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CV preparation

How to write a winning CV

A UK graduate vacancy accrues 39 applications on average, with only three or four candidates being invited for an interview.

If you register with a recruitment agency, a consultant can identify your key selling points and find jobs that match your skill set. However, even when you sign up with a recruiter, your CV needs to stand out in order for them to want to help you find a role.

You also need to be able to adapt your CV to suit the different types of vacancies. Sometimes just some minor tweaks to layout and wording can be the difference between being called in for an interview or not.

Remember that layout is key

Employers give CVs six seconds of their time before deciding whether to read on. The human eye does not necessarily read words in a linear fashion. Eyes are instead drawn to certain areas of the page and will pick out particular words. Thus, your choice of layout and language is key. It is advisable to have a CV with different formats and wording to suit the different types of roles you apply for. Either way, keep your CV to a maximum of 2-4 pages, putting your key skills, experience and attributes at the top. Make your CV easy to read by using bold headers for each section, wide margins and a font size of 11 or 12.

Top Tip: Canva has a great tool you can use to help design your CV and make it stand out from the crowd. 

Use action words

Tell the employer what you have achieved by using positive verbs, such as ‘grew’, ‘built’ and, ‘led’. For areas in which you have less experience, use positive wording such as ‘working knowledge of’, rather than ‘some experience in’. This type of language draws attention to what you offer and how the company would benefit from you working for them. Make sure you also use keywords that match the specification for the job you have applied for. This not only shows the employer that you’re suited to the role, but it will also give you the best chance of getting around the automatic tracking systems, which are often used by hiring companies.

Consider seeking professional advice

Getting an objective opinion from a CV specialist can pay dividends. They can offer you constructive feedback, identifying key areas that can be improved and how. Recruitment consultants can be a useful resource in this respect. Having someone look at your CV from a more detached perspective often means you become aware of aspects you had never noticed before (for example, repetitive language, lack of clarity or how you come across).

In short: Put the time in

Creating your CV can be a daunting task – and one that seems to take an age to complete. However, there is no quick route to an effective resume; giving it the time it requires is an important part of the process. Think carefully about layout and wording and remember to adapt these for different types of jobs. With so many applications received for an opening, it pays to put the time in.