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How to give your CV the WOW factor

Photo courtesy of Michael Hacker

Why does your CV need to have a wow factor? Well, the latest research from a survey of 500 employers carried out by OnePoll,  is that recruiters are now taking on average 9 seconds, well 8.8 to be exact, to look at a CV when shortlisting. This poses 2 important questions – how can they tell anything valuable about a candidate in 9 seconds? and how can you convey your fit for the job in that amount of time?

Let’s get some perspective, firstly it’s an average, and secondly it is highly likely that most internal recruiters take longer, with recruitment consultants being the skim shortlisters as they can probably see key points quicker because they do it all the time.

However, what this research does emphasise is the need to think carefully about how you can give your CV the WOW factor so that is stands out and ends up on the ‘Invite to interview’ pile whether read for 9 or 90 seconds.

Importantly the wow factor isn’t about printing your CV on a T-shirt and turning up in person or creating a comic strip of your work life, it is quality content that feels fresh and crafted specifically for the role you really want, and here’s how to do that:

Step 1: Get into the head of the person you are going to be working for

Your potential boss needs to see the benefit to him or herself of you working for them. They need to see you have what they need – skills, qualities, abilities and that you work hard and add value to the team and organisation. So imagine you are recruiting for your job, and ask yourself ’what would I like/need to see to know this person could do the job well?’

The answer is a small number of really exciting benefits/results backed up by examples that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Think about the impact you have in your current job:

Did you increase income? Save the company money? Create an innovative procedure or product? Increase social media presence? Build a team? Increase reputation? Provide exceptional support or mentoring to others? What did you do really well?

Then craft some powerful bullet points that demonstrate your impact in a company – don’t forget to explain what it was like before so your potential boss can understand the changes you effected. For example,’ Developed a social media campaign that increased Twitter followers from 500 to 1500 in 3 months using targeted themes such as…’

Step 2: Make your profile special

Your profile is the 3 to 4 sentences at the top of page 1 of your CV and possibly the most important sentences on your CV as the strength of your profile determines whether the hiring manager/recruiter will carry on reading. That can make it the hardest thing to write – it needs to be a summation of you and what you bring to the job but without lots of vague generic adjectives.

So staying in the head of your prospective employer ask yourself: what are my USPs (Unique Selling Points) in relation to this job? Your USPs can be specific skills, experience, interests, qualifications or passions. So for example, a profile for a Project Manager applying for a job in the Arts Sector could be:

“ Versatile Project Manager, with over 10 years’ experience of delivering multiple complex projects, engaging with key stakeholders, clients and third parties within the financial and arts sectors. Particular expertise in delivering innovative solutions, assimilating business needs, translating it into tangible requirements and engaging people to deliver positive outcomes. Prince II qualified with experience using Agile methodology. Strong interest in cultural art and making art accessible for all.”

Step 3: Add some frills

Whilst the wow factor is not about curly fonts, colour or a wacky layout, it is about being different to all the other candidates out there. You can do this by showing some extras that tell your prospective employer more about you (remember it has to be relevant to the role)

  • Show you can spot trends and have opinions in your area of expertise – if you’ve written a blog, had something published or spoken at an event, relevant to your work life, include a link on your CV so they can check it out.
  • Demonstrate you are connected – show you attend networking events in your field, have relevant connections on LinkedIn and participate in online group discussions.
  • Add a link to your LinkedIn profile where they can see recommendations, your group activity, any Pulse blog posts you’ve made, etc. Do make sure your LinkedIn profile also has the wow factor though.
  • If you have a portfolio of work either on Tumblr or your own web page then include a link so they can view your creative work easily.

Step 4: Don’t forget the basics

Don’t lessen the impact of the content of your CV by not paying attention to the basic rules – here’s a reminder:

  • No more than 2 pages
  • Less is more – make sure it is not text dense, and allow plenty of white space around the text to make it easy to read
  • Use bullet points and headings to give it a clear structure
  • Definitely no spelling or grammatical errors – check, check and check it again.

Having a CV with the WOW factor will increase your confidence, create the right mind set for your job search, give you pride in what you’ve achieved and should land you an interview!

This blog was orginally produced for Guardian Careers site. Read the original here


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