Polishing your CV can ensure you’ll get your foot in the door for that new role you’ve been coveting.
Your CV filename should contain ‘Your name – Job you are applying for – Date‘ so that it is easy for potential employers to find and file. At the top of your CV put your full name, then your location and contact details. You don't need write ‘CURRICULUM VITAE’ in 15-point type across the top – we know it’s a CV, and space is precious on a CV so make every word count.
Add your mobile number and an appropriate email address and any links to your professional social media, such as your LinkedIn profile. Take care you have not posted anything unprofessional on these channels that may hinder your chances at this early stage, and set up a new email address if your usual one is too casually named.
Place your job title at the top next to your name so that employers can see what you do straight away. Try and match it with the job you are applying for. If, for example, you are in between jobs, or applying for a more senior role, write something more general that shows you are a good fit for the job and are familiar with the sector, such as ‘experienced actuary’.
Tailor your personal statement at the top of your CV (a summary of your employment history and skills) to the job you are applying for. It should be no more than three to four lines in length and should explain how your skills match the role that you are applying for. You can expand on this with your covering letter <link to cover letter piece>. Give solid examples of your achievements – don’t just say you are a team player, but explain what you achieved working in a team that is relevant to the new role.
Think of your personal statement as a synopsis of a novel – generate interest, and leave the reader wanting more. Hopefully you can fill in the details at an interview. Try and sum up who you are and what you are good at in a punchy couple of sentences. This is your first (and possibly last) chance to impress a hiring manager. Without impressing immediately, you’ll never get the chance to wow them with that impressive degree result further down the page.
A common mistake candidates make is not proofreading their CV and think it reads correctly just because the spellchecker hasn’t spotted any errors. All the computer power in the world will not detect homophones such as new/knew and here/hear. Get as many eyes as possible on your new document. Ask friends or family to read your CV for you as they could spot something that you might have missed. A small typo could mean your CV being spiked by employers inundated with applications who are looking for any reason not to put you on the ‘yes’ pile. Or if there’s a full stop missing from your email address, you may never know which pile you ended up on at all. Jobs in the modern era all require a degree of accuracy – so give yourself time to refine your CV. Be critical and questioning of everything you’ve written – if you can’t be accurate and error-free on this important document, why would an employer trust your competence?
Summarise your key skills and then your education history in a bulleted list and expand on these points in your covering letter to support your application. Hiring managers don’t have time to read reams of your dense prose, so keep it short, and keep it impactful. Do not overstate your abilities or qualifications – you may have to justify yourself at the interview.
Your CV should be no longer than two pages in length – don’t think that because it may only be read on screen that you can break that rule.
You may think a bright and colourful CV will impress a hiring manager. In some cases it might, such as for design roles, but generally, we would suggest that you keep it black and white and use fonts that are easy to read. The last thing a hiring manager wants to do is waste lots of ink printing your CV. Keep your CV’s design clean, legible and professional, and concentrate on the content.
Include a few of your hobbies or interests that are relevant to your CV. So, for example, if you are applying for a role in the public finance sector you could say you are involved in local government volunteering or something that dovetails with your CV. Expect to be asked about these interests as part of more informal questioning at interview – so if you say you like reading, think about recent books you have picked up and be prepared to talk about them.
Incorporating these tips into your CV should tantalise a hiring manager enough to get you an interview – how to navigate that and close the deal on your new job is another story.