Two easy things you can do to make your CV stand out

When it comes to CVs, I have seen a few…thousand! I find myself giving the same advice to the majority of the people I support so I thought I would share that today. There are two really easy things you can do to make your CV stand out.

What makes an effective CV?

For a CV to be effective it needs to get you interviews. That’s its only job. Now it’s unlikely that your CV will have a 100% conversion rate when it comes to your applications but anywhere above 10-15% is considered a decent conversion. It sounds low, I know but I find that it’s possible to increase that.

Remember that your CV is a marketing document, designed to sell you and your skills. It’s not a history of your life thus far. Why is that important? Because it means you can remove/add parts as you see relevant; this is called tailoring your CV.

You can choose your format too:

  1. When you are applying for a similar role then you would go for a reverse chronological CV (traditional)
  2. If you are an academic/teacher then you will need an academic/teaching CV – these are usually longer and have set formats.
  3. For a change in career or if you have had a career break of any kind then a skills-based or functional CV is your best option

How to make your CV stand out in a crowd

When your CV lands on a recruiter’s desk it will be there with a number of others in most cases – the average is around 100 applications per role. So how do you make sure it’s your CV that is noticed?

Adding in results-based statements

The number one piece of advice I give when reviewing a CV is to add in results-based statements. By which I mean giving details rather than generic statements. Here’s an example:

I am an effective communicator


Designed a career programme to meet the career development needs of over 49,000 members. Working with colleagues globally to enure it was communicated effectively to each target audience, resulting in a 20% increase of users.

Can you see the difference? By adding in more detail you can demonstrate the skill, in this case, communication, rather than just saying you have it. You prove it. It doesn’t have to be big numbers or huge change; it needs to give context and example.

Easy ways to do this is to add in information about

  • Budget responsibility
  • People managed (directly/indirectly)
  • People mentored
  • Academic publications written
  • Number of attendees at a workshop/presentation
  • Time/money saved

You get the idea. This isn’t the time to hide your light under a bushel.

Make your CV easy to read

Recruiters don’t have time to spend reading every CV in detail…so make it easy for them to read.

  1. Maximum two pages (academic and education CVs excluded)
  2. No colours or pictures
  3. Use a mixture of bullet points and paragraphs
  4. Tailor your CV for the role
  5. Check for spelling or grammatical errors

The likely scenario will be that your CV lands on the recruiter’s desk, they spend a maximum of thirty seconds scanning it and seeing if anything jumps out to catch their interest. If not, or if there are errors, it’s likely to end up in the no pile. If it’s a yes or a maybe, they will then spend longer reading it and hopefully give you a ring to find out more.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given for your CV?

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