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Shine with a little polish

By David Wilson
MyCareer

Ensure your CV dazzles recruiters by following these 10 top tips, writes David Wilson.

Does your CV ooze flair? At a time of low unemployment - a squeak under 5 per cent - it is tempting to slack off, to forget about updating it and making the document as attractive as possible.

However, like a great pitch or blog post, your CV needs to "pop" and be instantly engaging. After all, it's widely reported the average recruiter spends just 20 seconds skimming each one received.

However well you think your CV reads, it can almost certainly benefit from one more edit. Discover the secrets of effective revision that can give your CV added snap and really wow a weary hirer deluged with documents.

Begin with a bang
Open your CV with a section showcasing your biggest accomplishments, recruiter Bruce Hurwitz says. Embed between three and five bullet points that address the selection criteria and spark a desire to meet you. For example, Hurwitz cites a candidate for a human resources job who said he cut average yearly staff complaints from 50 to zero. Result: an instant job offer.

Multicultural clout
Hurwitz says to play up any ability you have in foreign languages. He often meets candidates who mention in conversation that they speak another language and have international experience. Mysteriously, they omit the information from their CVs when it should be highlighted.

Enough about me
Replace your stated career aim with a profile summing up your expertise, professional CV writer Annemarie Cross says. Cross underlines the importance of conveying what you can do for the hirer, instead of dwelling on your personal aspirations. Avoid coming across as an egotist because selfishness is a deal-breaker.

Bold and beautiful
Make your CV "aesthetically pleasing" with professional headings and layout. Get the formatting consistent. If you bold one job title, then bold the rest. "I've seen people use five or six different fonts, different colours etc, which makes reading the document almost impossible," Cross says. "Keep it professional-looking." Ensure the whole document is well structured and lent grace by acres of white space.

Hard facts
Don't just crank out a long list of job functions and responsibilities, Cross says. Rather, list particular achievements and successes and state measurable outcomes. So, instead of saying you "increased sales through delivering strong customer service", say you "increased sales by 60 per cent despite market downturns, through forging strong client relationships". Strategist Barry Maher suggests you forget about giving your job description. "I don't care what you were supposed to do," Maher says. "Tell me what you did, what you achieved. Specifically. With numbers, if possible."

Total focus
Never forget that your CV amounts to a sales pitch, Maher says. Nobody wants to wade through details of every job you have held, from cleaner to clerk. The more your CV focuses on selling you for the particular job you have in your sights, the better your chances of success.

Bullet brevity
Your CV is your advertisement. Like an ad, it should be easily digestible, Maher says. Make it an easy, breezy read and you raise the likelihood that someone might actually read it from start to finish. Use bullet points and short sentences. Avoid rambling paragraphs of impenetrable copy. Consultants agree it should be no longer than two pages.

IT guile
Your CV might first go through a computer keyword scan and no keywords means no interview, however impressive your credentials might be. Analysts agree your CV should be peppered with keywords that appear in either the ad you are answering or on the company website.

Pinpoint delivery
Target the delivery of your CV. Unless the right person receives it, an impeccably polished CV will get you nowhere. Get a contact name.

Idiot clause
Ensure the email address from which you make your pitch sounds sensible. Like any other detail, your email might be scrutinised. A novelty one that tickles friends and family might make you look like a fool and dissuade that overworked HR agent from even giving your document the standard 20 seconds.

Published: 28 May 2011


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