When trying to land a job, you'll need the best CV.

In a competitive jobs market, it's essential that you stand out. But in a sea of candidates with similar backgrounds and experience, how are you meant to show that you're unique? 

Answer: your CV.

At its core, your CV is a personal marketing document, designed to sell your skills and experience to prospective employers. When written well, it can show an HR manager or recruiter that you are the exact candidate they are looking for to fill their position. To create the best CV, start with these tips.

1. Include all the necessary components

A CV is only as good as the information it contains. If an HR manager goes looking for certain details they expect to find only to come up short, it will reflect badly on you. So, be sure to include each essential element of a CV:

Name and contact information

Your name, email address and phone number should always be at the top of your CV. Including your full address on your CV is no longer compulsory, but you should include your locality and post town so the HR manager knows where you are based.

A link to your LinkedIn profile should also be added here so your page can be accessed easily.

Personal statement

Also known as a professional profile or personal profile, the personal statement is your chance to introduce yourself to an HR manager. It is a short, punchy paragraph that tells who you are, your relevant skills and a key selling point or two. Your goal is to give a brief overview of who you are as a professional ‒ especially as it pertains to the job opening at hand ‒ and persuade the reader to continue reading.

Core competencies

A Core Competencies or Key Skills section is your chance to clearly show why you are qualified for the job. It should include both hard skills and soft skills and should always be tailored to emphasise the requirements for each different role you apply for. You can use a bulleted list with multiple columns for maximum readability.

Work experience

Your employment history should be listed in reverse-chronological order. For each position, detail your employment dates, your job titles and the companies you've worked for. Then, write a brief summary of the role, followed by bullet points that highlight your key achievements.

Education and professional development

If you are established in your career, your education should be listed towards the end of your CV, as your work experience is more important. Include the name of the institutions you studied at and degrees earned. If you have completed any courses or received supplemental certifications, include those too.

2. Tailor your CV to every application

HR managers receive generic, buzzword-strewn CVs every day. They are monotonous and, quite frankly, do not sell skills or experiences effectively. Plus, you want to show that you are the best candidate for their position, not just any job.

To write the best CV and stand out from the crowd, target the document to the role you are applying for. Take the job listing and identify the key requirements you fulfil and ensure your CV highlights these abilities to show that you are the perfect fit for the position.

3. Leverage keywords

In this digital age, computer software has entered the hiring process. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are employed by most large organisations to expedite hiring by scanning submitted CVs and binning those of the candidates deemed least qualified for the job. Because of this, you have to craft a CV that not only stands out to HR managers but also satisfies the digital gatekeeper.

One of the most important things an ATS looks for in CVs is keywords; if yours contains the terms and phrases it's been programmed to seek out, you are more likely to pass through and get your CV seen by human eyes. You can identify these keywords by carefully reading the job listing ‒ any terms that are repeated or seem to carry particular emphasis are likely going to be essential to your application.

4. Highlight quantifiable achievements

It's one thing to tell a recruiter or HR manager that you're impressive; it's another to make them see it for themselves. The best CVs utilise concrete, quantifiable achievements that objectively show employers the positive impact professionals have made in their previous roles. Numbers, money amounts and other data points will help them see the value you could contribute to their own company.

As you write, describe your statements using powerful action verbs like 'increased', 'managed' and 'led'.

5. Design a clean, clear layout

There is no universally correct CV layout, but there are rules that should always be followed. Start by ensuring that your CV is the correct page length based on where you are in your career. Then, keep your document clean, polished and void of any flourishes that could distract from the important things.

Avoid fancy graphics or images as well. You may think these will help your CV stand out, but they may actually hold you back as the ATS cannot parse them.

6. Work with a professional CV writer

There's no shortage of CV advice out there, and with it, you may be able to write a passable CV. However, if you want the best CV, consider going to the experts.

Professional CV writers are trained in the art and science of CV construction. They know what it takes to create a standout document, and at TopCV, they've done it time and time again. With the jobs market as competitive as it is, you'll need every advantage in your job search. Learn more about working with a TopCV professional CV writer.

Will your CV grab attention? Find out by getting a free CV review.

This article was updated in November 2020. It was originally written by M.A. Smith.

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