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How to Write an Attention-Grabbing CV

Jennifer Birtles 25th Jun 2020 2 Comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

An attention-grabbing CV is vital any time – but now, it’s even more essential as the job market gets more competitive.

Research suggests that you have less than 9 seconds to make an impact with your CV on a potential employer. With such a short amount of time to make an impression you need to make sure every aspect of it tells them why they should hire you.

Particularly in a post-COVID world where unemployment has increased globally by 22 million, according to the International Labour Organisation. The financial crisis following coronavirus means that the job market is more competitive than ever right now so make sure your CV is the best it can be to hopefully secure yourself a job.

Here is our advice on how to write an attention-grabbing CV!

The Purpose of Your CV

An attention-grabbing CV could snag you an interview

Ultimately, your CV is a marketing device and you are the product you’re selling to an employer. You want to grab their attention and interest them enough to keep reading meet you for an interview.

Your CV should be a concise, informative document (no longer than two pages) that showcases your most valued skills and attributes, communicating to an employer why they should hire you.

Marketing Yourself

Think about your favourite brand – their marketing campaigns haven’t always been the same. This is because things lose their impact over time and as a consumer you stop paying attention to things after a while unless they change to catch your eye again. The same goes for employers looking at CVs. If they’re trawling through a mass of CVs that are all pretty much the same they quickly lose interest. You need to make an attention-grabbing CV that’s unique, to stand out and make them interested in you.

Remember that an employer is looking at hiring with a business perspective – they’re not interested in you but in what you can offer them that will benefit their business. Instead of saying “I am looking to further my skills in” reword it to “my skills in _ make me an ideal candidate because” and go from there.

Essentials: What to Include

Dividing your CV up into clearly defined sections is the easiest way to keep it organised and for an employer to quickly find the relevant information they’re looking for.

Personal Details

This is a brief section that comes at the top of your CV. You want to include all your basic contact information (name, phone number, and email address) but also consider including any other relevant information. It will vary depending on which industry you are working within. If you have a blog, website, or portfolio that helps showcase your work and who you are in more depth than a CV can. If you do, this is where you should link it. If you have a professional social media presence, include your handle. If it’s a personal one, leave it off the CV!

Personal Statement

This is a very short summary that immediately tells an employer what you are about. It only needs to be a couple of lines of text but you want to be as concise as possible making every word count.

Think about:

  • What are you best at? What are your best attributes?
  • How will these benefit an employer?
  • What makes you unique? Think about your own USP.

Education and Qualifications

How much detail you go into here generally depends on how recently you qualified. If you’ve just finished studying or only have a few years experience then you can afford to include more relevant detail here. If, however, you have a couple of decades of experience and a long career then this section just needs to be a brief description of your education history.

This section is also where you want to include any qualifications or professional training you’ve had. If they’re not directly related to the role then think about what transferable skills you learnt. Include relevant soft skills and training courses, too. If you’ve been out of work during the pandemic have you done anything to boost your employability or learnt new skills in that time?

Work Experience

Simply listing off duties and tasks you carried out is going to bore whoever’s reading your CV. Realistically, if you lose their attention then you lose the job. Don’t just state that you have particular skills or traits but give examples to prove it. Did you successfully drive a project to completion ahead of the deadline? Did you beat your sales targets for last year?

Anything in the job description

A good way to make sure you write an attention-grabbing CV is to compare points to the job advert. Look at the essential and desirable qualities listed – and find ways to mention them on your CV. Employers don’t care that you were Head Girl – unless that taught you organisational or event management skills. So, frame your experience, hobbies, or interests as ways they’ll benefit the company according to the job description.

Things to Avoid

An attention-grabbing CV is ruined by spelling mistakes

These things crop up on CVs all the time but it looks unprofessional and careless to an employer if you didn’t take the time to make sure your CV was perfect. Make your attention-grabbing CV stand out for all the right reasons – avoid these things:

  1. Spelling and grammar mistakes – avoid these by using spell check software and getting someone else to read through it for you.
  2. CVs longer than two pages – any longer and you’ll be including unnecessary information and looks off-putting to an employer. You should be very careful with a CV length.
  3. Jargon and buzzwords – it’s repetitive and mundane to be reading the same words over and over.
  4. Unusual font, format, or style – be careful that your stylistic choices don’t detract from the content of your CV.
  5. Casual tone and language – this is a formal document and you want to present yourself as professional to prospective employers.

Use your friends and family – a fresh pair of eyes always helps with proofreading and checking work. Have them read it over and check for spelling and grammar, ask whether they think the layout works, and if the right information stands out.

Make Everything Relevant

Some situations can be difficult to explain to a prospective employer, like gaps in employment, temporary positions, or getting fired. Please never mention getting fired in your CV but be prepared to answer any queries if it comes up at a later date. Either include a sentence in your CV or cover letter that explains a gap in your career timeline. Talk about what you did during that time – why did you have a career break, did you complete any training courses or develop new skills that show you were still proactive.

It’s not necessary but some people like to include a hobbies or additional interests section. That’s fine – but make sure you’re not writing something irrelevant on your CV, explain why you do something. Do you regularly run marathons, for example? Say what drives you to do it – does it demonstrate your commitment and determination?

Finally, be prepared to tailor your CV for every job. Once you have an excellent base CV then just small alterations will need to be made depending on the job description or the specific role you are applying for.

More Job Search Tips

An attention-grabbing CV is just one way to get employers to notice you. Check out these job search articles next for more help finding your next career move.

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4 years ago

Lots of good advice here.

4 years ago

A good article on something that everyone thinks they know about, but not many actually do. The little things can make all the difference.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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