Writing a good CV can be one of the toughest challenges of job hunting and landing an interview for your dream job. Given that most employers spend just a few seconds scanning each CV before filing it in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ pile, ensuring that you make an impact and shine among the competition is key. Andrew Ladommatos, founder of headhunting firm Aureum Partners, shares his top tips on how to write a glowing CV that will stand out from the crowd.
In Hong Kong’s fast-paced, ‘rat race’ society, children at a young age are often taught the technicalities behind how things work and the methodologies to pass exams, but real life skills such as how to get a good job are often overlooked. Young people in Hong Kong are often left to make their own mistakes and learn from these mistakes, especially when it comes to job hunting as a fresh graduate. Having reviewed thousands of CVs across a range of different job functions and industry sectors over the years, here are some of my ‘top tips’ to help you write an effective CV which should maximise your chances of securing a job interview.
1. Make your CV achievement-based, not descriptive = sell yourself!
If there is one thing you take away from this article, make it this: every job, from accountancy to writing, engineering to purchasing, teaching to administration, has its deliverables. Far too many people simply describe their day-to-day duties on their CV. This is less interesting to read. ‘Chasing overdue debtors and trying to reduce accounts receivable’ means very little to a potential employer. To what extent did you manage to reduce the overdue debts? How much money did you recover in how long? How did you do this? Any special cases where you managed to get an invoice paid that hadn’t been previously paid? For a teacher, ‘Teaching P3 & P4 students English and Mathematics’ again is descriptive, but how large were your class sizes? To what extent did you improve your students’ grades? Did you experience any particularly difficult students that you managed to turn around? What was the average grade compared to the previous year under a different teacher? If you do not sell yourself on your CV, then there is no point even sending it.
2. Keep it short and concise
The harsh reality is that most HR departments and line managers in organisations will spend very little time reviewing your CV – sometimes as little as five to ten seconds after opening it. If the requested experience and character traits do not jump out when they first glance at it, then often it will go into the ‘Reject’ pile. In my opinion, there is no ‘golden rule’ to how long your CV should be, however, for each job, try to limit your responsibilities and achievements to six to ten bullet points. Do not write a CV in sentence format, and for jobs that you had six to ten years ago, you don’t need to write more than a couple of bullet points under each. Experience gained back then will be of less relevance to the experience in your current (or most recent) position.
3. Avoid spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
This goes without saying, however it’s surprising how often people make mistakes on their CV when it comes to spelling and grammar. If English is your second language, get a native English-speaking friend to proof read it, or alternatively pay someone to do it. The CV is a marketing document, the first contact an organisation has with you. It represents everything about you. There are no excuses for any spelling and grammar mistakes.
4. Make sure it’s consistent
Are all the titles the same font and size? How about the job descriptions? What about the spacing below each section? You need each job listed on your CV to be in exactly the same format, to make it look professional and consistent. It’s shocking how many people overlook this. Do you put a full stop at the end of every bullet point on your CV or no full stops? Whatever rule you use, consistency is key. The more observant HR departments or managers will pick up on this, so be careful.
5. Tailor it for the job you are applying for
People will not hire you unless they think you are specifically interested in the job you are applying for. Once you give people the impression you are looking for ‘any job’, you will soon become a much lower priority. You could put a ‘Personal Objective’ section at the top of your CV; a one to two sentence summary explaining the type of job you are looking for, but ensure this is tailored towards the industry and specific role you are applying for. When you go to the interview, tell them specifically why you are interested in this type of job and industry, as opposed to giving them the idea that you just want to work in any job to earn money.
6. Show them you have a personality
This is of course not easy to do on paper. However, adding an ‘Interests’ section will often help; if the interviewer shares the same interests as you, they may be more inclined to invite you to an interview out of curiosity, if nothing else. You are a human – try to convey this on paper. Ready to write a cracking CV? Good luck job hunters!