How to Make Your CV Stand Out

by poppycoxhead

I’m not an expert, and perhaps you’re thinking, if you read my last post, you’ll know that I’ve only just got my first job. How am I qualified to give anyone advice? I may not be the most experienced of people but I’ve talked to enough people in the media industry, got enough rejections and read enough of other people’s job-winning CVs to have a good understanding of what employers want. I’ve done three internships, mostly online journalism-related, and gained loads of interesting insights.

So I decided to put together some CV tips as I think it would have really helped me when I was writing one (I have rewritten my CV more times than I care to remember). Obviously, it all depends on the exact profession, and indeed personal preference, but most of these will be quite general to the media and writing professions (those which you need a CV for, obviously). Of course, I may be wrong so please leave your thoughts and other tips you’d like to add in the comments!

Be concise. This may sound obvious, but keep it as short as you possibly can. Try to write out the first draft including EVERYTHING you want to put in. See how long it is. If it’s more than 2 pages, cut it down! Be ruthless – think about what the employer wants to see, and it’s unlikely they will be interested enough to read more than that. They don’t need to see a complete list of your GCSE results, and the paper round you had at 13 can probably get knocked off too. Think about what’s relevant and if it’s just there to fill up space, you can probably cut it out.

Don’t resort to clichés on your personal statement. Avoid statements such as ‘I’m a team player but can also work on my own’ and others that employers read every day. It’s not really saying anything and doesn’t showcase any creativity. You don’t really need to repeat anything that’s on there but sum up what really sets you apart from others (specifically tailored for the job, if you can) and pick out a few notable achievements, and include a short line about your interests. You never know!

Make it easy to read. Employers can look at hundreds or even thousands of these CVs when looking for the right candidate so if you can do anything to catch their eye, it’s a definite bonus. Also, you might as well make it look nice too. It doesn’t have to be anything amazing, but nice typesetting and more importantly, an easy layout. Maybe even add a bit of colour. My old CV was difficult to read and looked horrible – it might not have been given more than a glance! Also don’t let sections (education, work experience) run onto the next page, it looks sloppy.

Make your experience work to your advantage. If you’re looking for your first job, and don’t have any relevant experience, put your previous experience down anyway (obviously use your judgement and vet what you think is appropriate) and see if you can make it relevant (there are probably more skills you have acquired that would be useful in your desired job /field than you think). If you do have relevant experience, make sure you’re giving yourself enough credit (a lot of people, including me, find it difficult to talk themselves up and their CV suffers). Don’t forget about societies etc at university and achievements like the Duke of Edinburgh award – this can show you’re more rounded.

Get everyone you know to look at it. Another obvious sounding one, but it’s so easy to ignore everyone else’s advice and offers of help and think you know better. Accept it. Even if they’re not in the industry, they might think of something different. Everyone I’ve asked has a different insight. People in the business, my friends, my parents and everyone else. They might be able to see a better way of laying out, or a skill you forgot you had.

Make it easy for them to find out EVERYTHING. In these times, especially if you’re looking for a job in the media, it’s important that you put as much information about yourself as possible. If you’ve got an online presence, like a blog, or Twitter, or something that you contribute to, put it all on there. If they decide they like you, they’ll Google it anyway so you might as well make it as easy as possible for them to see this stuff. I’ve known people who have been employed off the back of their blog and I’ve had more than a few potential employers and indeed my current employer liked my blog. Also, if you’re not on LinkedIn, get on there and make your profile as detailed as possible – it’s growing and often one of the first places that employers look.

Proof, proof and proof again. Talking to editors and employers, it’s amazing how many CVs for say, editorial roles, that they’ve read that have typos and grammatical errors. They will go straight to the bottom of the pile. Apparently it’s just not that obvious!

There are loads more of course, but these are some of the ones that stood out for me. If any of you readers are looking for jobs, I hope this helped, even a little bit!


19 Comments to “How to Make Your CV Stand Out”

  1. Thanks for this post Charlotte, I wish I’d have had this when I was trawling for jobs! However, I think I might nip back into my CV anyway and make sure that I’m doing all of this.

    Great advice, thank you!

