8 must haves to get your CV to the top of the pile

Following our recent post regarding some of the snags that can weaken your CV, let’s take a look at the 8 must-haves to get your CV to the top of the pile and will help you get into the hiring manager’s good books.


1. Achievements & Accomplishments

All too often I see CVs that offer a very limited insight when it comes to previously held positions. It is important to outline your skillset and primary duties, but this alone lacks substance. What recruiters and hiring managers want to see, are examples of work/achievements that distinguish you from the rest.

2. Hard figures

If the position you’re applying for requires you to hit certain billing targets, reduce spending etc., then including relevant figures from previous positions will help demonstrate that you are up to the task, and prepared to put the work in.

3. Simplicity is key

What I’m referring to here is structure and layout. Do not opt for a deliberately fancy, or even complicated, format to stand out from the bunch. Your work and achievements should speak for themselves, voiding the need for flashy text boxes, headers and fonts. Plus, most recruiters will have their template which they will paste your CV into.

Once again, this does not apply to everyone. You’ve probably come across Robby Leonardi’s interactive CV (definitely worth checking out if you haven’t!), and it’s an amazing example of how an alternative approach to your CV can simultaneously boast and demonstrate a particular skillset – but would this format be appropriate for, say, a Solicitor or Accountant? Always think about who will be reading your CV.

4. Bullet, bullet, bullet!

I’ve mentioned a few times how important it is to engage your reader and hold their interest while they are reading your CV, and a big part of this is steering clear of chunky paragraphs.

Big blocks of text and lengthy paragraphs take up a great deal of white space, and they can easily disinterest or even daunt your readers. Make your CV more approachable and easier to scan by using bullet points to break up the big paragraphs and keep things concise and relevant.

5. Don’t fear the 3rd page!

When I wrote the CV that got me my first interview with Harvey John, I remember stressing out over the length/number of pages I was using. I remember reading somewhere that employers don’t want to drag through pages and pages of information, which is certainly true, but by no means should you limit yourself to only two pages. If you find yourself cutting out relevant and important information for the sake of brevity, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Moving on to the 3rd page will not only prevent this, but it will help you to avoid bottom-of-the-eye-test font sizes and absurdly wide margins.

6. Remember where your CV is going

This is arguably one of the most important things to remember and should underpin any CV you write. It can be broken down into two key considerations:

Who’s reading your CV? – think about who you need to impress. It is not always safe to assume that your CV will go straight to the hiring manager, and may well pass through HR first. The person reading in this case will have less industry knowledge, so be sure to account for this by demonstrating relevance and value as clearly as possible.

What are you applying for? – this may sound like a given but it is important to remember the position you are applying for. Relate your experience to specific requirements outlined in the job description, demonstrate your ability to solve problems this role is designed to address etc.

7. Include a personal profile

Whenever I read a CV that launches straight into employment history or education, I feel like a vital step has been skipped. The profile is a helpful introduction to you and your CV, and it gives you the chance to make a strong initial impression that will prompt the reader to continue. Be sure to give an insightful professional overview/snapshot, and use this as a chance to include information about yourself and your background that relates specifically to the position that you’re applying for.

8. Business Development, Marketing and Commercial Awareness

While I can’t speak for every sector, I have found that providing information on BD & Marketing initiatives resonates well with a lot of hiring managers. The importance of your ability to win new business will depend on your level, but in any case, if you attend networking events, contribute to a newsletter, maintain a strong social media presence etc. you should be including details in your CV.

If BD isn’t a key aspect of the position you’re applying for, then redirect this effort towards demonstrating your commercial awareness. This is likely to be probed at the interview stage, so it’s a good idea to put yourself on the front foot as early as possible. You’re expected to maintain an awareness and active interest in the associated changes, developments and threats to your industry – you can demonstrate this in your CV by providing details of relevant articles/blog posts that you’ve written, seminars/courses that you’ve attended and by referring to key changes in your industry that have reshaped previous positions.

Overall, writing a CV is no simple undertaking – but hopefully, these posts will help you to navigate some of the more subtle CV pitfalls, and add a little finesse that will impress the hiring manager.

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