Navigating your job search: getting your CV right

Comms Leaders provides advice for job seekers looking for a new corporate communications role on how to craft the best possible CV.

Navigating your job search: getting your CV right

Searching for a job during a pandemic

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our economy, searching for a new job has never been more challenging.

We’ve pooled our collective knowledge in a series of blogs to help you navigate your way through your job search. Our first focuses on CV advice. Articles on how to prepare for an interview and how to promote yourself will follow.

Your CV is the key to unlocking opportunities

Your CV is often the only way you can showcase yourself to a hiring manager. So you need to ensure it showcases your achievements, that you know it inside out and can confidently expand on anything you have included.

Focus your efforts on tailoring your CV to match each role you apply for. In the digital world of jobs boards and LinkedIn, or where an in-house recruiter might not be familiar with your area of expertise, it has never been more important to tailor your CV to the job description.

Comms Leaders does not use algorithms or keyword searches to match candidates to job descriptions, but plenty of companies do. So every application you make should have a CV which includes the keywords from the job description.

Check it and then check it again

It may sound obvious, but we often see CVs with grammatical or spelling errors. This gives a negative first impression. Many hiring managers will automatically reject any CVs with typos.

Your CV is a document you have probably looked at hundreds of times. It’s not unusual to miss a few typos. When you think it’s ready to submit for a particular role, leave it for an hour or two, then go back and look at it afresh. Read every word to ensure it is spelt correctly and check all punctuation. Use an app like Grammarly to help you.

It’s also important to be consistent: where you have bullet points, for example, either put a full stop after every one or none, but be consistent. Same with using italics or underlining headings.

Along with your CV, we recommend including a simple, plain English cover letter with your application. This should be one page only, highlighting your relevance for the role and what you can bring to the organisation. Give this some personality and display your enthusiasm.

Ask at least one other person to review your CV before applying for the role.

What to include in your CV

There is some evidence that shows a hiring manager will look first at your summary statement at the top of the CV, then your most recent role, then your education. If nothing else, you have to make sure these really sell you as a candidate.

The summary is the best opportunity to show a hiring manager a little of your personality, what makes you tick, what values are important to you and where you want to go in your career. Ideally, keep this to three or four sentences and try to avoid repeating anything you include at a later point in your CV.

For each role, include a short sentence explaining what the company does, its size and any complexities (number of locations, remote workforce etc) and another explaining what your responsibilities were.

You should be able to offer seven or eight achievements for your most recent substantial role, with tangible measures of success. For previous roles, four or five should suffice. Of course, this depends on how long you have been in your most recent role. If you only recently joined, you should apply this advice more to the previous role.

Show outcomes for each role, not just outputs. Use evidence (anecdotal/qualitative or better still quantitative) to demonstrate your impact, how you affected change and by how much.

Try to avoid listing responsibilities that make your CV read like a job description. Add in specific details about projects you worked on. Include a couple of case studies, even if only in short bullet point format, to demonstrate your experience and bring it to life. It is these specific details that make your experience stand out from other candidates in your field.

How long is too long?

If you can keep your CV to two pages and still concisely tell the story of your career to date, that is fantastic. But we have never had a CV rejected because it was three pages. The important thing in a CV is to make every word count.

If your career story takes three pages to tell and you have unique things to say about each role, that is absolutely fine.  A hiring manager who likes what they read in the summary and most recent role, will be willing to read on.

If you have had several short term or interim roles, your CV can easily become overly long and repetitive. We recommend consolidating your interim experience into one paragraph with one set of dates. You can list the specific clients and achievements in bullet point form underneath, with time spent in each contract (months/years) if some of those are substantial.

Make your CV easy to read. Don’t reduce the font to an impossible size just to fit it on three pages. If you are doing that, you need to edit it down.

Edit your CV as you go through your career. If your first role was 15 years ago and still takes up half a page, you need to edit it down – or better still, re-write it. What you wanted to be famous for 15 years ago may not be relevant for your current ambitions.

We’re here to help

In summary, ensure your CV is accurate, authentic and concise. There is no perfect CV template. Make sure it’s easy to read and sells what you have to offer for a particular role, and you will have the best chance of securing an interview.

We’d like to wish every candidate currently seeking a new role the best of luck. We are always here to provide constructive feedback on the CVs of any candidates who register with us.

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