As the new series of The Apprentice begins, we find out how to make your job application stand out from the crowd with these career coach-approved CV tips
How can you make your CV work for you? Often the first glimpse that a prospective employer will gain when it comes to your level of experience, interests and qualifications, crafting the perfect application that highlights your strengths, downplays your weaknesses and emphasises your enthusiasm for the role can prove to be very difficult indeed.
So what are the secrets to writing the perfect CV? We asked careers coach and Get The Gloss Expert Anna Percy-Davis for her top tips when it comes to putting your best foot forward when climbing the career ladder. From CV layout advice to tips for making sure it stands out from the crowd, these words of wisdom could put you on the right track to making the best of impressions, boosting your employability and taking you one step closer to getting your dream job .
1. Secret skills
Look beyond the obvious when it comes to bigging yourself up and begin by listing everything that you can think of that could boost your application in any way, shape or form - then make the cut. “Dig deep - is there anything you have done or achieved that would be worth putting on your CV? It is easy to forget the successes we have had - put them on your CV especially if you can use them to highlight a particular strength of yours or if they are relevant to the job you are applying for,” advises Anna.
When it comes to self-appraisals, they shouldn’t have to be confined to every 6 months. Take a quick inventory of your accomplishments every week, making a note of any transferable skills you may have developed along the way. As much as we say we’ll remember them, we never actually do...as an incentive treat yourself to a new notepad. We’ve got our eyes on this Smythson Smile Wafer Notebook , £35.
2. Lessons in CV layout
Employers don’t have time to read your full unadulterated biography, no matter how tantalising it is. If the position's already oversubscribed, chances are they’ll be looking to gather as much information as possible in the least amount of time possible. “Pages and pages for a CV are dreadful,” says Anna. “Keep it short - one page will do.” Anna recommends the following structure:
- Always go from most recent work experience and work backwards.
- Put work experience first and qualifications last.
- Make sure you highlight the experience you have for the job you are applying for.
- Don't use long wordy sentences - short, sharp and clear sentences are best so someone can see at a glance what experience you have had and what qualifications you have. Tiny print and lots and lots of words aren't well received.
- Keep it short, clear, easy to read and the experience you have relevant to the job you are applying for must stand out. Anything else that makes you a bit different is definitely worth highlighting!
3. Cover letter covered
“THIS IS KEY! A good covering letter can make all the difference,” says Anna. “Again it must be short and sweet and highlight why you are interested in the role and why you are interesting for the role. Try and avoid bland words - if you can sound interesting and different - great! Also offer to take a call from them - lots of first interviews are done over the phone, (so make sure you present well over the phone).” Nervous about the next stage? Check out these top tips for nailing a job interview .
4. Tailor it
When looking for a new job, it can be easy to just copy and paste the same spiel for every application. However, it runs the risk of coming across unoriginal, boring and unmemorable. And like what happened to a friend recently, (who forgot to find and replace all mentions of another company name in her application - CRINGE), it could make you lose the battle before it’s even begun.
“Use the words in the job advert/job description in your CV and covering letter - again if you are not too wordy on the CV they will stand out and will be easy to spot,” recommends Anna. “It is a good exercise to see what you have that matches the job you are applying for - dig deep to see what you can find that is relevant but also be realistic - if you really don't have the right experience for the job don't apply!”
5. A skill set that falls short
So you’ve spotted your dream job, but your list of skills just falls short of the requirements specified. All is not lost though, provided your expectations are sensible. “First of all be clear in your own head that the experience you do have has some relevance (don't waste your time applying for things that don't make sense). However, if the role is just above your current level, state very clearly what experience you do have and in your covering letter state that you are ready for a step up and that you have enough experience at your current level to justify that step-up,” recommends Anna.
6. From big break to the big time
If you’re ready to make the leap from intern to employee, preparation, networking and using your connections are key. “Firstly make sure you are milking the intern role for as much as you can - get experience you can write about on your CV, network like crazy and use the fact that you are working to get you disciplined and focused - all of this will help you be credible in an interview,” advises Anna. “Being an intern IS work experience, so make sure your CV reflects this.”
7. Coping with a career change
“Make sure you have done some retraining or network so that you can get some personal introductions and get into a new career through the back door,” advises Anna. “If your CV doesn't relate in any way to a new career, you are unlikely to get into a new job on the strength of your CV alone.”
8. Cut out the fluff
We’re still waiting for the day where socialising and after work drinks count as credible job skills. However, until that day comes it looks like we’ll have to keep our list of wide-ranging attributes edited to the most applicable to the role. “Unless you have some really interesting ‘interests’ don't mention them on your CV - reading, going to see movies or playing sport unless it is a particularly interesting sport, just doesn't cut it,” cautions Anna.
9. Picture not-so-perfect
To snap or not to snap? Some say it adds a touch of personality to your CV but it could be risky. “A photo of yourself is viewed as pretty naff unless you are asked for it,” warns Anna. Best to veer on the side of caution and leave your CV picture-free for now.
No matter how good your CV is, a speglling mistake here or a gramma’r error there could be the slip up that prevents your application from progressing further. Draft it, read it through, leave it for a few hours, come back to it with fresh eyes and then ask someone else to proof-read it for you afterwards. It sounds long-winded, but trust us, it makes the probability of bothersome blunders lower.
“So bottom line - one page CV, keep it relevant, find something interesting about yourself and if possible, weave it into the CV,” says Anna.
“If you are thinking about moving jobs or careers within the next year, start planning it now. Do things that will look good on your CV (and that includes achievements in other areas of your life) - sport (run a marathon), charity (do volunteering), life in general (set up something) anything that makes you look interesting, caring and engaged in life! Or start retraining if that is what you need to do to change careers...”