How to make your CV stand out
Resume, CV, curriculum vitae, bio, personal profile,… the list is endless. Call it what you may, but writing a CV that is powerful, persuasive and instantly catches the eye of employers goes a long way towards getting a job. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration if we call these CVs as the passport to landing your dream jobs.
Despite the fact that these CVs have been around for a long time now, there is no perfect way of creating a CV. Serving as a personal profile and a summary of our life’s work and interests, CVs work as a statement of intent that provide prospective employers an overview of an individual’s skills, traits and characteristics.
In our article “How to prepare for a technical interview”, we had mentioned that “your resume becomes the most crucial factor in order to get shortlisted for the interviews of major tech companies, including FAANG.” In such a climate, the question of how to make your CV stand out becomes all the more critical.
Add to this the fact suggested by studies that most recruiters just glance through a CV, giving it a mere few seconds before deciding whether a candidate is suitable for a role or not, and the onus of crafting a good CV becomes all the more important. There are some striking attributes that differentiate a great CV from an average one. In this guide on how to make your CV stand out, we will be listing many of those qualities and even point you to tools that will help you build your CV from scratch.
What makes a CV stand out?
Regardless of whether you are a recent graduate, beginner, or student looking for your first break into the corporate world; a junior trying to move up the hierarchy in the IT sector; a bootcamp graduate looking to make the most of your newly acquired skills; or a career changer hoping to break into tech; the need for building an honest and authentic CV cannot be stressed enough. By knowing what makes a CV stand out, it is possible for a recent graduate CV with no experience to be treated on par with someone who has experience in the field.
In a nutshell, a great CV stands out because it makes an instant impact on the one looking at it – the prospective employer. By providing your experience, skills, achievements, and education in an easy to read manner, you will be handing the recruiters unique insights into what makes you click, making their job of deciding if you are a good fit for their role much easier.
What do employers look for in a CV?
While it might be tempting to list down all your abilities and achievements in a long drawn-out manner, you need to keep in mind that time is an important finite resource for the recruiters. Beginners, recent grads, and juniors often make this mistake, thereby ruling themselves out of contention from even entry level positions. A CV that is to the point and highlights what is necessary shows that you value the employers’ time, putting you ahead in the race to get selected.
Therefore, when you create a CV, it should be less about everything that you want to portray about yourself, and more about what do employers look for in a CV. If you have ever wondered what is the purpose of a CV, then you might have realized that it is a way of showing the employers of the job you are applying for that you are suitable for the role, thereby persuading them to invite you for an interview with them.
A professional CV will summarize your education, skills and experience in the best way possible, thereby enabling you to sell yourself better, in terms of abilities, skills, and personality. This can be achieved by tailoring your resume such that it highlights all your relevant experience required for the role you are applying for along with general skills an employer looks for.
If you have ever pondered on the question as to how do recruiters find candidates’ culture fit, then the answer lies in the fact that it happens throughout the recruitment process. While the different stages of interviews allow employers to find out whether an individual would fit into their corporate culture, the process begins right from the time they pick up your CV. This means that apart from understanding an individual’s skills, abilities, traits, and personality, employers want CVs to double up as a window into assessing a prospective employee’s culture fit with the hiring company.
Most organizations these days strongly believe that a candidate’s core values and beliefs should be in line with the company’s business culture. If you are able to describe how you will perfectly fit into their system in your CV, then it increases your chances of standing apart from the rest of the crowd and being viewed more favorably.
What should a CV look like?
By this point of time in your life, it is fair to assume that you would have looked up quite a few resumes, be it online or offline. Irrespective of whether these included CV for IT jobs or not, it is likely that you would have figured out that most CVs are set up and structured in a particular way. There are some CV headings that serve as a template and are commonplace in all CVs, regardless of which field or industry you are choosing to work in.
