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Structure Your CV Professionally

Structure Your CV Professionally

Resumé, professional CV, career biography; whatever you call it, there’s no denying it’s potentially the most important document relating to your career (other than employment contracts, of course.) 

Your CV is a succinct description of your entire work history. It needs to catch the eye of a hiring manager, compel them to find out more, and, ultimately, be the tool to secure you the role of your dreams. If you’ve received fewer calls back than you deserve, it might be less of an indication of the job market, and more of a sign you need to update and optimise your CV.

It’s disheartening when a company rules you out for opportunities, but there are practical, actionable steps you can take to boost your chances of them recognising you as a terrific candidate, as well as professional development courses to help you gain a competitive advantage. Below we look at ten important things you should do to stop your CV from standing between you and your dream role.

1. Structure Your CV Correctly

A good CV should contain well-structured sections that are easy to read and navigate. Typically, a CV consists of the following sections: 

  • Education
  • Skills
  • Work history (in descending order – always list your most recent position at the top)
  • Hobbies and interests
  • References (if relevant) 

If you submit a jumbled, poorly formatted CV, a hiring manager will wonder if that’s a reflection of your wider general standards as an employee. Be concise and focus more on your performance, results and achievements in previous roles rather than just on your duties and responsibilities. Structure this in a standard format that will allow the hiring manager to scan the document quickly, grasp the key elements, and, generally, encourage them to find out more about you.

2. Write a compelling personal statement

Hiring managers receive exceptionally high volumes of CVs every day. Your personal statement – also sometimes called a “professional statement” – is one of the first things they’ll read. 

This small section of your CV should spark immediate interest, give a brief insight into your past achievements, and demonstrate your skillset. It’s a challenge to condense all this information into one small paragraph, but taking the time to tailor your statement to the requirements of a job specification can make all the difference between a rejection and a call for a first-stage interview.

3. Include links to relevant portfolios or social media profiles

This isn’t an indispensable condition in all roles, but having a portfolio that showcases your past work will help you to illustrate your suitability for the new role. 

Many hiring managers appreciate a link to your social platforms – typically limited to LinkedIn. Be sure to include links in the introductory section of your CV so the hiring manager can get a better understanding of you as an employee. Do exercise caution, however, and avoid adding social media profiles such as Instagram or Facebook to your CV unless they’re relevant. 

Basically, you should keep things professional but still allow hiring managers the chance to get to know you better.

4. Explain employment gaps in your CV

Gaps in your CV will often catch a hiring manager’s eye (not in a good way, though) and prompt them to find out more about any long breaks between roles. 

Be proactive if you have gaps in your work timeline. Add in sections between roles and explain how you spent that time constructively. Perhaps you went on a professional development course, or maybe an employer made you redundant and you took some time out to research your career options.  As long as you can explain why there was a gap in your employment, and you’ve made the most of your “time off,” hiring managers will feel more at ease, knowing you took the initiative to upskill yourself between jobs.

5. Use clear, concise, and practical naming conventions

You should name your document in a way that makes it easy for a hiring manager to find in their inbox, and conveys exactly what it is clearly. 

Avoid naming conventions such as “cvfinal.pdf”, and opt for something more compelling – such as “James Smith CV – Professional Operations Manager – 2020”. 

This helps your CV to stand out, preventing it from becoming lost or misplaced in busy inboxes.

6. Include vital information

Tailoring your CV may feel time-consuming, but results often reflect the effort we put into creating a tool that helps us stand out from the rest of the talent pool. By including vital information in each application, you’ll be showing you’ve understood the requirements of the role and how your experiences relate to them and also illustrating that you’d be appropriate for the role. 

If the job specification specifies the importance of certain skills, experience or other criteria for the role, ensure the details you include in your CV respond to them. Remember to be concise.

7. Highlight your experience accurately in your resumé

Not having enough experience can be a challenge. However, if you do hold the right experience, you may simply need to present it differently. 

It can be to restructure your CV based on each new role you apply for. However, a good cover letter can highlight your relevant experience effectively. Be sure to include reference points in it to draw the hiring manager’s attention to sections of your CV where they can learn more about your experience.

8. Make sure the CV contains keywords to stop hiring managers from overlooking you

Even though hiring managers are required to screen CVs, there’s also a large dependence on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

These systems scan each CV for keywords relevant to the role. You want to make sure you have the right keywords present throughout your CV. You may also choose to incorporate a “Skills” section which includes those same keywords in a comprehensive yet concise paragraph. This will help you overcome the first hurdle in securing a new role.

9. Be consistent

This aspect is the most often overlooked. Ensure your tone of voice and usage of the past and present tenses is consistent throughout the document:

  • Use the past tense when referring to previous roles e.g. “Compiled quarterly reports and presented to the wider team.” When referring to your current role, however, use the present tense: “Compiling quarterly reports and presenting it to the wider team.” 

Not only does this make for easier, more enjoyable reading, but it also shows attention to detail, something which every employer is keen to see.

10. Use good grammar

Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation are essential. A simple spell-check simply won’t suffice, especially not when you’re applying for a senior role, so it’s a good idea to read through your CV aloud. This will help you to spot any mistakes your eyes might have missed. Often, people don’t do this, but it’s vital.

If necessary, ask a friend to review your CV and check you’ve not made a mistake.

Bonus professional CV tip: showcase your professional development plan

Although some roles specifically require a degree or relevant qualification, many place more emphasis on experience over formal education. A great way to demonstrate your personal and professional development is ongoing training, which highlights your career commitment and shows prospective employers that you are invested in your future. 

Highlight any relevant courses or programmes you’ve attended, and even go as far as explaining how you’ve developed and applied the skills you’ve gained on them to your previous roles.

Bonus strategic resumé tip: list up-to-date contact details and your preferred method of contact

This may seem obvious, but ensuring your contact details are up to date is critical. You may have changed your mobile number, or perhaps you’ve lost access to the email address listed on your CV. 

This is an unnecessary obstacle to receiving calls back and interview requests. Make sure you are reachable, and if need be, indicate your preferred method of contact. You might be working in a role that requires a lot of travel and maybe miss a telephone call. Indicate that email is the best way to reach you, and make sure you have access to that inbox.

Your CV is your sales pitch 

Regardless of how well you conduct yourself in an interview, or how well you perform under pressure – your CV is the resource that opens the doors to these events. By making certain your CV meets all the requirements, you’re positioning yourself to get in front of the right people and give yourself the best chance of them choosing you for the role.

At In Professional Development, we’re committed to helping you unlock your career potential through professional development. If you’re ready to take the next step in your career, or simply improve your current outputs through continual development, we have the right courses and programmes to suit your needs. Our team is dedicated to finding the right solution for you. Reach out today by filling in this form.

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