How to write a CV that stands out from the crowd

OK, this post could be a list of ‘tips and tricks’ for you to apply to make your CV better. It isn’t though, because if it was then you would be doing the same thing as lots of other people. That’s the point really – your CV has to be as individual as you are!

How do you make this happen? You have to change your entire approach to constructing your CV. This will take longer than the ‘tips and tricks’ approach would have done. Sorry about that. It will work though.

What is the CV for?

Probably the biggest mistake that I see in CVs is that people treat the CV as if it were a list of facts. Once you’ve got everything down that is ‘supposed to be’ on there, it’s done right? Let’s get started and send loads of them out!

Well … No actually.

A CV is a marketing document that proposes how you will provide a valuable contribution to your next employer and justifies this with examples from past performance or expert knowledge.

The process is flawed because it largely uses past performance as a way of estimating future performance in a different environment, but it’s the best we have.

So, get rid of any details that don’t convey your value (except contact details of course!) and focus on examples of what you have done and achieved. No waffle, no cramming it full of adjectives and no baseless claims. 

Focus, not mass market

This is where my ‘marketing approach’ really works. Treat it like a niche marketing campaign. There are only a certain number of jobs that are right for you. Find them and spend time developing the right approach.

When people say that they have sent hundreds of CVs out and not even got a response, I believe that I know two things for absolutely certain:

  1. The CV is not suitably tailored to each role.
  2. They have applied for jobs to which they are just not suited.

This means that many of the recipients will be reading it thinking ‘Why have they sent this to me?’ When I was recruiting people I can tell you that in 100% of these cases I did not feel obliged to respond to these people and did not feel guilty if they moaned about not getting a response. They probably won’t remember me even if I contact them, and if they don’t want the job then they won’t be disappointed.

Save yourself the effort. Save yourself the frustration and the negative feelings. Apply for the right things and give them reasons to choose you.

There are fewer jobs than there used to be, but it is absolutely not a numbers game, so don’t treat it like one. Unless you actually think the recruiter is going to select candidates at random, then this can only ever be the wrong approach.

Don’t use a template

Most templates don’t allow you to give the best possible representation of yourself. If the format is restrictive then you need to get a new format.

If you have found a template online then how many other people do you think have found the same one? How many times do you think the reader has seen that template before? If your content is better, then you won’t automatically be rejected, but looking the same as everyone else isn’t going to help!

If the purpose of the CV is to enable you to stand out so that you get noticed, then why start with a document that does exactly the opposite?

Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.

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