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CV advice

Writing a standout, success-generating CV for a competitive market requires high levels of preparation, structural precision, and quality presentation. Follow our fool-proof tips for creating an effective CV.

Use keywords

Finding the most relevant words and phrases that represent your position and industry is essential for getting past first stage Applicant Tracking Systems. Many major corporates who are advertising roles use these systems and they receive a lot of applications. Make sure the job titles, section titles, profile and professional experience are full of relevant keywords. Research job sites and job descriptions and make sure you include a ‘key skills’ section so that you can get a good cluster of 10-15 words towards the top of the CV. You need to make sure your CV gets past the software and appears on a shortlist in front of a human. For example, if your title is ‘communications consultant’ or ‘VP’ you will need to revise these to industry standard titles.

Write a great summary

Start with a title. This needs to be keyword relevant, of course. Match the target position exactly if you can. If you’ve never been employed in a position that’s even vaguely similar, use ‘seeking:’ or ‘professional looking for’. If you’ve done a similar role, but not had that exact position (let’s say you are Comms Manager, and you’re applying for a Head of Media) then just put the target role; you are not obligated to describe yourself using exact job titles from past employers.

Then summarise in 3 sentences your relevant experience and highlight your strengths for the role. Make this unique to you – what makes you great, what makes you interesting? Don’t talk about being a ‘great communicator’ and ‘team player’ as these are generic terms. Are you a former broadcast journalist with extensive international media contacts around the world who also speaks French and Italian? That’s more like it!

Don’t name the companies you have been working for as we can already see that; don’t write in the third person as that makes it impersonal, and don’t make it too long otherwise no one will bother reading it.

Target your audience

Most jobs have a very clear required set of strengths, usually contained in ‘candidate essentials or desirables’ lists on job descriptions. Make sure your CV reflects them. You can even structure your CV so that it exactly reflects a target job spec, illustrating each required skill in a list of bullets, using your achievements as examples. Your CV can be easily tweaked depending on the type of role you are applying for so have a few versions which are highly targeted. Perhaps you are considering both agency and in-house. New business skills are not going to be as relevant for an in-house role as they will be for an agency. In-house comms teams will be more interested in your stakeholder relationship building skills.

Remember, this is about pulling out your best achievements and the most important, most relevant parts of your roles. Don’t list off responsibilities as that doesn’t demonstrate your delivery or value.

Make sure the first three bullet points under each job are the best (i.e. your biggest successes and achievements) as these are the ones which are most likely to be read. 

Sell it, don’t tell it!

Think about the things you’ve done at work that you’re most proud of, hopefully ones which also made your employer’s environment a better place because of it. Focus less on your personal development, and more on how your presence improved the employer’s bottom line.

Describe clients won/projects completed, or profit increased, and measure outcomes with numbers if possible. If you have achieved some great media coverage over the years, you can include a few hyperlinks especially for national or broadcast coverage.

Rather than just saying ‘I worked on x campaign’, spell out how this campaign reached target (e.g: ‘I successfully developed an x campaign, which received extensive coverage in x number of national publications and increased sales by x amount…’).

Don’t miss out client names if you have been working in an agency – wrapping an achievement around a client can bring it to life.

Keep it short and sweet

Brevity and clarity are essential. Stay on two pages, three if you absolutely must but any more than that and you will have lost the reader. An easy way to make this possible is to keep the CV focused on the last 5-10 years and summarise anything earlier – perhaps just a couple of bullet points under each role. Write a first draft, then polish and trim, then do it again. Think lean, simple prose – a good way to do this is to restrict usage of adjectives and adverbs.

Edit the formative years, but don’t remove them completely as we look for gaps too. Don’t worry about not including everything you have ever done. Your CV is there to open a door to an interview and that is when you can tell your story and bring it to life.

We wish you all the best for your job search!

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