If it’s good enough to get past HR and into the hands of the hiring manager, your CV is the first impression you give to an employer. Before you’ve spoken on the phone or come in for an interview, the employer will have already formed an opinion of who you are, based on that two page black and white document that you spent an entire week perfecting.
Your CV must make a good first impression, as research by the National Citizen Service suggests that recruiters take 8.8 seconds to look at a CV when shortlisting. But standing out on paper isn’t exactly an easy task, especially when there’s a structure to adhere to and a huge list of things you have to mention.
Then, of course, there’s also the fear that making a bold statement could have the opposite effect and be memorable for all the wrong reasons. For example, a novelty music video style CV where you list all your professional skills while you dance the Macarena will probably get the employer’s attention - but you almost certainly won’t get the job.
There are, however, less dramatic but nonetheless effective ways to make an impact with your CV. Simple changes and tweaks can make your CV stand out among the hundreds of others on the table. So if you’ve found the perfect job and want your CV to take you one step closer to securing it, here are few ideas to help you get noticed.
1. Ditch the Black and White
No rule says a CV has to be written in the traditional black and white format with size 11 Times New Roman font. This is how you sell yourself to employers; so you should balance functionality with visual appeal.
This can be particularly beneficial if you are applying for a job where design skills are necessary or even desirable. Going the extra mile to demonstrate your abilities will immediately position you well against other candidates.
But even if the role doesn’t require you to be a whiz with Photoshop, freshening up your CV with fonts or colours can help you stand out. There are various apps and programs online providing you with templates to design a more creative CV. Even people with no graphic design skills can produce something that looks interesting enough to peak attention.
That said, it’s important that you don’t go too far with the design and end up sacrificing the content of your CV - remember that less is more. Employers will still prioritise the information in your CV over how it is presented and will be able to tell if you’re covering up a poor profile with a pretty little bow. If you are using colours, stick to a simple palette and if you are experimenting with fonts, ensure they are easy to read.
2. Consider a Digital Cv
If you really want to wow an employer and have some technical skills, consider creating a digital CV or a bespoke website that links your CV with your portfolio, a catalogue of work and social media accounts.
This can make a great statement if you are applying for a web related job where you want to impress with your development or design ability. Likewise, if you are applying for a marketing role, a digital CV can link to or showcase some of your successful campaigns.
Showing off your proficiency in a practical way can be considerably more effective than listing your abilities on paper.
3. Include a Picture
Including a small and simple headshot on your CV can give the employer a more rounded impression of who you are. It offers a more humanized version of yourself, as a plain word document can sometimes seem detached and impersonal.
Of course, you might prefer not to include a picture of yourself, as you may not want your physical appearance to influence your application in any way. If that’s the case, you can still add a visual element by perhaps including a small logo from your previous employer - particularly if you have worked for a large and notable name, as this can be a great way of highlighting your experience.
Regardless of what kind of picture you wish to include, it should be cleanly inserted and small enough so that it does not take up valuable space, or distract the employer from the rest of your CV.
4. Don't Copy and Paste
Do not, under any circumstances, send one standard CV to every single employer. Make sure when you apply for a job, that your CV is crafted with the job’s specification and requirements in mind.
When employers look through applications, they are searching for applicants that meet and match the specific job requirements. If you have gone to the effort to demonstrate how you are capable for this exact role, it won’t go unnoticed.
This means ditching sections of your CV that don’t relate to the task at hand. If you worked in a corner shop for two months when you were 15, you can leave this out, or at least, keep it extremely brief if you want to avoid gaps.
Use the keywords in the job description to give you guidance on which areas to highlight and lead with. These days, many companies process CVs with software that track keywords, so if you include these in your application, you’ll stand a better chance than others who don’t.
However, be careful not to pepper your CV with keywords for the sake of it. Their software is often sophisticated enough to detect this and if your CV makes it to the hiring manager, you can bet they will pick up on it as well.
5. Include a Summary
CVs can often be dense, as there’s a lot of information to get through. And while bullet points and tables are great for breaking up text, it can be difficult to put brief points into context.
So consider adding a short and punchy introduction which outlines, in just a few sentences, why you would be perfect for the role. Not only will this help your CV stand out visually in terms of formatting, it also gives you a chance to show off and sell your skills and capabilities right away.
6. Tell Them About Your Hobbies
When an employer is reading through your CV, your work experience and qualifications will be their primary focus as these will provide the best indication of how capable you are for that specific role.
However, when it comes to the section about your hobbies, activities and interests, don’t fall into the trap of skimming over this or making it a generic list of “socialising, exercising and relaxing.” Yes, this section should be small but it is nonetheless significant and can sometimes prove useful in showing a recruiter how you would fit in with the rest of the team.
So, take some time to ensure your CV is unique and specific. If you have hobbies be brave enough to list them, no matter how unimportant or even silly you think they are. If you’re a skydiving fanatic or a pro salsa dancer in your spare time, mention it here and add some character to your application. At the very least, it will give the recruiter something to remember you by.