Do you feel the need to update your CV this summer? According to last week’s Telegraph due to “fears of a looming recession…job postings on the careers website Indeed have already slowed down in recent weeks, and talk of redundancies has more than doubled in the past three months on the website Glassdoor.”
Even without the current economic and labour market outlook for the rest of 2022, you should consider the summertime THE perfect time to review and update your personal brand collateral.
If you haven’t done so in a while, it’s also a great time to revisit (or create from scratch) your 2-year career plan and see where you are in relation to your goals.
Think of the summer as an opportunity to get ahead of the competition and be ready with a clear plan for when the job market starts to move again in September.
On that note, writing a success-generating CV for a tough market is not easy. It requires high levels of preparation, structural precision and quality presentation. Here are our 5 top tips to help you get started:
Five Key Steps to a Perfect CV
1. Use keywords
Finding the most relevant words and phrases that represent your position and industry is essential for getting past first stage Applicant Tracking Systems. Make sure the job titles, section titles, profile and professional experience are full of relevant keywords. Research job sites and job descriptions and make sure to include a ‘key skills’ section so that you can get a good cluster of 10-15 towards the top of the CV. You need to make sure your CV gets past the software and actually appears on a shortlist in front of a human.
2. Write a great summary
Start with a title. This needs to be keyword relevant, of course. Match the target position exactly if you can. If you’ve never been employed in a position that’s even vaguely similar, use ‘seeking:’ or ‘candidate for’. If you’ve done a similar role, but not had that exact position (you were Finance Manager, say, and you’re applying for a ‘Head of Finance’) then just put the target role; you are not obligated to describe yourself using exact job titles from past employers. Then summarise in 3 or 4 bullets your most relevant experience and strengths for the role.
3. Think about skills
Most jobs have a very clear required set of strengths, usually contained in ‘candidate essentials or desirables’ lists on job descriptions. Do you have those skills? Hopefully you do. In which case, make sure your CV reflects them. You can even structure your CV so that it exactly reflects a target job spec, illustrating each required skill in a list of bullets, using your achievements as examples.
4. Illustrate your skills in achievements
Think about the things you’ve done at work that you’re most proud of, hopefully ones which also made your employer’s environment a better place because of it. Focus less on your personal development, and more on how your presence improved the employer’s bottom line. CVs aren’t an exact historical record; they’re a brochure, an opportunity to show how good an employee you are, specifically for the job you’re applying for. Use active verbs in the simple past tense, describe clients won, or projects completed, or profit increased, and measure outcomes with numbers if possible.
5. Keep it short and sweet
Brevity and clarity are essential. Stay on two pages. An easy way to make this possible is to keep the CV focused on the last 5-10 years and summarise anything earlier. Write a first draft, then polish and trim, then do it again. Think lean, simple prose with as little descriptive or boastful language as possible; a good way to do this is to restrict usage of adjectives and adverbs.