Having a good CV is the first step towards employment. You might have all the required skills and experience, but if it’s presented incorrectly, you’ll still struggle to find work. Then there’s the paradox that always comes with your first foray into the professional world—you need experience to get experience.
Employers generally scan applications and shortlist those that make a favourable first impression. The key to getting on the road to employment is to build a CV that makes them look twice, whether through creative design, wording, or simply an excellent skill set. You need to focus on your best qualities and make them stand out.
Using these tips, you can create a CV that highlights your best side and catches recruiters or potential employer’s attention. Even if you have no work experience, you can still get your CV to the top of the pile.
Tailor Your CV Appropriately
Avoid submitting the same generic CV for every job. Before you apply for a role, do some research into the job or company that’s offering the position. Then, with that in mind, make a list of all your skills and experience that’s relevant. Beyond industry-specific skills, this includes soft skills like time-management, customer service or attention to detail.
Remember, it’s not only paid experience that counts. Volunteer work, extra-curricular activities, coursework, school clubs and personal projects all speak to the employer and show off your different sides. If you took part in sports, that’s teamwork, leadership and drive. If you wrote for the school paper, that’s communication and writing skills.
Employers like candidates with a growth mindset. Even if you have no experience, showing that you’re willing to learn and grow goes a long way. If you’re constantly upskilling yourself with short courses or research, tell them that.
Tailor your CV to include whatever you can that’s relevant to the position you’re applying for. Making your CV fit the role and showcasing why you’d be an excellent employee is key.
Dress to Impress With Your Profile
Now that you’ve identified your best qualities from across all your endeavours, start your CV with a summary of these skills to make an immediate impression.
Your profile is the first section employers read, so take the opportunity to catch their attention. You don’t need to list all the activities where your skills come from, but simply present them in a quick, easy-to-read manner.
List Your Experience and Skills
Most CVs will include past work experience, along with the roles within those jobs. When listing roles, quantifying them with actual results in terms of figures is recommended. For example “As a social media manager, I increased profile activity by 65% for X company”.
However, without work experience, you can focus on skills that you’ve learnt from volunteering opportunities, online courses, clubs, and any other relevant activities instead.
Everything counts, so if you’re great at researching and writing essays, giving presentations, a quick typer, or skilled with basic computer programs, make a note of it. Take anything you can think of from your school or personal life and turn it into an actionable skill that employers look for. Include small or obvious skills, like being able to drive, speak different languages or write professional emails. These are all useful attributes that may come in handy.
In both scenarios, highlight your growth during any kind of activity. Employers appreciate it when employees take an active stance on improving themselves.
Show Off Your Connections
Whether through past school activities or other life experiences, you will have met many different people. Try to show your broadness through these connections, and what you did with them. This will show employers that you have networking and communication skills.
If possible, ask prominent members of the community if you can list them as references.
Highlight Your Knowledge Of The Industry
Stay up to date with all the latest trends and news in your chosen industry. Your knowledge will impress employers and show them you take an active interest in your work. This will also make a big difference in the interviewing stage.
Even if you have no direct experience in the position you’re applying for, you can do research and learn about the relevant procedures and best practices. Be prepared to show that you know exactly what’s expected of you, and how to achieve it.
Use Power Words
Use keywords, or power words to emphasise your skills and make an impact. Use words like adaptable, achieved, implemented, innovative and dynamic and then quantify your statements with impressive, real-life results that demonstrate your delivery of said skills.
These days, many recruiters and employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) that filter CVs by keywords. This speeds up and streamlines the recruitment process as it sorts through huge numbers of applicants quickly. Do your research into the position and job description, and optimise your CV to focus on relevant keywords.
Show Your Personality
It’s less important to show your personality when your work experience, achievements and education speaks for itself. But without experience, personality is key. Whether it’s awards, hobbies or life experiences, you may sway employers by showing them who you are rather than what you are.
Think about what you’ve done throughout your life that makes you unique. Are you adventurous and resilient, having gone skydiving, hiking in the Himalayas, or run a marathon? Perhaps you’re obsessed with reading, and can spot grammar and spelling errors from a mile away. Maybe you love working with children, or have learnt great mediation skills from your social life?
These things don’t have to prepare you for the workplace directly, but simply work to make your application stand out as memorable. If they don’t fit into any role or business skill, just list them under “other interests/achievements” or “hobbies”.
Experiment with Layouts
Going for the classic CV layout won’t get you noticed. Try to find creative ways to display your skills, and use visual elements and bold headings to draw attention to key aspects of your application.
Just avoid making it look too arty or over the top, it needs to be clear, concise and professional.
It takes time to create the perfect CV, and you should never rush the process. Refine it, ask for feedback from a business professional or anyone you know with industry experience, and take the time to check it for spelling and grammar errors. A great CV is your ticket to entering the working world.