3 Things All Stand-Out CVs Have In Common

In an increasingly digital age, your CV is the first impression you give a recruitment agency or potential employer. It’s your foot in the door. As agencies move more and more towards online and email applications and further away from face-to-face meetings, it’s never been more important to have a strong, communicative and professional CV marketing you.

However, when compiling your CV, the abundance of helpful advice on the Internet can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this simple list of the qualities that all stand-out CVs have in common.

1. They look great

Looks are everything. Okay, maybe not quite everything, but the appearance of your CV does offer your recruitment consultant or potential employer vital clues into your work ethic and approach to your career, even if you don’t mean it to.

Studies have shown that many of our instinctual decisions as humans are visually based. The way we shop and browse the Internet, what we wear and how we interact with strangers all have their roots in our reaction to how things look.

It’s not always a conscious thing. You make hundreds of tiny decisions every day based on visual clues – like choosing which mug to use for your morning coffee, which banana on the bunch to eat, deciding whether or not that website link is safe to click on, choosing to take a different route home when you see how backed up your normal route is, etc. These are decisions we make quickly and subconsciously, and most of the time, they’re in response to what we see.

This is especially true in advertising. Research shows that our eyes are drawn to the visuals and layout of an advertisement before processing the rest of it. This influences A) the likelihood of you reading the rest of the ad, B) how well you’ll remember the message of the ad once you look away, and C) whether or not you’ll actually buy the product or make use of the advertised service.

Which pamphlet makes you want to buy the product more? http://www.envisionitsolutions.com/graphic-design/

Your CV is your advertising space. It’s where you have to make sure that you stand head and shoulders above the competition and ensure that your name is the one that catches the attention of the recruitment consultant or potential employer and keeps it. Visuals play an important role in that.

Now, it’s not necessary for your CV to be a design masterpiece (although if you’re looking for a job in the creative sector, that may be incredibly helpful), but it is important that it’s neat, professional and more or less in line with what you are applying for.

Some helpful things to keep in mind:

  • CVs in a Word Document format are easier for agencies to process, but PDFs can allow for more visually creative designs. Most agencies will accept either as long as they are neat and professional.
  • KNOW YOUR INDUSTRY! You shouldn’t apply for a position at a graphic design company with a plain, black-and-white Word Document, and similarly using a colourful, illustrated Photoshop masterpiece for a position at a law firm might not be helpful. The kind of CV you apply with tells us a lot about your understanding of what the job you’re applying for entails and might affect how the recruitment consultant or employer perceives you.
  • Always ensure that your CV is completely digital and not scanned from an already printed CV. Scanned CVs are difficult to process and might imply that you haven’t updated it recently or that you aren’t computer literate, which is a prerequisite for many jobs nowadays.
  • When typing your CV, use a neat, legible font like Calibri, Garamond, Times New Roman, Arial or Helvetica and make sure that the writing isn’t too small. If your CV is difficult to read, there is a good chance the recruitment agency or employer will disregard your application.
  • Make sure that your CV is not too busy. Don’t try to cram too much information onto one page as this can make your CV difficult to follow and process.

While there are no set rules for how you put together your CV, it’s important to keep in mind what your goal is and what you want your CV to achieve. Keep in mind the kind of industry you want to be a part of and use that as a guideline. Understanding how your CV communicates is the key to making a good first impression.

2. They say what they need to

A good CV should tell a recruitment consultant or employer exactly who you are, what you do and what you have done in the past. As they only know as much about you as you tell them when applying, it helps to include as much relevant information about yourself as you can.

This is largely dependent on what the recruitment agencies or employers require you to tell them and how much information they need. If you are responding to a job advert for a position, it’s important to read it carefully in case you need to include specific information that the recruitment agency or employer needs to know. Some job adverts might ask for additional documents like a cover letter or a portfolio of your work and might require a long-form CV (2 or more pages) or a short-form CV (1-2 pages).

For a long-form CV (2 or more pages), make sure to include the following information:

  • Personal details (your name, surname, ID number, marital status, number of dependants as well as any disabilities or health difficulties an employer should be aware of, if applicable)
  • Contact details (your email address, cell number as well as an alternative contact number)
  • Formal education details (your highest secondary and tertiary qualifications, the year they were completed, and the schools/institutions they were completed through)
  • Additional course details (a list of any other courses or certificates you have completed, including the year you completed them and the institution you completed them through)
  • Employment details (the name of the company, the position you held there, the dates you were employed there – month and year, a list of your duties and responsibilities in that role and your reasons for leaving that position)
  • A brief list of your key skills (including any computer programmes or software you are experienced in and any specialised or industry-specific skills and experience you have acquired)
  • A list of people that the agency or employer can contact for a reference (including name of the referee, the company they work for and the position they hold there)
  • A professional head-and shoulders photograph of you, a short covering paragraph or a list of your hobbies and interests may help to paint a more complete picture of who you are and whether or not you would be a good culture match for the company, but they aren’t necessary

For a short-form CV (1-2 pages), only include the following information:

  • Personal details (your name, surname, ID number, marital status, number of dependants, as well as any disabilities or health difficulties an employer should be aware of, if applicable)
  • Contact details (your email address, cell number as well as an alternative contact number)
  • Formal education details (your highest secondary and tertiary qualifications, the year they were completed, and the schools/institutions they were completed through)
  • Employment details (the name of the company, the position you held there, the dates you were employed there – month and year. It’s not necessary to include details of your duties and responsibilities in each position on a short-form CV)
  • A brief list of your key skills (including any computer programmes or software you are experienced in and any specialised or industry-specific skills and experience you have acquired)
  • A list of people that the agency or employer can contact for a reference (including name of the referee, the company they work for and the position they hold there)

As a general guideline, unless the job advert specifically asks for your short-form CV, it’s better to apply with your long-form CV as it tells the recruitment agent or employer more about you. Providing all the necessary information without the recruitment consultant or employer having to ask for it makes you look proactive, prepared, interested in the position and is a good way to make a great first impression.

3. They’ve been double and triple checked

Typos are a reality of our electronic and autocorrect-reliant society and everyone has made one at some point or another. If they’re a once-in-a-while occurrence it’s completely understandable, but when a CV is full of typos, it may affect how your recruitment consultant or potential employer sees you.

In a best-case scenario, where your job is not largely dependent on written correspondence and communication, it might not matter too much, but in a worst-case scenario, where the job you are applying for involves a lot of admin and email correspondence with clients, customers or suppliers, having spelling mistakes in your CV might disqualify you from the position.

This is easy to fix with proofreading though.

After reading through your CV and as far as possible fixing any spelling or grammar mistakes, run a spell check on your Word processor or make use of an online proofreading tool. Also make sure that, as far as possible, your CV would make sense to someone who has never worked in your position or industry, as often your CV is first seen by a recruitment agency or the HR department of a company and the person reading it might not understand the jargon or abbreviations used.

It’s also good to get into the practice of getting someone to read through your CV after you’ve updated it. Even if you are confident in your spelling and grammar capabilities, you’ve been looking at it for a long time and sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can see things that you might have overlooked. Always make sure to ask someone reliable who you know will be able to pick up on things like spelling and grammar and will offer constructive feedback on parts of your CV that don’t communicate as well as they could.

Putting together a successful CV can seem like a daunting task, but if you pay attention to how it looks, whether or not you’ve included all the necessary information, the spelling, grammar and how it communicates, there is no reason that your first impression shouldn’t make it to the top of the pile every time.