Tips to make your CV stand out can help you land that crucial first interview, or even just help you match with the right jobs! If you’re gearing up for a return to the paid workforce after having a baby, or you’re after something new because COVID-19 has hit you hard, you’ve probably thought about updating your CV. Claire Maple explains how to make your CV work for you.
Spending some time on your professional story is an important step in the transition back into the workforce. When you have a strong CV and a powerful statement that sums up your strengths, you have what you need to talk confidently to anyone you might want to impress.
Tips to make your CV stand out: Some professional advice
Keep it short!
Leave the details and the stories for the interview. Two pages is ideal, three pages is the limit
Disheartening as it is to think that someone might skim read through the details of your career, that’s probably what they’ll do. Spend the first half of your first page summarising yourself with a ‘personal power statement’ (more on that below) and a table that summarises dates, employers and the roles you’ve held for the past ten years. If you have qualifications, impressive skills or achievements, list them briefly underneath
The main event – your career!
Explain your job history role by role in reverse order, starting with your most recent position. Use powerful and active words to describe your achievements and responsibilities and don’t be afraid to use bullet points. Using hard data is better than vague terms, for example, ‘Managed a team of five event managers to deliver 40 events in 12 months across Australia’ is more effective than ‘Team ran events according to company objectives’
Explaining the gaps:
There are differing views on how to handle maternity leave in a CV. The most popular options are listing the date range and simply writing ‘maternity leave’ (or ‘parental leave’) or you could leave the time period out altogether and explain in a cover letter or at interview if necessary
Your ‘powerful statement’:
Unless you’re highly specialised, there are likely to be many CVs like yours out there, so it’s important to find the words to distinguish yourself from the rest. Your personal ‘powerful statement’ is a coherent and compelling summary of what you offer. Around 150 words, it’s the perfect introduction to the rest of your CV.
Essential formula of things to include:
- Years of experience in your field, and relevant qualifications
- Your unique strengths (these are keywords that will appeal to your audience)
- A couple of achievements to demonstrate that you’re really good at it
- Your passion and drive (essentially your career objective, but it has to have heart)
Having a powerful statement is a fantastic way to get back into ‘work mode’. If you can roughly memorise it, you have a clear and punchy answer to the dreaded “tell me about yourself” question.
When you’re happy with your refreshed CV, it’s always a good idea to ask someone you trust to look over it. Chances are you’ve forgotten to draw out a true strength, or downplayed your achievements, or at the very least made a couple of typos. If you’re still baulking at spending precious time tinkering with your bio, I can only offer this from my personal experience: It feels good to revisit professional achievements and unlike the laundry, you do get to the end of it.