Potential employers want to pick up a CV and identify that a candidate has the requisite skills to do the job well and the desire to work for their particular organisation and industry.
These skills need to be conveyed immediately. According to eye tracking research from the United States a recruiter spends an average of six seconds on a CV’s initial assessment.
If sought after skills are missed in those crucial seconds of the recruitment stage it could mean a worthy applicant is permanently out of the running for the desired role.
“A CV is about getting your foot in the door. Getting a job is about the conversation you have when you have got your foot in the door,” Chorus General Counsel and Company Secretary Vanessa Oakley says.
Careful tailoring of a CV for the job is the best way to appear instantly suitable and end up in the interview pile.
To tailor your CV well requires a review of the job description, Momentum Principal Consultant Carla Wellington says.
“For any in-house role there is almost always a job description and yet so few people ask me for one.”
After receiving the job description, Ms Wellington advises taking a further step, and calling the hiring person to clarify how they are ranking the required skills. This way the applicant knows to highlight their most desirable skills at the top of their CV.
Researching the industry and the person hiring to get a feel for the bigger picture is also highly recommended when drafting a CV.
“Do as much as you can to understand the organisation you are applying to and show that in your CV,” Treasury Solicitor and Manager, Legal Group Jeremy Salmond says.
“That sets you apart from other people who focus on themselves not the organisation.”
A great CV highlights skills and experience that don’t come straight from having a tertiary qualification or a job title.
For example when hiring Ms Oakley wants to know:
- What is unique about the person?
- Do they stand out?
- What is the person’s essence?
- Do they have good soft skills, such as good judgement?
- Have they added value in their previous role/s?
“What I am not looking for is a long list of technical skills which I will assume that they will have,” she says.
Lists with generic competencies (such as communication; relationship building; and team work) separated out from the work history and blandly stating that they are good at those things is not useful either, Ms Wellington says.
She recommends using specific examples of experience as a way to effectively convey desired competencies.
The overwhelming advice was to declare any career breaks.
“Be straight up and authentic about [a break]. There’s no point trying to cover up something,” Ms Oakley says.
An unexplained career gap could mean a CV winds up in the no interview pile.
“If there’s a gap and it’s not explained, as people are busy and they get a lot of CVs, are they going to ask the question why or will they just say that’s not clear and move on?” Mr Salmond says.
The cover letter is the place an applicant should concisely show they understand the organisation they’re applying to work for.
Hiring persons spoken to were spilt on whether it is now appropriate for a cover letter to sit in the body of an email.
Generally this was deemed acceptable, but, one illustrated a preference for it to remain as a formal letter as a separate attachment. The cover letter can also be the place to acknowledge a career break or gaps in your expertise.
Highlighting some potential skill gaps, and how an applicant intends to work around them, can work as a positive thing.
It can show commitment to the role and good judgement because the applicant has thoroughly assessed what the job requirements are and their ability to do it, Ms Wellington says.
“If you don’t address obvious gaps it can appear that you don’t understand the role and/or that you are being indiscriminate in your job search.”
- Ask for the job description
- Spell check
- Grammar check
- Keep it concise
- Write a cover letter
- Declare career breaks
- Your homework on organisation and interviewer
- Use reverse chronological order (most recent role at beginning of CV)
- Expect a prospective employer to google you
- Spend time on your CV – it shows
- Include a picture
- Use a lot of colour
- Submit a hard copy when an email address has been provided for applications
- Send a link to a LinkedIn profile instead of a CV