand out can be worth it’s weight in gold. With 2,142,552 searchable CV’s and 1,199,177 applications made by job seekers in March 2011, you can quickly begin to see how you can quickly become lost in the crowd.
The same applies to Seek.co.nz and Trademe.co.nz – You seriously need to consider how many applicants are going to be applying and then identify ways and means to ensure your application is picked for interview.
Another slightly more successful way of distributing your CV would be the ‘old fashioned’ way: Write a cover letter and post your CV out. It may be slower, but it’s certainly a good way of literally getting all your hard work into the hands of the people that count.
If you’re opting for this route, never underestimate the effectiveness of the cover letter. In this case the cover letter will be read before your CV, so keeping it short and polite, quickly summarizing the job you’re applying for and the fact you feel you’re the ideal candidate is all you need to say. Give them a reason to read your CV – don’t write so much that they make up their mind without looking at it! And always ensure you address your cover letter to the actual employer. Do your research and find out their name – this shows your professionalism and will impress them from the off.
Always remember what you’ve said, as if you’re invited for interview you’re likely to be questioned on it! Making photocopies of what you’re sending out and keeping note on where and when you sent them is a great way of ensuring you’re ready for interview. It’s also a great way of keeping track of your applications so you can follow up on them.
Following up on your application is a good way of reminding the employer of your CV and demonstrating your passion and desire to obtain the job. Lots of people send out CV’s and never phone the employer to see if they have any news on progress or feedback for you. By making that crucial call a week or two after sending your CV you’re showing the employer that you, over all others, care about filling their vacancy.
Another increasingly popular way of distributing your CV is via email. Lots of employers actually request this specifically, and it’s important to consider the subject heading as well as the file names that you attach to ensure that your name can be found in their inbox once they’ve opened it for the first time.
In all cases, ensure your name is spelt correctly and fully, along with the word ‘CV’, and that both are included in the file names and the email subject. Ideally, be descriptive: Stating the job application or reference is also a good idea as they may well have numerous vacancies, of which you are only applying to or qualified for one.
It’s important to ensure the files you attach are appropriately named in the same manner. Write the cover letter as the actual email, stating that it is a cover letter and quickly summarizing what you a applying for, who you are, and why you want the job. Encourage them to read your CV, and ensure the CV is correctly labelled with your name and ‘CV’ as an attachment. It may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this key detail and call it ‘my CV’, which, once on their database, will be virtually impossible to locate.
Another great tip for distributing your CV would be to call the employer BEFORE you do so. Even if you only get through to the receptionist, if you make a good impression at this stage then she’ll ensure your CV makes its way to the top of the pile. This initial phone call also ensures you don’t miss out any key details, especially as lots of employers prefer you to fill out an application form and submit it along with your CV, rather than simply submit your CV. Finding out these details demonstrates that you’re forward thinking, organized, professional, responsible and reliable – all the things an employer is likely to be looking for in a prospective employee!
If, after making the initial phone call, submitting your killer CV and cover letter, and making a follow-up call, you don’t get the job, you are more than entitled to an explanation. Call the employer and ask for feedback!
Finding out what, in their eyes, you could have done better is a great way of establishing a thorough understanding of your audience. Don’t take criticism to heart – use it constructively and unless you completely and utterly disagree with their feedback, make appropriate changes to your future applications. Oftentimes you’ll find that you didn’t do anything wrong though, and that it’s a simple case of someone was more qualified for the job than you this time around.
The chances of being outdone in skills or qualifications by your competitors is a genuine possibility, and that is something we cannot prepare you for. It may be tempting in this case to lie (or over-exaggerate) your skills, experiences and achievements to create a truly winning CV, but bear in mind that even if your employer doesn’t check your references, you personally must be able to demonstrate these falsified skills both in interview and in the job (if you get it!). If you’ve said you studied Law at Oxford University and did a Masters at Harvard, when really you just did Law at A-Level, then the truth will eventually out. And when it does, beware, because your job, career and reputation may well be left in tatters.
Lots of people exaggerate on their CV, but there is a very big difference between stretching the truth and lying.
For instance, a lie would be that you have experience, skills, knowledge or qualifications that you don’t. Stretching the truth would be that you worked for a company for longer than you really did.
Always remember that your CV is demonstrating who you are and what you can do, so only exaggerate or lie as far as you genuinely believe you can substantiate it. To get the job you’ll need to be successful in the interview, your references may well be checked, you may have to pass several tests within the company, and then you will have to actually perform the job role that you’ve earned. If you can’t be sure of doing all of these thing, stick to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!
In all honesty though, by following the advice set out here and ensuring your CV and cover letter are effective, it really shouldn’t be necessary to bend the truth in any way. Wording your application well, without spelling mistakes and with structure and targeted information will be more impressive to the employer than your previous job roles or qualifications – after all, most employers are looking for someone to stay with their company long term, and that means you’ll be on a constant learning curve with them anyway!
Good luck with your CV!