By Marc Burrage

Silicon Republic, April 17, 2019.

It can be hard to follow all the CV advice and you might still be wondering if yours will stand out. However, Hays’ Marc Burrage says the most important thing is that it answers three important questions.

Many job adverts can attract hundreds of applications. So, what is it that makes your CV stand out from all the rest? The answer is simple – its ability to succinctly answer these three key questions:

  1. Why are you interested in this job, company and industry?
  2. What value can you bring to the organisation?
  3. What is your current and future potential?

Think of your CV as your own living, breathing, personal marketing pitch; a pitch that succinctly answers all those burning questions your audience (ie recruiters and hiring managers) has about you.

The degree to which CVs can answer their questions well will have a huge bearing on whether you are invited to interview. So, you must ensure your answers are strong, clear, tailored and relevant. Here’s how to ensure you have answered those questions.

1. Why are you interested in this job, company and industry?

Above all, the reader wants to know that you are genuinely interested in this job. And, when reading your CV, they are essentially seeking assurance of this in the language and words you use. They are looking for signals that indicate genuine interest and if they don’t get them, they will likely assume that you have just submitted a blanket application.

Before tailoring your CV for a specific application, think back to what it was about this job that made you want to apply in the first place, and why do you think you are such a good fit? Was there a specific part of the role that excited you? Does the company’s mission particularly resonate? Researching the company and industry may help you articulate this.

Once you are clear on your reasons for applying, work on updating your personal statement and your cover letter. Look back at some of the research you’ve done and weave this in. Demonstrating that you’ve made the effort to do your homework at this early stage will only be a positive thing in the recruiter’s mind.

2. What value you can you bring to the organisation?

Jobs are advertised because there is a need for a problem to be solved or help to be provided. Therefore, when reading your CV, the recruiter or hiring manager will be looking for clear evidence of the value you would bring to the specific role and organisation.

A great way to focus the reader in on this is to update the employment history section of your CV. When doing so, ensure you focus on the value you added in each role rather than simply listing what your duties were. This section of your CV shouldn’t read like a list of job descriptions – instead, it should tell the story of your unique strengths and accomplishments.

A good way to do this is to think about what your biggest standout achievement was for each role, no matter how big or small, and focus in on that. Remember, the reader wants to know what you can do and needs to see concrete evidence for this.

And, when updating each entry in your employment history, focus on communicating the quantifiable value you added during that time. A great way to help bolster your perceived value in the reader’s mind is to use action verbs. Using these verbs will force you to focus in on what you achieved and the results you saw during each role.

3. What is your current and future potential?

As the world of work evolves, potential is becoming a more common gauge or indicator than years of experience when assessing the suitability of a candidate.

So, the first step here is to clearly evidence your current potential – what are you good at now and would you be able to do the job in question? The recruiter or hiring manager needs to have come to the end of your CV with absolutely no doubt in their mind that you would be able to do the job and do the job well.

Obviously, tailoring your employment history – as I’ve mentioned above – to focus on the value you can bring will help towards doing this. However, there are other things you can do:

  • Try mirroring the language and keywords used on your CV with those on the job description – this subtle change will increase your chances that the reader will see you as a good current fit
  • Don’t neglect the skills section of your CV – include both technical and soft skills as this will give the reader a more well-rounded perception of your current potential. Also, try to mirror these to those outlined in the job description where relevant
  • Add links to your LinkedIn profile and online portfolios of work – these will help the reader build a better picture of your current competencies

But recruiters and hiring managers don’t just want to know what you are capable of now. They want to know that you have potential to do great things in the future. A fantastic way to do this is to demonstrate to the reader via your CV that you are ambitious and have an upwardly mobile career plan. There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Articulate your ambition and future plans in your personal statement, linking back to the job in question and opportunities you feel you would gain from it
  • Within each entry in your employment history, demonstrate how you have got better and better over time. For instance, when adding each achievement to each entry in your employment history, make the next one better if you can and remember to quantify them
  • Evidence your commitment to continuous upskilling by tailoring the skills section of your CV, weaving these skills into your employment history. Also, ensure your qualifications are up to date, and include dates of completion so you can clearly demonstrate your commitment over time
  • Don’t try to gloss over any career breaks you’ve had. Instead, outline how you used that time to generate value in different areas of your life and build your skillset

By doing the above, you are essentially indicating to the reader that you would be a good investment both now and in the future.

Your CV must be error-free

I hope I’ve highlighted for you just how important it is that you ensure your CV is as relevant to the reader as possible and that it’s absolutely imperative that you quickly and succinctly answer the three main questions they will have about you. However, this hard work will be lost if your CV is littered with errors.

By making a concerted effort to ensure your CV is 100pc error-free, you are providing another signal to the reader that you could be the right person for the job. Above all, checking for errors will build the perception in the reader’s mind that you have a proactive and committed attitude. When competition is so high, the fact of the matter is that a simple typo could mean your CV is rejected, regardless of how well you have answered the above questions.

And remember, the questions each reader will have in their minds may be the same, but the answers they’re looking for will be different. Take the time to tailor your CV to each role you apply for and ensure you answer each of the above questions in a way that will really resonate.