VICTORIA MCLEAN IS THE CEO AND FOUNDER OF CIT Y CV, A COMPANY SPECIALISING IN WRIT ING CVS. H ERE, VICTORIA, WHO LIVES IN MATFIELD, SHARES H ER INSIDER INFORMATION TO HELP YOU GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR RÉSUMÉ.
IT’S BEEN NEARLY TEN YEARS SINCE SETTING UP CITY CV, HAVE YOU SEEN MANY INDUSTRY CHANGES OR REQUIREMENTS IN THAT TIME?
The industry has changed vastly over the last ten years. The majority of companies and recruitment agencies now use an Applicant Tracking System (also called an ATS) – this is basically a high-tech candidate database. These are used for candidates at every level – right up to the most senior roles and have a huge impact on whether you actually make it through the screening process – it’s transformed the sector.
The ATS has two functions:
• FIRSTLY, often the ATS will do the first screen for a role. So before your CV even gets in front of a human-being, it has to get past the computer sniff test.
• SECONDLY, it works as a searchable database for the recruiter to use.
So if a recruiter is seeking a marketing manager who lives near to Sevenoaks, has expertise in PR, digital media and branding and a bias towards retail and FMCG, then these are the searchable key words the recruiter will type in – either when setting up the job OR when searching for the ideal candidate.
A list of names and CVs will then pop up. What this means is that if you don’t have the right keywords in your CV (in the right place) then it may not even get out of virtual cyberspace and in front of a real human being/decision maker.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CVS?
“How long should a typical CV be?” For the majority of the world (including the UK), a CV should be two pages long. If you are in IT, a project manager or have had a lot of contract posts it could possibly stretch to three but generally you should aim for two. If you are a graduate, then just one page.
FOR YOU, WHAT MAKES A GOOD CV? HOW CAN YOU ENSURE IT STANDS OUT?
It has to look super slick, professional and be grammatically perfect of course. As importantly, the content must be finely tuned to the target role and clearly demonstrate your ROI (ie – if the reader hires you they will get a brilliant return on their investment).
Just don’t forget it’s a marketing document – it has to clearly tell your future employer just how good you actually are. I am a big advocate of show, don’t tell – don’t just tell me what skills you have, back everything up with tangible examples and always include the outcome/result if you can.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE ON THEIR CVS?
The opposite of the above – typos, poor formatting, a copy and paste of their last job description, long lists of responsibilities – employers are not interested in the job spec of your last few roles – they are interested in you. So focus on YOU rather than a copy and paste of the job spec.
IF YOU’RE THINKING OF CHANGING CAREER, HOW CAN YOU TAILOR YOUR CV TO YOUR ADVANTAGE?
The important thing is just to develop and then stick to a good strategy. Your CV is not just a history of what you have been doing it should be targeted to where you are going – so spend considerable time thinking about your target role.
I have personally recruited for hundreds of roles across many many sectors and I know hundreds of recruiters, and they all unanimously want to see chronological CVs so don’t be tempted into writing a skills-based or functional CV.
What you can do however, is integrate the two – put sub headings at the beginning of each of your bulleted achievements to draw the reader’s attention to the transferable skills – this makes it really easy for them.
I worked with a top ballerina who successfully transitioned from life at the Royal National Ballet into a career in property by creating a CV in exactly this way. Focus on your target role, relevant experience and transferable skills.
SHOULD YOU TAILOR YOUR CV FOR EACH NEW POSITION YOU APPLY FOR, OR TRY AND MAKE IT MORE GENERIC TO SUIT MULTIPLE ROLES?
Generic CVs don’t work. Anyone hiring has either got a problem that needs solving or a gap that needs filling and you have to be the perfect fit for that!
If a recruiter is looking for a marketing manager with expertise in oil and gas then that is what they want to see on your CV ‘in lights’. If your CV is generic and woolly they may well pass you by. It’s a bit like jumping onto the internet to buy a green car – you see loads of adverts for cars and then one advert that says ‘specialist in green cars’ – of course you will go to the specialist. This is why it is so important to have more than one version of your CV as targeted as possible. Recruiters don’t want to risk it, they will go for the closest match to the target every time.
So, if they are looking for an oil and gas specialist then you need to tell them that is what you are.
We regularly write two, three or even four slightly different CVs for our clients. I remember an army captain who we helped transition to the civilian world – we wrote CVs for him that targeted education and training, defence sales, procurement and COO position in a charitable trust – all completely different. He ultimately secured the COO post.
The more targeted your CV the better your chances of getting the job. So, if you are going for different roles or are targeting separate industry sectors then you may well need three.
ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR FONTS THAT ARE BETTER TO USE THAN OTHERS?
Always go for a sans serif font so that it is really easy to use both on and off screen – something simple like Calibri. Avoid Times New Roman or anything too swirly. And don’t go too small – 10 in Arial and no less than 10.5 in Calibri. Don’t go for more than two fonts in any CV.
WITH MOST JOBS NOW APPLIED FOR ONLINE, IS THE COVERING LETTER STILL AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF THE APPLICATION, OR WILL AN EMAIL AND CV SUFFICE?
If you are applying through an agency and they don’t ask for a letter then you may well be wasting your time. I rarely read a letter in many years of recruiting. In reality, recruiters are busy and frequently can’t find the time to read a cover letter, they scoot straight on to the CV.
However, if you are applying for a role that specifically asks for a cover letter, if you are applying directly to a firm or particular person or if you are going for a new type of role, career transition, or relocation then a cover letter can be a brilliant tool for explaining your motivation.