Most job applicants don’t know it, but your CV has to sell you and your skills faster than a TV advert! Most recruiters decide whether to bin your application or invite you to an interview within just 15 seconds of opening your CV. So to land the job your talents deserve, you must grab your potential employer’s attention right away. Here’s how:
Tailor your CV to suit the advert you’re replying to. It must fit comfortably onto two or three pages of A4 – any longer, and your reader will become bored. Start by writing down every qualification, job, certificate and pastime you’ve ever had. Now look carefully at the advert you’re replying to – and delete those little parttime jobs and training certificates which are irrelevant to your potential employer. Also check that you don’t waste space listing qualifications or achievements you gained a long time ago or you’ve since surpassed.
Describe the skills and talents your achievements have taught you. Simply telling the employer you’ve had previous jobs or been to college won’t help him judge your suitability. Tell him how waiting tables in a restaurant has
taught you how to deal with customers politely and efficiently. If possible, emphasise your suitability by repeating key words and phrases from the job advertisement itself. Quantify your achievements with numbers, volumes and monetary values – it creates a greater impact. For instance, “Carried out a major review of transport operations, with a subsequent saving to the company of R385,000”. Use this immediate past tense when writing – it avoids repeating “I” all the time, saves space, and conveys an impressive sense of completion.
Use action words to describe your achievements. Using words like “increased”, “achieved” and “succeeded” give a positive, “can-do” feeling. Avoid weak descriptions like “assisted”, “helped”, “aided”, “participated in”, “involved with”, “handled”. They don’t explain what you actually did, and suggest that your contribution was very minor. If you weren’t responsible for managing a particular project, use these phrases instead: “in conjunction with”, “in collaboration with”, “as a member of a team”, “co-wrote”, “co-designed”. Don’t use nouns when talking about your contribution – “organisation of new committee and promotion of programmes” for instance. With verbs, this becomes far more dynamic – “wrote newspaper and flyer copy to promote…”.
Simply give your full name, address, telephone number, and email address at the top. Don’t include your age – you’d be inviting discrimination. And don’t mention your children (especially school age and younger).
Although it’s illegal, some recruiters believe young parents won’t be committed enough. Don’t send a photograph unless it’s specifically required in the advertisement. Few people are really photogenic, and it could put you at the mercy of the recruiter’s in-built prejudices about what constitutes a “safe face”. Also leave out any mention of your
current salary. The employer wants to attract and motivate the best candidate at the lowest possible price – so withhold this information until after you’ve been offered the job, when it will become your best negotiating tool.
Keep your CV simple and easy to look at. Use a serif font (it’s easier to read than more “modern” block types), don’t be too clever with changes in size or type, and underline or embolden section headings and key words. Your paper copies should be printed on good quality paper, with no handwritten corrections or tippex. Present your skills and talents on one or two pages of A4 paper maximum, and only print on one side. And don’t use CV preparation software (such as the format available in Microsoft Word) – your CV will appear mass-produced.