What makes a strong CV

The CV hasn’t died; so make sure yours is alive and kicking!

Whether you're applying for a job or hiring for one, it pays to know what a good CV looks like. Knowing what makes a strong CV will help make sure you aren’t overlooked when it comes to the next stage of your career. Despite a LinkedIn profile now being a highly effective way of engaging with prospective new employees, whether we like it or not, the CV has not disappeared into the dark ages. The majority of employers still need one to consider your application official. But don’t despair, Millennials and Generation Z’s, you can still use infographics and imagery to make yours more contemporary...just don’t go overboard.  

Find out here how to make the perfect CV in 2017.  

 

Good, clear written communication  

Yes, an obvious point but you would be surprised at how many CVs are circulated that have glaringly obvious typos and grammatical mistakes. Suze Cook, Managing Director of Ruby Magpie says, “We mostly recruit for the marketing and digital industry where clear written communication skills are a prerequisite for the roles. Yet it is remarkable at how many CVs we are sent with spelling or grammar mistakes. Clear written communication in a CV suggests a candidate who is intelligent and capable of making themselves understood, things that translate well into work environments. A lack of spelling and grammar mistakes also implies that the candidate is meticulous and pays attention to detail something essential to most roles within marketing.” 

When writing a CV, think of it as a piece of content: just as you wouldn't put an article online without proofreading it first, don't send a CV until it's been thoroughly checked. Ask a friend or former colleague if you need a spare pair of eyes.  

Concise  

CVs shouldn't be too long, because when they're too long this often means that they include irrelevant information. This could suggest an inability to provide exactly what is wanted, which is unappealing to employers. Being concise is also part of good communication – you should be able to provide the most amount of information in the least amount of words. Additionally, an obvious benefit to keeping your CV short and sweet is that it reduces the risk of a prospective employer, who has lots of CVs to get through in limited time, getting bored and abandoning yours halfway through.  

It is a good idea to try and limit your CV to one page if possible – however, don't sacrifice detail for this! If you have a wealth of experience that strengthens your position as a candidate, then it is fine to go onto a second page. Just make sure that everything you've written about is worthwhile! Typically recruiters and employers will scan a CV in 15 seconds and won’t go past the second page. If they like what they see, they will then read more. Let Control X become your best friend in the CV writing process. Cut, cut and cut again until you have something that works on 1-2 pages. 

Emphasis on the right experience  

This may not be what someone who has spent £9000 a year on a university education wants to hear, but degrees are not typically at the top of the list of priorities for someone who is looking over a CV! That's not to say you've wasted your parents’ money; it’s just that a recruiter or hiring manager is much more interested in the roles you've held recently rather than your specific degree. For this reason, it is good to put your experience in reverse-chronological order, starting with your most recent job and ending with your first. The end of this section is a good place to put information about your education if you want.  

Tailored to the role  

Often looking for a new role is a full time job it in itself. But spend the time upfront on your CV and you will find a role quicker. The time investment will be worth it in the long run. A CV should have information specific to the role it has been sent for – if an employer sees that a CV contains experience that would be more relevant to others jobs, they may suspect the candidate is applying to multiple openings and is, therefore, not a serious candidate for this specific role. Thus it is important to research the details of the job you are applying for and ensure that everything you include in your CV can be related to the job you are applying for; this helps you to keep it concise, too.  

Layout  

Much like content, the layout should also be tailored to the role. If you are applying for a content role, your CV should reflect your content production skills. If you are applying for a digital role, it is a good idea for your layout to show some of those capabilities – LinkedIn, slideshows and personal website links can be good. Suze Cook says, “When used correctly, infographic style images can complement your experience in the content or digital sector. However, it is easy to go overboard in this respect; use images and charts sparingly. Don't sacrifice the content of your CV for the aesthetics of it. And keep things simple. A busy CV will be too much hard work and is more likely to go into the 'maybe' pile for another day.”  

Furthermore, while it is true that you shouldn't be scared of white space, there is also such thing as too much white space! Don't completely omit margins but conversely don't let them take up almost half the page. It is important to find the right balance to keep your CV from looking crowded without making it look empty.  

Explain the relevance  

If your CV is starting to look like a job spec, than you have spent too much time on your day-to-day role and not enough time on your major achievements. For each role, there should be a focus on delivery rather than responsibilities. And where links can be made between previous experience and the role that is being applied for, they should be made. A good question to ask when considering the experience that has been included in a CV is, 'What has been learnt from this job and how can it be applied to the role that is being applied for?' This will go a long way in showing that a candidate is suited to the job, as well as showing that they know what the job entails.  

A personal statement that displays personality  

A CV shouldn't look like it was written by a robot with no real substance. A brief personal statement at the beginning can make the candidate seem much more real and create an immediate connection between jobseeker and employer before they even meet. It is a chance to show an employer what you can offer on a more personal level beyond the skills that are required. However, watch out for that third person opening statement. Maybe we are a little biased but at Ruby Magpie, we aren’t massive fans of the third person CV. You have written it so why are you now suddenly referring to yourself in the third person? It doesn’t make sense to us. This your opportunity to tell us about YOU so do it in a natural and intelligent way.  

 

A strong CV is important because it is the doorway into a job. Knowing what to look for can, as the writer, improve your chances of landing interviews, while for the people in charge of hiring, it can seriously cut down the time it takes to go through CVs. Since the strength of one can be determined in such a short amount of time, it is important to make sure yours can stand up to scrutiny and hold its own in a sea of CVs! If you want an expert to look over yours and give you some crude advice, then do drop us your CV to cvs@rubymagpie.com, and we will happily give you some top tips or a simple thumbs up or down.