As you read the 100’s of CV writing articles on the internet – you may have some doubts.
It’s all very well talking up achievements and experiences, but how can you write a colourful and engaging CV if your work experience has been a little more mundane?
Not every job gives you chance to demonstrate how you made a difference through your unique contribution that led to outstanding results.
You may have worked in several jobs like this, or may have worked in one as a shorter term measure during the economic downturn. Either way, the difficulty is the same.
With 100’s of applications being received now for each job, you face a particular challenge in making yourself stand out as employers scan through the first pages of many CVs.
How can you make yourself stand out, so that employers really notice you?
Hit Home Fast With a Great Profile
If you can seize an employer’s attention in the first few lines of your CV, there is less pressure to make the rest of your CV a riveting read. In the profile, you can show an employer what you have to offer and convey a little about yourself as a person, before going into more details about your work experience.
It’s an often quoted truth that employers decide whether they’re interested in a candidate in the first 30 seconds of reading a CV, so you need to grab their attention quickly. You want them to be thinking, “I like the sound of this one!” If they think that, you’re halfway there already.
The trick is to secure their interest quickly, by bringing all the highlights of your experience and background to the top. A well-written profile shows what you can offer and matches this perfectly to what the employer has said they are looking for.
It gives you a chance to immediately highlight some of your strengths and get across some of your personality as an employee. You can mention the most important areas of your experience, but in just a couple of words.
Personal Qualities Mentioned in Your Profile
You may have worked in a routine job, which is much the same from one week to another, but that doesn’t make you a mundane person! It is perhaps better to think of your work as routine, regular and essential, providing a foundation that supports many other areas of economic, commercial, scientific, manufacturing (or whatever sector you work in) activity. These are roles upon which everyone else depends.
Think about the qualities you have that make you good at what you do. Leadership skills may be emphasised in much CV writing, but here we can consider qualities that keep such professional areas running – reliability, dependability, strong work ethics, ability to continue under pressure, commitment, motivation and dedication are good for starters.
Think about the qualities that really are a part of your make up. You can present these alongside your biggest skills and strengths.
Craft Some Achievements
If you have caught the employer’s attention with your Profile, you want to push home your advantage by engaging them with some of your professional successes. Typically, achievements are situations where you made a difference as a result of your personal or team efforts – the outcome is usually quantifiable and can be expressed numerically. In your job, it may not be possible to do this, simply because there is little variation in your daily or weekly activities.
This is where you can change the definition of ‘achievement’ and make it work for you. This means focusing on what the definition of success is in your profession. You can still include commendations, awards and testimonials from others who have praised your work and your contribution.
Likewise, a series of rapid promotions or successful completion of training courses can be viewed as achievements. If you have handled a growing workload within a shrinking team of colleagues, then that is an achievement. If you have successfully fulfilled your role despite adverse circumstances, or in a crisis, then that is an achievement.
Don’t think that all achievements have to relate to financial profit or percentage increases. Use achievements to highlight what happens when you apply the personal qualities mentioned in your profile to use.
Achievements can be highly memorable, simply because they are individual. Also, the act of preparing and writing up an achievement shows you have an awareness of what is important professionally, as well as the self-awareness required to assess your own contribution to an organisation. This in turn suggests that you might make an interesting interview subject.
Avoid Repetition When Describing Your Work
The fact that your work is or has been repetitive does not mean that your CV needs to be. This is particularly the case if you have had more than one job in the same kind of role. The good news is that you can make the jobs sound more varied by using a selection of different terms and phrases to describe what you’ve done.
For starters, you can change the order of the responsibilities around. You can also describe the same duties in different ways. Instead of starting a bullet point sentence with the words ‘Responsible for …’ try to start the sentences with verbs (action words). For example, ‘Provided efficient customer service by responding to enquiries …’ and ‘Swiftly responded to and processed customer enquiries …’ are slightly different ways of describing the same responsibility. It all helps to stop the employer switching off as they read.
If you’d like to see how we uses action words (often called ‘power words’) to add more impact to your descriptions then please see our CV Examples on our sister site AdviceSupermarket.com.
Another place to look is in the job advertisements and person descriptions for the jobs you’re applying for. See which words come up and mix them into your CV. Focus on the skills and personal qualities they ask for, so you can use these words. The other advantage to doing this is that you’re showing that you’re a good match for the vacancy. You can do the same thing by looking at employers’ websites.
Make Your CV Look Interesting
Some CVs look as if they are going to be boring, before you’ve read even a single word. This is because they are badly presented and the text is hard to look at, because it’s small and packed tight into dense paragraphs.
When the document is an effort to read, even before its content has been understood, the employer is not going to feel excited. This means they’re not going to be motivated to read more.
It’s easy to make your CV easier to read! Use plenty of bullet points, rather than chunks of solid text. Use a clear typeface – Arial, Helvetica and Verdana are all good examples.
White space also makes the document easier on the eye, so space each section out.
Be a “Personality Plus”
This does not mean be a loud-mouthed extrovert, but it does mean that you should leave the employer in no doubt as to your strengths. Commitment and motivation are still important, no matter how regular your duties at work.
The trick is to write with a sense of authority, making it clear through the use of correct language that you know your area. Only by giving a very clear sense of your personality can you hope to stand out from the crowd.
Take time to sit down with colleagues or trusted friends and ask them how you come across to them. Trust what people say – extreme modesty will not help you to gain a job. Try to express the qualities that people identify in professional language and weave them into your CV.
Once you have finished drafting your CV, ask your friends or colleagues to read your CV and ask them if it gives a good impression of what you are like – as well as hitting the right buttons for the
Your job may be a bit on the dull side, but your CV can still be interesting! Here are the first steps you can take in achieving this.
- Do some preparation for your profile. What are your three main areas of experience? Three key skills at work? Three key personal qualities at work? Write all of these down, so that you can use them in your profile writing.
- Have you thought about achievements before? Try to write down all the positive outcomes at work that you can remember or think of. Now link them to your personal qualities and strengths. Can you see how they might be rewritten as achievements, even if they don’t have outcomes that can be measured numerically?
- Now take a look at your current CV. Are you repeating the same phrases or way of describing responsibilities, over and over? Underline these – you are going to need to change them.
- If you need need help with wording your CV, why not copy the words and phrases we’ve used in our CV Examples.
- Talk to a couple of friends or trusted colleagues. Ask them to tell you what makes you a strong employee in your job. It may be hard, especially if you are naturally modest, but accept what they see. Take notes and see if you can incorporate this into your CV.
- Read the revised CV aloud. How does it sound? Your CV should read smoothly and the way it sounds when read aloud is how it will be to the employer reading the end result.
Please let us know what you think by leaving your comments below.
If you need help with your CV / resume please check out our CV writing service.
Bradley CVs Ltd.