To put it simply, there are four broad sections in any CV. First and foremost is the header, which includes an opening paragraph or an introduction. Apart from the intro, this section of your resume should also include your personal details, be it email, contact number, or even your own website. The second section is the personal profile, also referred to as a CV statement or a CV summary. It is here that you include a description that serves as a personal statement to the employer. Next up is the career summary, also known as a professional summary or a summary statement. Here, prospective employers look for a career brief or a professional brief that serves as a quick summary of your professional exploits until now. Lastly, CVs should carry a career objective, sometimes referred to as the objective statement. In this section, you present to the recruiter what it is that you wish to achieve in your career, and how this role and their company would help you get there.
Introduction on CV
Before we go about the introduction, a mention about how to lay out a CV as well. Even though what goes into making a CV carries the bulk of the weightage, it is necessary to keep in mind that how you lay it out on your CV also has a role to play. The best of profiles might be lost on an employer if the CV isn’t presented in a suitable manner. With this in mind, we would like to draw your attention to a number of factors.
Firstly, your CV should be formatted in an easy to read manner. With a clear and consistent layout that uses only one font type throughout, most of the job is done. If you wish to highlight certain specifics, then you can employ the same font in bold format. Utilizing bullet points to list skills, achievements, responsibilities, etc. as opposed to meandering sentences also helps you create a cv that is crisp and precise.
Next up, it is necessary that you use relevant language that is free from jargon, but includes instantly recognizable keywords related to the position you are applying to. Keep in mind that the screening of the CVs might even be done by a person who is neither an industry expert, nor technically inclined, making it crucial that you avoid jargon. As the ones looking at the CVs will however know what they are looking for, having the relevant keywords boosts your chances.
Finally, it is vital that there are no inconsistencies in your CV. You can achieve this by ensuring that your CV runs clearly in reverse chronological order without any unexplained time lapses. Inconsistencies can also arise in the file type you use and even the file name. Expecting hiring managers to download a certain software in order to view your CV would clearly work against you. Instead, build your CV using existing popular methods, saving it with a file type that is recognized and used across the globe. Having a clear file name that includes your name and the word “CV” in it would be the ideal title, giving no room for confusion. With the formatting and layout of a CV out of our way, let’s jump back to the content part of it now, beginning with the introduction.
Giving a career overview and listing personal achievements are some of the obvious things to include in a cv. By making this a part of the introduction on your CV, you will be able to grab the recruiters’ attention quickly in the limited time that they can usually give to any CV. When writing your personal achievements on CV, it is important to focus on your personal development as you reached each of the mentioned milestones. By showing how you have grown and changed in your roles along with the achievements you have accomplished, you will be able to convince your recruiters about a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, your ability to learn from your past positions, your commitments to ideas and learning, and your motivation to constantly expand your skill sets. Starting strong gives you a huge edge over the peers, making your introduction an important part of the CV.
The personal statement is the first thing on your CV that signals to prospective employers whether you are a good candidate or not. Part of the personal profile, the personal statement is also known as a personal summary or personal projects in CV.
As employers often look for candidates with some specific traits, your description here might prove to be interesting enough to fetch you an interview call. As it has the potential to be highly influential and even decide whether or not you are called for an interview, writing a great CV personal statement becomes rather critical.
A great CV personal statement can usually be achieved in about 150 words, written in a single paragraph of about three sentences. In these three sentences, you should be able to bring out your professional background and what kind of a professional you are, why you want to work for this particular employer, and why you would surely excel doing the role you are applying for.
In addition to these, the personal statement is also often the best place where you can show that you understand the employer’s objective and that you are driven to help them meet these targets. On top of it, personal interests on a CV can also indirectly be used to describe some of your soft skills. By writing in first person with a human, rather than a robotic, tone of voice, you will be able to signal to the recruiters that you are a likable person whom other colleagues would find easy to work with.
Writing a summary about yourself
Even though the personal statement and introduction on CV are some of the most important aspects of a CV, many people still get it wrong, failing therefore at the very first hurdle. As the opening paragraph for CV, these appear right on top and are often the first lines on a CV that a prospective employer looks at. Getting the summary of accomplishments right is therefore not just mandatory, but is in fact absolutely crucial to make your move in the tech world.
While tips and tricks can take you up to a certain point, dedicated tools that enable you to make your personal CV go a long way in helping you land your dream job. Gyfted’s CV helper, for instance, lets you highlight both your strengths and soft skills in a credible manner. This tool from Gyfted will definitely make your CV stand out.
