Career Corner: Secrets to CV Success

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Studies have suggested that recruiters and hiring managers will sometimes look at a CV for as little as six seconds before deciding if the candidate is worth keeping. So how can you make sure you clear the very first hurdle of the job application process? Here are a few tips to give yourself the best possible chance:

  1. Keep the format clean, consistent and easy to read. Over-designing your CV won’t do you any favours; it may seem like putting your experience into grids and expressing your skills as graphs would make your CV stand out but generally hiring managers are looking to see the most relevant information expressed in the most straight forward way.
  2. Edit your CV for each role you submit it to, approaching the application with a problem-solving mindset. A company posting a job is looking to solve a problem, not just fill a gap, so highlight and edit your experience to show how you can help with that problem. Cut down the descriptions of your less relevant roles, make it clear where and when you’ve gained the specific experience and skills they need while giving an overview of your wider career history. You’re only going to get a limited amount of time and attention, and it’s much better to give a detailed look at your recent and relevant roles than to present the hiring manager with in-depth breakdowns of everything you’ve ever done.
  3. It helps to get very specific about your past impact on the businesses you’ve worked for. Saying you’ve designed multiple Compliance procedures and policies is good – having concrete numbers that show your work reduced Compliance incidents is better. Quantify your achievements whenever possible – a bullet-pointed example with a number or statistic is often more effective than a block paragraph.
  4. If you’re including a link to your LinkedIn profile or a personal website, make sure the information on there matches your CV and is both up-to-date and informative.
  5. Keep it concise. Some people will tell you that a good CV must be no more than two pages but if you work in a complex technical field like Governance, Risk and Compliance, that can be an impossible target. It is however definitely a smart move to keep it as brief as possible with only the most relevant and impressive information. If you’ve worked in two or more roles within your chosen field, you don’t need to still be telling potential employers that you were a prefect at school. Similarly, with qualifications, keep it to ones that are relevant to the role. If you make every line count, you can keep the hiring manager reading even if you can’t contain your job history within two pages.

We talk a lot about making a good first impression at interviews but the real first impression you make as a candidate is the first time someone sees your CV. While we like to hope that the person with the best experience and most relevant skills will be the one to get the job, you can give yourself a better shot by fine-tuning your CV to make sure your application survives those crucial first six seconds.