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Career advice for job seekers

How can I make my CV stand out from the crowd? 22/10/2012

Top tips on how to make sure your CV stands out from the crowd.

How can I make my CV stand out from the crowd?

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  1. Outline your competencies
  2. Ensure qualifications are clearly displayed
  3. Showcase your 'extra' responsibilities
  4. Keep formatting consistent
  5. What's your USP?
  6. Include a cover letter
  7. Useful links

Outline your competencies

A CV is your chance to be heard. Although there's no ‘one size fits all’ solution to writing a CV, following some simple guidelines will dramatically improve your chances of standing out and securing an interview.

The first thing to do when approaching your CV is to focus on competencies. Never lose sight of what potential employers are looking for - match their technical and personal competency requirements and you’re off to a solid start. This means studying the job description and person specification carefully.

Writing a CV is your sales pitch to the employer and your personal statement is your opener. This should sit below your personal details and you should use it to really stand out from the crowd. We recommend avoiding generic skills within this section as it should focus more on your professional qualifications, experience in specific sectors and areas of expertise, such as project management or experience of managing large teams.

Ensure qualifications are clearly displayed

Remember not to take up too much space with your contact information at the top of the CV and ensure any professional qualifications are clearly stated on the front page as more employers are using them as strict qualifying criteria. Include all related qualifications and courses undertaken at the end, consisting of all professional qualifications, degrees and SHL testing.

There is no need to mention references or reasons for leaving on your CV, and with regards to current salary details and expectations, these are better suited to the covering letter.

Showcase your 'extra' responsibilities

Many people recommend a two page CV, however for senior HR professionals it's important to convey all the necessary information and it could be extended to between three and four pages long.

At a senior level, it's assumed that you will know all the HR basics, such as employment law and disciplinary procedures, so there is no need to go into too much detail and you may even prefer to include this in a separate section. What employers will be looking for are the extra responsibilities that you have taken on. For example, how many people have you managed? Who did you report to? Have you been on the board? Do you have any project and change experience?

Keep formatting consistent

It is crucial to keep your formatting consistent. Limit yourself to the most relevant work experience and list employers and job roles in reverse chronological order. The last 10 years is more than enough. You will need to include company name, sector they operate in, address, job title and responsibilities and stick to this format consistently throughout. It's important to show solid career progression.

What's your USP?

You need to clearly highlight the value you can add to the potential employer – the goal is to set yourself apart from other HR professionals. Don’t be too generalist, state your areas of expertise and then highlight the experience that supports this. List all relevant skills such as language skills (especially for multinationals) and additional IT skills.

Make sure you can explain all gaps in your employment history as these tend to set off alarm bells and if there is one area that interviewers will try to probe, this is it. While you don’t have to include reasons for leaving a job, you may be asked about this at interview.

Include a cover letter

On the whole, HR directors produce good quality CVs due to their experience and understanding of what employers look for. But we still recommend getting someone else to review it in order to see if it clearly conveys what you have done and where your core competencies lie.

Your CV needs be accompanied by a covering letter, which again needs to emphasise your skills in relation to the employer’s requirements. Your cover letter is the first thing a recruiter will see, so it's essential that you introduce your CV and explain why you are best suited to the role and should be invited to an interview.

If you’re stuck for ideas, register with a reputable recruiter and they will be able to provide further help to ensure you are promoting your skills and ensuring your CV stands out to potential employers.

Useful links

  • http://www.changeboard.com/jobs/hr-director/
Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources

Barney Ely, director, Hays Human Resources

Barney is a director at Hays Human Resources