National College of Ireland is, once again, ranked best for jobs in the Sunday Times annual league tables, The Good University Guide. The college’s award-winning Careers Development and Employability Serviceis second-to-none, with CV advice being a much utilised facility.
Caroline Kennedy, Careers Officer with National College of Ireland (pictured centre, above, with the rest of the Careers Team) has the following advice for creating a CV: “Your CV is your personal sales brochure and should be tailored to the requirements of the position you are applying for. It is one of the most important documents you will write in your professional life and has only one purpose – to get you an interview.”
With 50,000 graduates entering the labour market every year and a ratio of about 100 CVs for every job, use the tips below to increase your chances of getting called to interview:
1. 20 Seconds: Your CV is your personal advert and you have 20 seconds to make an impression. Keep it to 2 pages – if they can’t read 2 pages in 20 seconds they definitely won’t read 4! Get to the point early on and show an employer what you can do for them. Think about the person who is scan-reading your CV in a pile of dozens just like it. What does that person need to know about you that distinguishes you as someone who is worth meeting? Ensure this information is on the first half of page 1 - the prime real estate!
2. Personalised profile: Positioned near the top of the first page, this is the earliest opportunity for you to show an employer you have exactly what they are looking for. Customise your CV for every role and highlight the key skills, achievements and experience you have which are relevant to the job. If you are not going to tailor the profile to the job then leave it out of your CV altogether.
3. Target the CV to the job spec: One size doesn’t fit all. Although roles may be similar, there will be a different focus each time. Use the job description to identify what's most important (for example, grades, particular experience or skills) and then address these requirements prominently in the first half of your CV. Be prepared to move sections and details around to put the spotlight on different information. If a crucial requirement is a 2:1, put that prominently in your profile. If it's previous experience in sales, emphasise that instead.
4. Keep it professional: Including your twitter info when you’re going for a social media role is great, but not if your timeline is full of #drinkswithfriends. Likewise, that firstname.lastname@example.org address has no place on a professional CV.
5. Action verbs: Action words create more impactful statements. Instead of using the “I” pronoun such as “I did this...I did that....” use positive action words to lead bullet points e.g. “Initiated this…Developed that...” which is more dynamic.
6. Bullet points: Your CV will probably be skim read. Bullet points are easier to read than large paragraphs so learn to write in snippets. Try an "action–result" format to make important details stand out.
7. Avoid unnecessary detail: When describing many jobs, the day-to-day detail is often unnecessary and just takes up space. Concentrate on the highlights and where you made an impact. If you had a summer job working in a cafe, the duties are easily predictable- what is of more interest is how many people you served per shift, whether you met the sales targets, suggested any initiatives that improved sales or service etc.
8. Show added value: Your employment history should not be written as just a series of dates and tasks you have undertaken. It should show what you have contributed and achieved. Asking ‘So what?’ about every line of your CV is a great way to critique content. What was the result and impact of this action? What specific benefit did I deliver by doing this? No matter what role you worked in, you must show that you had a positive impact on your team, company or customers.
9. Do the maths: Back up your achievements with numbers. When writing your work history, don’t just say that you increased membership in a club or society; tell them you increased membership by 70% over a six month period.
10. Ensure you have the competitive edge: What if you’ve nailed the CV, but you’re still not getting calls? It could be time to think about upskilling – check out the part-time courses available at NCI and consider what a relevant qualification could add to your CV.
Want more good tips? Read Robert Ward's or NCISU's Top 10 Tips to Be a Better Student