Land that job! How to put together a killer CV

In a challenging job market, with many people sometimes applying for the same job, it’s important to give yourself the best chance and stand out from the crowd. SME Magazine catches up with Lee Biggins, founder and managing director at CV-Library, to get the inside track on what you should – and what you shouldn’t – put on your CV.

So, Lee, with so many people out there looking for new jobs, what are the essentials when it comes to making your CV stand out? 

Your personal statement is the first point that a potential employer will read on your CV, so it needs to be spot on. This should cover a bit about who you are, your employment history and your career goals. You should also try and include something about the role you’re applying for – tailoring your CV to each job role is extremely important, yet not enough people do this. Alongside this, don’t get too carried away with creativity. Focus on getting the basics right – bad spelling and grammar is one of the biggest turn-offs for recruiters.

And what are the big no-nos? 

Avoid jargon or buzzwords at all costs. Too many candidates will litter their CV with industry jargon to make themselves sound more knowledgeable – in reality it can make you sound anything but. While some phrases can be beneficial, you shouldn’t pad out your CV with these terms. Instead, try and use words that were included throughout the job description, in the most natural way possible. By doing this, you show you have the necessary skills required for the role and ultimately boost your chances of getting the job. 

Generally speaking, how long should a CV be and how far back in time should it go? 

Anything more than two pages is far too long. Keep it short, snappy and to the point. That means including all of your most relevant experience and eliminating anything that may not be as important anymore. If you don’t have much experience to include on your CV, you should try to make the experience that you do have relevant to the job that you’re applying for. 

Are you a fan of people using pictures on CVs? 

I’m impartial to pictures – nowadays it’s likely that a recruiter is going to look you up on social media anyway. Our own research tells us that recruiters aren’t keen on pictures, but they don’t provide any specific reasons as to why. There’s a lot of talk out there at the moment about discrimination at work and during the recruitment process, so I’d suggest not including a picture in the first instance. 

How do you navigate the fine line between showing enthusiasm and going over the top? 

Often, while you may be eager to bag yourself a job, this keenness can actually prevent you from being hired. Try not to just talk about yourself, but also about the company that the job is at – just don’t gush about them too much! Alongside this, if you manage to get to the interview stage, prepare in advance but don’t script your answers, otherwise your responses won’t come across as natural. 

Finally, as experts at CV-Library, what would be your three top tips when it comes to putting together the perfect CV?

Firstly, use facts and figures to demonstrate your growth and success – for example, rather than saying ‘I was a project manager in an engineering company’, try ‘I led a £1m engineering project and a team of 20’.

Secondly, cut down on irrelevant information. All skills and knowledge included on your CV should be ones that are mentioned in the job advert – anything else can be removed. This doesn’t mean removing irrelevant experience completely – it may be that you can reduce the level of detail, making room for the more important information.

Finally, as mentioned previously you should definitely tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for. They’ll appreciate the effort more than you’d think.