15 tips to make sure your CV gets you an interview

by Stephanie Osborne candidate, advice, candidate advice...


Recruiters have to get through hundreds of CVs usually in a very short time, so how do you ensure yours stands out for all the right reasons and guarantees you get an interview?

Here are 15 tips to make sure your CV stands out for all the right reasons:

1.Avoid a detailed life history.

Many applicants want to include all sorts of irrelevant information. For example, you might include summer jobs which are of no real interest given you have been working for over 10 years. Focus instead on experience and skills which are closely related to the job you are seeking. Yes, this does mean that you should tweak your CV for every single job you apply for!

If the company is looking for someone with specific skills in construction, then they will be looking for relevant examples in your CV.

2.Keep the layout of your CV simple and easy to read.

If they cannot find the information they want quickly, then your CV is destined for the bin. Be as clear and concise as possible. Mention your name, present position and then relevant experience by mentioning your previous jobs. Make sure you put in start and finishing dates and use bullet points and headers to mention responsibilities and main achievements.

3.Do not include a photo.

However much you may like your latest selfie, or the picture on your social media profile, including your photo in your CV is not required.  If somebody does want to see what you look like, then social media is where they can go! So be mindful of that when you are job hunting and make sure your profile is either locked down for connections/friends only or you update your profile photo with something that you’re happy for potential employers to view.

4.Sell yourself.

A CV is designed to promote you, not just give facts about you. Concentrate on listing your experience and skills which are most relevant and use positive words for your achievements. Read the job description a few times to make sure you have matched up the requirements with what you have to offer.

5.Avoid including too many personal details.

It is ok to include a short list of your main hobbies and interests but there is no requirement to include things such as date of birth, nationality or marital status. It is actually now illegal for questions to be asked about most of these facts so you should not include them in your CV.

If you do have any outside interests that could help ‘sell’ your suitability for the job then include these but keep the information provided short.

6.Don’t be a clone of every other applicant.

When job applicants mention that they are familiar with the latest health & safety rules in construction, this is a basic requirement so does not need to be included. However, if you have certifications that allow you to check/oversee H&S onsite – this is worth including.

7.Avoid unexplained gaps in your work history

Courses, redundancies or even getting fired can result in a gap in your CV timeline. Whatever the reason, when you are not prepared to explain the gaps or put a positive spin on them, then there may be an issue. If the courses or jobs in an unrelated area improved your skills, then by all means include them and relate them to the skills required for the individual job you are applying for.

8.A CV is not the time to get creative.

Avoid fancy fonts or creative formats. A CV is a factual document that needs to be scanned by the reader for certain words, skills and qualifications. By using fonts and complex layout, nobody is going to read much further than the first few lines. Also, most online job application systems will strip out all the fancy stuff and the actual viewing format anyone sees is in plain text, so your creative talents will go unnoticed and are a waste of time.

9.Avoid writing in the first person.

So avoid overuse of the word ‘I’.  The best approach is to focus on actions and start sentences or bullet points with ‘Managed’, ‘Co-ordinated’, ‘Designed’, Delivered, ‘Built…’, Cut costs….’, Resolved issues……’ and ‘Led a team of 10…..’.

10.Include your successes.

Avoid listing your day to day duties and focus on achievements and successes. It is not enough to say that you completed X project within the deadline. You need to go into more detail, including any challenges that you had to overcome to complete the work.

11.Avoid outright lies or exaggerated claims.

Some applicants think that a lie here or there is not going to matter one way or the other. They can also embellish their successes with exaggerated claims. Stick to the truth as there are ways of checking these things. Saying you have a qualification or certification just because you attended the course, is not the same as actually passing the exam.

12.Include a suitable email address.

Avoid using your current work email address and likewise also the one you created at 16 which is perhaps not that suitable for job applications.

13.Your CV should be tailored to the job you are applying for.

You apply for lots of jobs and you always send the same CV – big mistake as a one-size-fits-all version will never suit every single job.

14.Only include a cover letter if required.

Applying for jobs online – there is often space for a cover letter or intro. Use this to concentrate on hard hitting statements in your CV which match the skills, experience and qualifications required.

15.Focus on 15 years.

The general rule of thumb is to cap a limit of 15 years so that your CV does not become a historical or very long document.

Your CV needs to quickly convince the reader that you are worth considering for the job. It needs to immediately promote your main features so they want to find out more. Good luck!