Summary of accomplishments
Apart from a summary about yourself, it is a good idea to include a summary of accomplishments in your CV. In this section, you can include all personal details in CV that count as an accomplishment. Right from an internship that you landed on merit, through to an important contribution that you made in a project in your most recent job, try and include all the professional achievements, without beating around the bush.
The summary of accomplishments is a good space to attract the recruiter and get their attention right from the outset. While it is obvious that you will fill in this section with some of the best phases of your career, it might not be intuitive to lace these with human traits as well. By using words like “hardworking”, “enthusiastic”, “committed”, or any such word that brings out your human values in conjunction with the accomplishments that you have to your credit in your career, the summary would be able to do the dual job of showing you favorably both technically and personality wise.
Be it a personal statement in a CV, personal profile on your CV, introduction, or writing a summary about yourself, all these are different ways of providing summary statements about yourself. While it is hard to bring down a life’s worth of work, growth, and strengths down to a couple of pages, shaping your CV in this way allows you to get closer to what you have in mind and make a good case for yourself.
By emphasizing on results over responsibilities and highlighting your own changes and growth in your career overview, you will be able to put your best foot forward in the recruitment process. Additionally, displaying industry insight and awareness lets you stay on top of the game, as you will be able to indicate your ability to be up-to-date with the current trends and changes in your industry.
It is also a good idea to include some power words in your career overview. By including words like “achieved”, “adaptable”, “implemented”, and “innovative” for your different roles, you will emphasize your accomplishments further and demonstrate what you have delivered. What’s more, if a company employs database software to make a first cut and filter out candidates, then using such keywords improves your CV’s chances of being seen by a human being.
How to describe your personality in a CV
A strong professional summary in your CV means your job of crafting a great CV is only half done. Just like how employers want their employees to be the perfect mix of technical adeptness and strong personal values, they look for the same in an individual’s CV as well. So if you are looking at how to make a good CV, then you should also learn about how to describe your personality in a CV.
In a world dominated by technology, the humanness of an individual is valued perhaps a lot more than it was in the past. The fact that people, old and young, are glued to their technologies implies that simple activities like having a casual conversation without an agenda in an office environment is increasingly becoming a lost art. As the business moguls know the power of the sparks that are often ignited by serendipitous conversations, there is a growing demand to identify individuals who have a strong personality in addition to their technical prowess.
It is a shame that many job seekers in today’s world really have no idea as to how they can present this aspect of themselves in a CV. To help those people and also to enhance the way in which these can be communicated, Gyfted offers a free CV creator that helps present the best skills. By taking a personality assessment and then highlighting its results with a brilliant description on your CV, you not only describe your personality in the unique way, but also score brownie points for saving valuable time for your recruiter. The authenticity and honesty of your communication means that they need not spend time and money on trying to gauge your personality better.
How to present personal traits in CV
By this point, you would have understood the crucial part that your personal traits play in creating an attractive CV. The ability to keep constantly getting better is not only relevant for your technical skills, but one that needs to be adopted in your lifestyle as well. Just like how working on your personal traits is important, knowing how to present them is also a skill that needs to be inculcated.
Personal development in CV
It is crucial that your CV indicates that you are a pleasant and interesting person to hang out with as you will be spending a lot of time with your colleagues, online or offline. People often miss the point that most of the working individuals spend over half of their waking hours with their office colleagues, making these relationships equally important, if not more, than personal ones. Highlighting your personality in CV, therefore, carries more weightage than you might have given it to start with.
There are many good words to describe yourself in a CV. While words like “able”, “creative”, “dependable”, “energetic”, “hardworking”, “imaginative”, and “motivated” are some words that you can use to tell more about yourself; words like “achieved”, “delivered”, “supervised”, and “identified” are great keywords to use while describing your achievements. With the right mix of good words and great deeds, your CV will speak volumes for you.
Personal skills for CV
We’ve repeated the idea that your abilities, traits, and characteristics are as important, if not more, than your skills and tech know-how. How you describe personality in CV, therefore, often plays a far bigger role than you might be willing to give it credit for. As companies are on the lookout for the perfect mix of skills and traits, describing your personal skills for CV assumes all the more significance.
