10 fantastic tips to help you write a winning CV

Winning CV

There are lots of ingredients that go into making a winning CV, and it isn’t just a simple task of including all of your skills, qualifications, experience and duties. When writing an application it isn’t a chance to boast every single skill and qualification you have, and it certainly isn’t to be taken up with a huge list of tasks for your extensive work history.

Writing a CV that will get you lots of interviews is easier than you think, but you just need to know the requirements. Here are 10 fantastic tips to help you write a winning CV.

1. Include achievements and awards

One of the best ways to get your CV noticed is to include lots of achievements and awards. Try to choose something you feel is appropriate for the role and would impress the manager. For example, employee of the month, scholarships, perfect attendance, work related awards (top salesperson), and much more.

An application that contains lots of information about how well you’ve performed in the past will push you one step closer to an interview. It’s something which is often missed but is a vital piece of information for the hiring manager. Don’t forget that you should always include the numbers that relate to an award, result or achievement. If you pulled in a lot of turnover, made lots of sales, negotiated a lot of contracts, or improved a process which saved ‘X’ amount of time – then put the figures down on your CV.

If you have particularly impressive accolades, the personal statement is a good place to mention these. This is the short introductory paragraph consisting of 3 or 4 lines that opens your CV, right under your contact information (not to be confused with the type of personal statement that is submitted when you apply to uni – see e.g. here). Use this intro to explain why you fit the role with reference to the job advert. Your best achievements can provide further evidence of your suitability.

2. Add a splash of colour

Using colour on a CV is not something you’d traditionally think of doing, but if done correctly, it’s a great way to make your application stand out. If you use too much colour and especially aggressive tones like red and purple, you could stand out for all the wrong reasons. So when adding a splash of colour to your CV you should consider less ‘in your face’ colours like light green, blue, yellow and orange.

Check out this Software Developer CV template that uses light blue and grey to highlight some of the sections. You can see how it creates an impact and stands out from the traditional black and white CV.

3. Use keywords

There are certain words you should use within your CV that will grab the attention of the employer. These keywords are essential if you want to impress. Industry terms, technical jargon, and keywords from the job advert/description will all help to demonstrate your commercial awareness.

By matching lots of words from the job advert you are saying to the hiring manager, ‘Hey, look! I am on the same page as you, and I know what you want’. This will demonstrate your knowledge and awareness of the role, the company and the industry.

4. Avoid being a cliché

You cannot hope to get an interview if you simply state how great you are. Even though you may be hard working, have great communication skills and can work well in a team; you cannot assume that the employer will believe this.

Rather than include these cliché statements within your application, look to provide the evidence that you have the skills they need. It would be far better to provide achievements and results that directly show how great you are.

5. Make use of your hobbies

There are certain hobbies you can take advantage of and will add a lot of value to your CV. Sporty, creative, musical, leadership, and charitable hobbies to name but a few are all welcomed by the employer.

Did you know that an employer will look for certain soft skills within your CV? But what are soft skills?

A soft skill relates to a more generic trait that you use every day in the workplace – communication, time management, interaction between customers, friendliness, problem solving, and so on. Someone could be highly qualified, but without the necessary functional soft skills they would struggle to do perform well.

As well as providing examples of the relevant soft skills within the main sections of your CV, you could also use hobbies to further demonstrate. For instance, a sporty hobby could show hard work and determination, whilst a creative hobby could demonstrate attention to detail and an obvious flair for generating ideas (blue sky thinker).

6. Have a man (or woman) on the inside

If you know someone that works for the company, you should speak with them to get a little insider knowledge. They could offer some advice on what the manager expects of an employee, which could help you to write a CV that focuses around some of those aspects. You may only get a small piece of information, but that might just be enough to add something into your application which stands out.

If you don’t know anyone within the company you could always go straight to the horse’s mouth. It may seem like a bold thing to do but speaking directly with the hiring manager is a great way to get noticed. Give them a call, introduce yourself and explain that you are thinking of applying. Ask them for a brief overview of the role and what they would expect to see in an application. Not only is this a great way to find out what they want, but it will also leave a memorable impression. Just don’t forget to give them your full name.

7. Have it proofread

To ensure you have a completely error free application it needs to be checked by someone else. You shouldn’t rely on just your own set of eyes because you may not even realise there is a mistake. It needs a fresh pair of eyes to give it one more look over to ensure it is completely free of any spelling or grammatical mistakes and formatting and presentation errors.

One small error on your CV could results in rejection – it really is that simple. With so many other fantastic applicants to go through the employer hasn’t got time to entertain someone who can’t supply a perfectly written CV. That sloppy attitude could easily be present within the workplace.

8. Download a CV template

CV templates are now a thing of the future. No longer do you have to create your own layout when you can let the professionals take of it for you. So if you were worried about how your credentials would look and if your overall presentation is good enough, you no longer need to worry!

Once you’ve chosen a CV template you like the look of, all you need to do is download it and insert your details. It will only take a few minutes and will cut out the hours and hours of trying to align everything yourself.

9. Create a professional answer message

Before you apply it’s important you set up a professional voice message. If you are unable to take a call from an employer about an interview, then you need to make sure they can leave a message. But if you have an automated message or even a joke one, then remove that and record your own.

It makes for a more personable and professional voice message, and could help make a positive impression when you get to the interview room. If you are professional and courteous at every point of contact, you will begin to build up a picture of someone that takes their career seriously.

10. Don’t keep them waiting

After you’ve followed all of the above tips it’s now time to sit back and wait for the flood of interview offers. But one thing you cannot do is keep them waiting!

If you’re currently in full time employment when you apply for another job, then you may not be able to immediately answer the phone or reply to an email. Let the employer know within your CV or cover letter about your current employment and that you will reply as soon as possible. This is a polite way of letting them know that you are going to reply at your earliest convenience and that they should wait – but not for long.

Check your messages the second you are on lunch break or after your shift to see if anything has come through. You must reply on the same day or the following morning at the latest. Any later than that could frustrate the employer and they may only have a few people they want to interview. Don’t lose out on a job just because you couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone or sit in front of your laptop and confirm an interview.

Related articles:

  1. Why some hobbies are good for your CV
  2. Q: Should I speak to the hiring manager before writing my CV?
  3. 3 reasons why your CV is failing you
  4. What really matters when an employer reads a CV?
  5. How to change careers with 3 easy tips

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