  2. This is a great post and very usel, especially for those starting out.

    I used to mark CV’s that our students did where I work. In the academic department I used to work in, our students do a 6 month placement out in practice so had to submit a CV to get a placement. They would draft a copy and we’d mark it for them to point out how to improve it to make themselves stand out. Not all courses or Universities offer this, sadly!

    One thing that we always discouraged was people writing ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ across the top of the page. It was obvious to an employer what the document was, so we would encourage our students to write their names across the top instead. It was a nice bold way of saying ‘I’m Suchabody and this is me’. Worked well everytime.

    I think that’s the advice I would sling in there too.

    I had to rewrite my own CV a couple of years ago and honestly, when you’ve not looked at it for years, it does look scary and these tips come in very handy! Cheers 😉

    • Thanks Cat, and thanks for the tips! That idea is a great one, more universities should offer this as most students come out of uni unprepared and not really sure how to write a CV, it’s just so useful to get it checked over by someone more experienced! And good point about not having to include CV – everyone knows what it is!

  3. Useful post. I recently had my CV assessed (ripped to shreds!), by a CV/career coach type person, and a couple of good tips they gave were:

    1) Show the benefit rather than the action, i.e. don’t just say what you did, say what the outcome of what you did was. The way to do this is to look at each thing you’ve written and ask yourself “So what?”. E.g. ‘I developed a new ordering system in our department’ would be better as ‘The new ordering system I developed in our department shortened the turnaround time from ordering to despatch by 20%’. (Not a great example, but you get the idea!).

    2) This is a neat little trick – Try and find out what house style and font the company you are applying to use (hopefully from their website), and then do your CV in same sort of style and font – that way it will feel to them like you already belong there.

  4. Some great tips. I receive a lot of CVs – I wish all of them followed your advice.

    On your line about making it easy to find out about you online – this is *really* important if you have a generic name (John Smith) or famous name (Mohammed Ali). I want to look at your LinkedIn profile, and see what you’ve done online.

    Also – choose a sensible email address. Am I going to employ SexyBlondeBimbo(at)hotmail or ReeferSmokinDude(at)yahoo? No! Register for a new address if you have to.

    • Thanks, edent, hopefully more applicants will realise how powerful an online presence and making it easily accessible is now there is such a strong market for it!

  5. I take it a “CV” is some sort of resume? What is a GCSE? Sorry, us folks here in the USA call them different things I guess.

  6. I especially agree with Vanessa’s #1 tip about showing the benefit to a company from an action you took at work. It impresses recruiters and potential employers if you show numbers or percentages in your CV/resume; somebody gave me that tip and it was the best information that I’ve ever gotten. Here’s an example: “Created a new processing system that reduced waiting time for 40 clients by 25%” or something along those lines. Specific, concise information like this is a powerful point in your favor and can help you in today’s competitive job market.

  7. On Vanessa’s point on showing the benefit: This isn’t a CV but is similar. The last time I was working in the UK (around 1999) I put myself forward as a volunteer director of a city’s Voluntary Action programme. I didn’t even live there! (I used to commute from 30 miles away.)

    I went to the AGM and was surprised that I was one of the people who was voted on. One of the board members said that it was because many people were saying “I am from x organisation and I want to be on VA__’s board to make sure that organisations like mine get good support.” While that is one function of the board (to ensure that the organisation is delivering) a major function is to scrutinise the work of the organisation and to ensure that systems are in place to deliver. In my election blurb I wrote something like “13 years ago I was a volunteer, and so I understand things from that perspective. Since then I have worked in voluntary agencies (for 10 years) spending a lot of my time in the recruitment, training and support of volunteers. Therefore I have a lot that I can offer to the board of VA__ in ensuring that its systems deliver good quality volunteers who are supported to give their best.” Although the real blurb wasn’t so repetitive!

    So yes, try and turn things around; don’t just say “I’ve done this” but say “I will be bring X to your organisation”.

  8. thanks for this…am going to get my Grandson to read it tomorrow.

  9. Awesome post, however I just opt for “HIRE ME NOW IM AWESOME” in big bold letters spread across five pages and it seems to do me well haha 😀

  10. Hi Charlotte,

    Very helpful information. I haven’t had to do one of these in several years as being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t require one! But, a lot of what you talk about makes me think of queries to literary agents. Making your future employer (or lit agent) think they must absolutely have you!

    Thanks for the post!

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