There are several good personality traits for CV, including which makes your resume stand out from the rest. Take openness for instance. Most industry experts believe that an individual should have a degree of openness that allows them to fit perfectly into a role and a company. This means that a judicious mix of both curiosity and cautiousness in your character trait would likely give you the optimum degree of openness. Gyfted’s free CV builder not only allows you to evaluate these traits, but also helps you display them in your CV in the best possible manner.
Other personal qualities for a CV that recruiters are hawkish about include conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. While conscientiousness judges how spontaneous and organized you are, extraversion finds out if you are reserved or energetic. Agreeableness dictates if you are fiercely independent or extremely friendly, while emotional stability shows if you can strike the balance between empathy and confidence.
One needs to keep in mind that there is no one correct answer or score that an individual needs to get in each or all of these parameters. As human beings, we are all different at various levels as an individual, and these tools are a means to find out how one stacks against the entire fabric of humanity. Recruiters, often in conversation with those in the human resources department of their companies, will be able to look out for those traits that work best for their company, given they know exactly what they are looking for. Culture fit, like we mentioned earlier, plays a far bigger role than we usually think it does.
What is important, therefore, is to be honest and truthful with yourself, both when taking these assessment tests and while facing interviewers through the hiring process. When you do that in your personality assessment test and use that data for your resume, then it becomes the best way to represent your personal development in CV. While changing your character and tuning your traits is a slow process that might even take years for some, representing them accurately in your CV is the right method of building your personal profile.
Up until this stage, we have been focussing on constructing a CV with all the common parameters that any company in any industry might be looking for. Even though this is a good way to go about it and get most things in place, a little bit of magic sauce at this stage will help you get to the top of the pile in any recruitment process. What we are talking about here is a personal CV.
What is a personal CV?
A personal CV, also referred to as a personalized CV, is one that is customized, making it look tailor-made for the one particular role that you are applying for. By speaking directly about your suitability for the role that you are applying for as opposed to your general employability for any job, you demonstrate to the employer that you are fully aware about the requirements for the role that you are applying for.
Even though it might take longer to customize your CV and fine-tune it for one particular role, the effort is often worth it as employers admire such endeavors from an individual. A personalized CV, thus, enhances your chances of being invited to an interview and going further along the hiring process.
How to make a personalized CV?
Building a personalized CV for a job application does not mean that you need to start from scratch again. On the contrary, what it entails is rewriting large proportions of your general CV such that you create your own CV that speaks directly to the particular employer with whom you are seeking a job.
If you know what is a personal CV, then you will be able to understand the fact that many sections and sentences in your general CV can simply be recycled to emphasize certain aspects for each job application. Using tools that help with CV writing, personalizing your CV often comes down to thinking more deliberately about which of your skills, abilities, attributes, and characteristics will be of particular interest to that employer. Hop over to our free personal CV builder and gain the advantage of building a professional resume that stands out and signals your credibility and culture fit.
Crafting a well-meaning, well thought out, perfect CV is a time consuming process. But considering that screening of CVs is often the first step in any recruitment process, it will be time well spent when your CV makes it past the first hurdle and earns you an interview call.
Do remember that a CV is not only a place where you show off your academic strengths, skills and accomplishments to a potential employer, but also a space to indicate who you really are and what you wish to fulfill through the job that you are applying for. By pouring in a little bit of yourself into your CV, you are bound to give it more character, putting you in a good stead in the race to find a perfect job.
In this article on how to make your CV stand out, we haven’t just peppered the write-up with tips and tricks that might earn you a small edge against others. Instead, we have delved a lot deeper, expanding upon the philosophies of building a CV and pointing out the specifics that employers in today’s world are keen to find in a great CV.
By keeping in mind the various aspects that we have mentioned in this article when constructing your CV and by applying them appropriately, you are bound to make it count. Remember that possessing the desired skills, experience, characteristics, and personality is only part of the puzzle. Only by documenting it using a great CV will you be able to make progress in the recruitment process and land that dream job of yours!