6 steps to CV heaven (and to the top of the pile)
Your CV, or curriculum vitae, is your wing-man in the job market. It helps you get a foot in the door, makes a (hopefully great) first impression and introduces you to your future employer. Even though we all kind of know how to write a CV (or resume, a slightly shorter-format version often used in North America), it never hurts to repeat a few tips and tricks to spruce up a generic resume and add some personality.
Follow these six steps and your CV is guaranteed to make it to the top of the hiring manager’s pile.
1. Tailor it
It’s highly unlike that you’ll apply to a job as a marketing intern and a coffee shop barista at the same time. If you do, more power to you. Even if you apply for the (same) jobs in the same industry, it’s still important to make sure your CV fits the job description.
Although you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, don’t just send the same CV every time. One trick is to have a master resume listing everything you’ve done, learned and achieved and then just edit it quickly for each job you apply to.
Pro tip: Make your CV relevant for the job by changing the order of skills or achievements so that the most important ones ‘pop out’ immediately and the person reading your CV doesn’t have to look for it.
2. Become part of the solution
Don’t ask what your employer can do for you: ask what you can do for your employer. After all, they don’t want to hear what you want, but how you can support them.
One way to do this is to add a short, 1-2 sentence ‘objective statement’ to the top of your CV – a mini intro, if you will. Rather than telling employers what they already know (that you want the job and that you have the qualifications for it), use it to tell them who you are, what your passions are (something related to the job you’re applying for), and how you can contribute to the company’s success. Make sure it’s short, sweet and to the point.
Pro tip: Make the objective statement stand out by changing the font color on it (something subtly different like gray instead of black) or putting it in italics. (Don’t overdo the formatting though and keep your whole CV clean and professional-looking!)
3. Show off your skills
List your experience first, then your education. Even though degrees are great, you are not your degree. You are your experiences, skills, and achievements. Those are your greatest assets and will help you stand out. Even if you just graduated, a part-time job, an internship or volunteer work helped you become a responsible person who knows how to budget, plan and schedule.
Pro tip: Make sure your experience and education sections have clear headers. Again, a clean and well organized CV with headers and bullet points make it easy to read and much more likely that someone will actually read it through and invite you for an interview.
4. Hype up the soft skills
One important thing that can help you gain exactly that experience after or during school are trips abroad, especially ones where you lived abroad, either studying a language or volunteering. All of a sudden, you have developed planning and organizational skills, you’ve increased your communication skills, and you’ve learned to overcome obstacles. Just like that, you have become an independent, flexible and creative problem-solver who impresses with their cross-cultural skills!
Pro tip: If you’re passionate about traveling and discovering new cultures, include this in your objective statement and include any experiences abroad in your experiences and/or education section. This is particularly important if you’re applying to an international company or a job abroad.
5. Make a list, check it twice
Use our little checklist to make sure your tailored, solution-oriented, soft skills-heavy CV will propel you to the top of the pile:
Choose a classic font that’s available in everyone’s font library. Arial or Helvetica are a safe bet.
Choose a font size that’s readable. Tiny words make eyes hurt and don’t lead to interviews.
Leave some white space. It increases readability and makes your CV look more professional.
Use bullet points. You’re not writing a novel but an outline of your achievements.
Write in the active voice. “Responsible for” and “Duties included” are not written in an active voice; use active verbs like “Implemented”, “Improved”, “Managed” etc. instead)
Check the spelling and grammar. No mistakes allowed. Have mom or dad or a friend check it a few times before sending. (Silly mistakes just don’t make a great first impression!)
Save and send your resume as a PDF. Everyone can read a PDF and it won’t mess with the layout like a Word document might.
6. Make sure your online profile shines
Your CV’s looking beautiful, you’re ready to apply to that dream job, and now you have to make sure a Google search will show off your best side as well. Because you should always assume that a potential employer will search for you online, it’s super important that your online profile is good (advice on how to do that here) and that your LinkedIn profile matches your CV. It doesn’t have to have the exact same information, but it should add to your appeal and include some additional information (links to pieces you’ve written, recommendations from colleagues or bosses), things that are harder to include in your CV.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to include your language skills on your LinkedIn profile, especially if you’re applying for an international job. For English we recommend doing the free EF SET test and adding the certification directly to your LinkedIn profile.