The current global job market is so competitive that most applicants for a given job will never reach the interview stage.
Employers are routinely skimming through hundreds of CVs for a single job posting. In such a crowded field, it is very easy for your CV to be forgotten unless it really stands out.
Here we present some essential tips for making your CV pop and getting that elusive job interview.
Formatting should be pleasing to the eye
Research suggests that employers spend only about 20 seconds going through each CV, and that they tend to rapidly skim through them to identify strong candidates. If you are weeded out at this initial screening phase, then it’s already over – you will never get that interview.
So how to avoid having your CV thrown in the bin? Formatting.
Formatting refers to the way text is organized in the page – the width of the margins, the size of the header, the typeface, etc. Good, clean formatting makes a CV stand out to employers even before they have read any words. It demonstrates professionalism and a keen attention to detail. Sloppy formatting makes someone seem careless or lazy.
Many people think that as long as your skills are good and you have a solid educational background, formatting should not be so important. This is completely wrong – an employer looking to hire someone has to read through a stack of tens or hundreds of CVs.
Good formatting that is pleasing to the eye breaks the monotony of skimming through hundreds of CVs, allowing you to make a good first impression at the most difficult point of the job search process.
Key mistakes to avoid:
• Don’t make it too crowded: don’t make the margins much shorter than the default setting on MS Word, keep spaces between different sections. This gives the eye ‘breathing room’ as it scans through your CV.
• Don’t make it too empty: too much white space makes it seem like you don’t have too much to offer.
• Use fonts consistently: don’t constantly change the font type and size throughout your resume – it’s distracting
• Use clean, standard fonts: avoid strange fonts like Impact or Courier, stick to classics like Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, etc.
Keep it Brief! – A single page is enough
I once asked a former boss what the worst CV he received looked like. He gave me an answer pretty quickly: “When someone who just graduated college has a four page CV, they are not getting the job.”
Unless you are an extremely senior and experienced person in your field (in which case you do not need to be reading this blog), your CV should be a single page.
This is one of the most common mistakes in writing a CV. People assume that a longer CV filled with work experience and hobbies is more impressive than a single, clean page – but they are completely wrong.
The truth is, if you are still early in your career, it is actually impossible that you have more than a single page of useful material for a CV. No matter how accomplished you are, the achievements that are directly related to your job should fit on a single page (if not less).
Avoid ‘padding’ your resume with unnecessary extracurricular activities – focus on the skills relevant to the position you are applying to. You do not need to list every single job you have held, or every student club you have ever belonged in – just the ones that relate to the job.
Focus on what the employer needs, instead of trying to make yourself sound more impressive. And don’ t forget – they are looking through hundreds of CVs. If your CV is more than a single page there is a very good chance it will get thrown in the bin!
The simplest way to avoid bad formatting errors is just to look at examples of successful CVs. These can be easily found online and most word processing software contains pre-built templates for resumes.
The image below shows a cleanly formatted, high quality CV that is a single page long. It is a good template for your own CVs, but feel free to tweak it according to your tastes. Good luck!